Moving Out of the Prez Rez
As Canada's premiers gathered at the University president's residence in Saskatoon last year for a dinner meeting, the Ivany's children were among the greeters who welcomed the national leaders. A fluent Francophone, Jessica Ivany engaged Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard for several minutes on the doorstep and, says her father, was enchanted.
Exposure to unique opportunities was one of the by-products of the Ivany family's 10 year stint in the Prez Rez. As the family prepares to move at the end of Ivany's second presidential term next month, he chose this opportunity to discuss the wonderful experience his family has enjoyed in Saskatoon. In particular, he wanted to recognize and publicly thank his wife Marsha for her contribution to University life.
When Ivany was selected to fill the president's chair a decade ago, external affairs were deemed a key priority. "One of the major assignments of the search committee in 1989 was the external job," Ivany explains. Among those duties was rebuilding alumni communications. "It paid off in spades," he adds of the First and Best campaign which surpassed its $30 million objective by a considerable margin, largely through the support of alumni across the country. His wife Marsha, he is quick to add, played a key role in that effort. "We sold ourselves to the search committee as a two-for-one team," he offers. Marsha gave up her career as an educator to dedicate herself to the external relations development role. It was not an easy assignment. "She came to the role as hostess at a time when we had small children. She traveled and was just as valued by our external friends as I was," he adds.
It was also an interesting, and sometimes demanding, time for the children. Ivany characterizes his tenure at the U of S as "the most important 10 years of our family lives. The children were exposed to a lot just because of who came to our home. They gained a lot - their poise, their maturity."
He recalls Sarah, at the age of 11, asking if she could say grace at the President's Club homecoming lunch, a performance that made her father very proud and "then even had the presence to invoke God's help in letting the Huskies win."
Taking the 'gown-to-town' has been a priority during Ivany's terms. It has led to stronger relations with the alumni as well as a far higher presence for the University of Saskatchewan throughout the city of Saskatoon and the rest of the province.
Ivany says his tenure included many highlights - from development of new ventures such as Biostar, UST and U of S International to research successes - but fulfilling his commitment to enhanced external relations was only possible through the effort of his team mate Marsha and the family.