The University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus is pleased to announce the recipients of our 2013 Lois Aspenes Award, Cathie and Kevin Bolstad.
The Lois Aspenes Award is awarded to an alumnus/a in recognition of significant contributions to the Alumni Association or to the life of Augustana.
Cathie (Leverman) Bolstad (CLC ’81, UA BA ’88, UA BCom ’90), Senior Manager for External & Corporate Affairs, De Beers Canada
Kevin Bolstad (CLC ’81, UBC BEd ’87, UA BSc ’94), Manager for Network Planning, NorthwesTel Inc.
“I first met Cathie in junior high, in Whitehorse,” says outdoor education professor Morten Asfeldt. “We played in the school band together. Kevin moved to Whitehorse a couple of years later – he was my brother’s roommate when they both started at CLC in 1979.” Cathie went to Camrose Lutheran College in 1980 and Morten followed the next year – primarily because he wanted to be with Cathie, Kevin and his brother, Henrik.
“Having lived in small Alberta towns and then in Whitehorse, the prospect of going to a small campus appealed to me,” says Kevin, “ and it was close to what I called home before moving to Whitehorse. My dad attended CLC for high school, but it wasn’t something I thought about when choosing CLC.”
Cathie chose CLC because she wanted a smaller school to see if she would really like university. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, so took the liberal arts program to figure it out,” she says. “I had also started dating Kevin and figured that I had better stay close to ensure he wouldn’t get away!”
“I found a strong sense of community at CLC,” says Kevin, “and even discovered choir under the excellent instruction of Dr. Jonathan Mohr. Though I have to admit that the real reason I joined choir was because I wanted to impress Cathie.”
Kevin and Cathie were engaged in 1981, while attending CLC together and married later that year. Their daughter was born in 1982 and they invited Morten to be her godfather. Morten worked in Whitehorse for a few summers in the 1980s and lived with Cathie and Kevin while he was in town. Kevin split his time between Whitehorse and Vancouver while he finished a Bachelor of Education at UBC, then Cathie returned to study at the University of Alberta in Edmonton with the support of a NorthwesTel scholarship. There, she earned her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce. After graduating, Cathie returned to Whitehorse with their two children to work for NorthwesTel and over the next four years. Kevin remained in school pursuing an Engineering degree at the U of A. Cathie and Kevin say the four years apart were hard, but supporting each other in the pursuit of post secondary education was worth it.
Kevin graduated in 1994 and the family moved to Yellowknife, both Cathie and Kevin working for NorthwesTel. They next year, they hosted the first Arctic Course. They have hosted Augustana students, staff and Deans for nine Arctic Canoe Expeditions and five Dogsled Expeditions in the past 20 years.
“Cathie cooks us food and we sleep all over their floors – and sometimes fill their back yard,” says Morten. “We also borrow their vehicles, they pick up students at the airport, they do errands for us in Yellowknife before we arrive, and the list goes on! If you can imagine it, they have done it for the students.
“They once bought tickets for the entire group to attend a concert in Yellowknife,” Morten recalls, “and one time, when the choir was in Hay River and had to leave quickly because of bed bugs in their hotel, Cathie arranged charter flights and billets in Yellowknife for the entire choir on a moment’s notice.”
“It is our friendship with Morten, and the passion we all have for the North, that has led us to hosting Augustana students over the years,” Cathie says. “We love having the students make our home theirs while here. Seeing how many tents can fit in our yard or just how many corners and nooks in the house can be a spot for a sleeping bag is always a good laugh too.” The Bolstads love hearing from the students as they write and read about their experiences, and especially when they come back to connect: one former student came to stay with them when he landed a job as a pilot in Yellowknife!
“Over the past 20 years, technology has changed the way the students engage in and communicate about their journey,” says Cathie. “Paper maps have changed to GPS devices and Google maps. The way students connect with family while at our house has changed from using our phone to logging on to our wireless network to Skype or FaceTime. What hasn’t changed is their enthusiasm: for discovering the north, for learning about themselves, and for sharing themselves with us.”
Both of the Bolstad children – Myranda and Vikings hockey alumnus Josh – graduated from Augustana, as did Josh’s wife, Mandi Dewar. “We encouraged them to consider a small campus and all three of them loved their experience there,” says Cathie. Cathie and Kevin are also donors to the University of Alberta, joining the President’s Club this year with their funds designated to support the Arctic Program. “We have seen that these kinds of programs shape peoples’ lives and can often be at risk when funding gets tight,” she says. Cathie has also lectured in Morten’s classes, bringing Northwest Territories mining and environmental regulatory perspectives to the students.
Cathie and Kevin believe that many of the students graduating in Yellowknife – or any the smaller communities – would welcome a small campus with the feeling of “family”. “That is what CLC/Augustana was for us and our children,” says Cathie. “Now, with its strong connection to the University of Alberta, it is well poised to attract and keep some of the finest northern students.”