By Christopher Thrall, with quotes from Laurie Callsen of the Camrose Canadian –
On April 26, the Augustana Campus community said goodbye to Dean Roger Epp.
Senior university administration, representatives from municipal and provincial governments and residents from the city of Camrose gathered to celebrate the professor of 21 years and leader of the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus for the past eight. Epp’s term as dean expires June 30; he will turn to a new career in the political science department on the U of A’s North Campus.
“I was privileged to lead the campus through a period of tremendous change,” said Epp, “but none of this is a solo act.” In Augustana’s centenary year, Epp’s optimism for the future is founded on not only the new buildings that have helped to transform the campus in preparation for the next century, but also on the amazing people doing innovative things.
Last year, over 300 students performed nearly 7000 hours of voluntary community service-learning projects, building skills in the region. Augustana signed agreements with universities in China and Cuba as part of an international mandate that has led to one student in five graduating from Augustana with significant international experience. The campus helped with new space for a Nursing after-degree program, the first cohort of physiotherapy students taught through sophisticated video relay technology, and a new combined Bachelor of Science-Bachelor of Education degree intended to instruct people who want to teach in rural schools.
Augustana Student Association president Sam Whittleton hosted the Spring Soiree event, which included several of Epp’s colleagues in university and government, who offered their thanks for his leadership. U of A Board of Governors Chair Brian Heidecker stated that Augustana is leading the way-with tremendous momentum-into the future, thanks in part to Epp’s leadership.
Amrhein announced that the upstairs conference room in the new forum will be named after Epp in recognition of his dedication to Augustana campus.
“In my view, the summary judgment is that Roger Epp has overachieved against any reasonable bar that anybody could have set at the point of Augustana Campus joining the university. He has brought Augustana campus to a very fine point where they are poised for fantastic things in the future,” said Amrhein.
“In the design that is now the forum, this room was very important to Dean Epp, and it seemed eminently suitable to name this room after Roger and it will continue as a place for people of all of these different stake holder groups will come together to exchange ideas, to learn and discover and to work together,” said Amrhein, adding that the dedication came about after a well-rounded petition was circulated throughout the university.
In another surprise for the outgoing dean, Amrhein announced that the painting by Rhonda Harder-Epp – Epp’s wife – that currently resides in his office will hang in the new conference room after he has left.
Camrose Mayor Marshall Chalmers and Bill Elliot, mayor of Wetaskiwin-who convened a regular city council meeting early so that his entire council could attend the farewell-thanked Epp for his tireless advocacy. Whittleton read a telegram from Rev. Dr. Telmor Sartison (’62), former ELCIC National Bishop, who wrote to bless Roger’s work.
Hobbema resident and former student Bruce Cutknife (’97) brought a gift from the Maskwachees Cultural College: a blanket, named “Big Medicine”, in thanks of Epp’s efforts in reaching out to the Aboriginal community. Yvonne Becker thanked Epp on behalf of her colleagues at Augustana Campus for his unusual levels of skillfulness and selflessness, and for creating and sharing a vision that encompassed everyone as participants. “You didn’t just build buildings,” she said; “you made them home for us.”
“Under his leadership,” said Marc Arnal, dean of the Campus Saint-Jean, “the campus has grown in so many ways and had a transformative effect on the university as a whole.”
“It took a series of small miracles – of people, of timing – to make what happened happen,” replied Dean Epp. “For me, it was the fierce determination that the kind of place this was – and could be – was too good to fail. This is a campus with lots of high energy and high aspirations. I’ve come to start saying that what happens here is not because it’s small or because it’s in a small city – second rate – let’s call it an uncommon education.”
Included in every Spring Soiree is the presentation of the Alumni Association Citation Award in recognition of significant contributions to the life of Augustana. Former Camrose Mayor Clarence Mastel was recognized for his municipal leadership during most of Augustana’s young life as a campus of the University of Alberta. “Under his city leadership, our campus was invited to become a key player,” said Epp. Not only did the university take a more active role in the city, but Mastel helped further projects such as the Edgeworth Centre and the Forum.
“He used the term ‘university city’ to define Camrose,” Epp said with pride as he handed the award to the honoured and humbled Mastel.
Photo gallery to follow!