'There’s a special energy at Concordia'
It was a neat coincidence of numbers. Concordia celebrated 20 people with 20 years of service and 30 people with 30 years of service — among others — at the 2016 Long Service and Retiree Luncheon.
On Monday, December 12, the university recognized a total of 167 employees who reached milestones in their careers.
The crowd was convivial, mingling and sharing anecdotes. There were 29 people with 25 years of service, 20 with 35 years, and nine with 40 years, as well as 59 retirees.
Alan Shepard, Concordia’s president, addressed the group, thanking faculty and staff for their ongoing commitment — something he sees reflected in his ongoing conversations with university alumni.
“Many say Concordia gave them a chance to transform their lives and they’re grateful to have had that opportunity,” he said.
“The work we do, the environment we're creating and the community we're building is extraordinarily important to the individuals who are coming here to get an education.”
Shepard commented on the special energy at Concordia between faculty and students, staff and colleagues, and with the larger society.
“I talk a lot about it when I visit with alumni and it’s equally fitting today. We really appreciate your service. It makes a difference. Universities are only universities because of the people.”
Graham Carr, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs, spoke about the immeasurable changes to the Loyola and Sir George Williams campuses in the last 40 years — including the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex, the PERFORM Centre, the Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics and the Webster Library Transformation.
“It's incredibly exciting to be at Concordia now,” added Carr. “We are the number one Canadian university under the age of 50. We're number two in North America. It's great to celebrate that at every occasion.”
“Just think — I was 17 when I came to Loyola College as a student and I’m 66 years old now. So we have 49 years to cover before you get to eat your lunch,” she quipped.
In those years, Locke was an associate professor, associate dean of academic programs in the Faculty of Arts and Science, interim dean, program director and co-chair of the Department of Education, and acting director of the Student Success Centre.
She recalled with pride how her department rose to the challenge of distance learning, eventually turning a correspondence course for Corrections Canada into one of the university’s first interactive online courses.
“I joined Concordia because I like being on a team,” said Locke. “I stayed because, for me, Concordia has always been a winning team.”
“The first class and the last class of each term were always my favourite because the students were totally different people at the end.”
Her art therapy courses had a clinical component, so she was the placement officer as well as clinical supervisor.
"I had the honour and responsibility of being the practicum coordinator for the Art Therapy option and a practicum supervisor. As the students spend half time in practicum and half in classes throughout the two year program, the supervisory role is a pivotal one."
When Rudy Piegsa (BComm 03) started working for Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) in 1991, the university was transitioning from using computer terminals to installing desktop computers across Concordia.
“The technology has changed so much over the years,” he noted. “The old legacy system from the 1980s was constantly modified to satisfy changing operational requirements, and eventually led to the introduction of the new Student Information System (SIS), which offered greater flexibility and many more features. Students are so tech savvy now — they sometimes can get impatient.”
Piegsa, a senior application analyst, worked for many years on the billing system servicing Student Accounts. He eventually plans to retire March 2018, at age 65.
“I really enjoy being around our clients,” said Piegsa. “They keep you young.”
Lillian Jackson (BComm, 77; BA 82; MA 88) has been the assistant to the principal of the Science College for 20 years.
However, Jackson also has an unofficial role: “I’m the mother of 88 students!” she said, laughing.
Jackson has worked for four principals and she coordinates the Science College’s internationally known public lecture series, which attracts Nobel prize-winning speakers.
“The principal always acknowledges my work publically at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall when he opens the lectures and that’s very rewarding,” said Jackson.
“But equally rewarding is when the valedictorians mention me in their speech at graduation, crediting me for helping them be high achievers. It has happened three out of four consecutive years now.”
When Jackson took her commerce degree at Concordia in the 1970s, she recalls the gender imbalance of that era.
“I was one of two women students doing a BComm, along with one from Uganda,” said Jackson, a recipient of the Award for Exceptional Service to the Faculty of Arts and Science.
“Of course, things are different now.”
Thomas Waugh, film studies professor in the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, has been teaching at Concordia for 40 years.
Was it any wonder, then, that he was surrounded by so many friends at the luncheon, enjoying their conversation?
His personal highlights included organizing La Ville en Rose, Quebec’s first queer studies conference in 1992, followed by an interdisciplinary conference on sexuality, Sex on the Edge, in 1998. He also organized the 12th edition of Visible Evidence, an international conference on documentary film and media, in 2005.
“It’s particularly rewarding to shepherd interdisciplinary students from Humanities through our PhD program,” said Waugh.
He plans to retire in 2017 and continue his work on a book that explores aspects of “confessionality.”
Read more about Concordia staff and faculty who were honoured in 2016.