Pre­de­ces­sor’s praise

For­mer UPEI pres­i­dent ‘mar­vels’ at uni­ver­sity’s growth

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY JIM DAY 5)& (6"3%*"/ KJN EBZ!UIFHVBSEJBO QF DB 5XJUUFS DPN 1&*(VBSEJBO

For­mer UPEI pres­i­dent El­iz­a­beth (Betsy) Ep­perly still keeps a close eye on the uni­ver­sity – and she likes what she sees.

“Oh, it’s ex­po­nen­tial growth,’’ she says, laud­ing her suc­ces­sors Wade MacLauch­lan, who served as pres­i­dent from 1999 to 2011, and Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, who has been the uni­ver­sity’s top ad­min­is­tra­tor since 2011.

“Wade made it beau­ti­ful, and Alaa has made it larger and even bet­ter con­nected…they’ve just done mar­vels with it, I think. I’m so proud to be part of this uni­ver­sity.’’

Ep­perly had a short stint as UPEI’s first fe­male pres­i­dent, step­ping down in 1998 af­ter just three years due to a health con­di­tion caused by in­gest­ing a par­a­site in New Zealand.

“I had to leave,’’ she re­calls. “I had to take real care. I couldn’t take that care and stay in of­fice…but I was so glad that I was able to — through shear grit a lot of it — to stay for the three years to see out the pro­grams. We did all of the things I wanted to do in those three years.’’

Ep­perly reg­u­larly makes her way back to the cam­pus, par­tic­u­larly head­ing into the Robert­son Li­brary to spend time at the L.M. Mont­gomery In­sti­tute that she founded 24 years ago.

“We have all kinds of work go­ing on and new work go­ing on now with the new chair in Mont­gomery stud­ies and com­mu­ni­ca­tion lead­er­ship and cul­ture,’’ she says.

Her en­thu­si­asm for the work of Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s fa­mous au­thor of Anne of Green Gables re­mains in­tense.

“Oh yes,’’ she ex­claims. “Won­der­ful things turn up. There’s al­ways some­thing to dis­cover. I even get more en­thu­si­as­tic.’’

Ep­perly was on cam­pus Fri­day giv­ing a speech on Mont­gomery to alumni of Prince of Wales Col­lege (PWC).

She wanted to en­rol at PWC but ran into a ma­jor stum­bling block.

“That was the only place I ap­plied se­cretly when I was away at board­ing school and then got a let­ter that spring that said ‘we re­gret to in­form (you) the school no longer ex­ists, but if you would like to come to the newly cre­ated Uni­ver­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land you may.’’

St. Dun­stan’s Uni­ver­sity (SDU) and Prince of Wales merged in 1969 to be­come UPEI as part of a cam­paign to in­te­grate the Is­land’s Ro­man Catholic and Protes­tant com­mu­ni­ties, which had pre­vi­ously main­tained the two sep­a­rate in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing.

Ep­perly be­came the first per­son to reg­is­ter at UPEI.

She and other stu­dents quickly be­came aware of how deep the ten­sions were be­tween PWC and SDU.

“To ac­tu­ally play one off the other meant we had a lot of free­dom be­cause the stu­dents did not want to ad­here to the tra­di­tions of either school and so we could just march right down the road right down the mid­dle and that’s what we did,’’ she says.

“It was a time when fac­ulty and staff had to pull to­gether in a spe­cial way.’’

Ep­perly em­braces the mem­ory of her time spent teach­ing English at UPEI from 1992 to 2006.

“I loved the stu­dents and I par­tic­u­larly loved the chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture cour­ses that I was teach­ing,’’ she says.

“It was a real ex­pe­ri­ence to get peo­ple en­thu­si­as­tic about things they didn’t know they loved yet,’’ she adds with a great belly laugh.

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El­iz­a­beth Ep­perly, who served as UPEI’s first fe­male pres­i­dent from 1995 to 1998, is shown on the cam­pus where she gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on Lucy Maud Mont­gomery Fri­day at a lun­cheon for Prince of Wales Col­lege alumni.

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