Kamloops This Week
Thompson Rivers University’s newest ceremonial leader fought back tears on Friday after being introduced as the school’s new chancellor.
Simpcw First Nation Chief Nathan Matthew will take over in March, succeeding Wally Oppal, who has held the title since 2010. Oppal was preceded by Sen. Nancy Greene Raine, who was the the university’s first chancellor.
“It would be so great if my grandparents could be here, it really would be,” Matthew said. “Things like this just weren’t even contemplated or thought about years ago.”
Matthew’s roots in local education run deep. He was administrator at the Kamloops Residential School in 1975 when the local school board began partnering with the school on the Tk’emlups Indian Band reserve. Matthew has also served as a First Nations representative for provincial education committees and was a founding member of the Kamloops-Thompson school district’s First Nations Education Council.
More recently, he served as TRU’s executive director of Aboriginal education between 2006 and 2014 and was awarded an honorary degree by the university in 2006.
Last month, Matthew received the Owl Education Award from the Kamloops-Thompson school district, becoming just the third person to be handed the honour that acknowledges an individual, group or organization that has provided outstanding service to support public education in the region.
READ MORE: Nathan Matthew receives Owl Award from SD73 (Jan. 19, 2018)
“Nathan’s been a teacher to me,” TRU President Alan Shaver said. “When I came here in 2010, I inherited Nathan. Nathan’s been a very significant teacher for me in understanding what’s going on.”
Shaver said Matthew has helped TRU navigate a changing landscape when it comes to the role of First Nations people in Canadian culture and academics.
“Since 2010, with the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation] report, there’s been an enormous amount of changes,” he said. “Nathan’s the sort of guy who’s in a good position to take us forward.”
Oppal, a retired B.C. Supreme Court justice, said he will miss his role with TRU — one he stuck with more than a year after his six-year term was up.
“This was an awesome position,” Oppal said. “This is a great university. This university is taking its rightful part among universities in this country.”
Oppal also acknowledged the important role TRU occupies in Kamloops.
“It was an honour for me to take part in the life of this university,” he said. “Thompson Rivers University plays not only an important role in the life of Kamloops, but it does so in this province, as well.”
Matthew said he feels “attached” to TRU, noting he is eager to get started in his new role.
“I really look forward to the next couple of years,” he said. “I look forward to representing TRU in this capacity as best I can.”
What is a university chancellor and how is one chosen?
Chancellors are appointed to three-year terms, with six years being the maximum time one can serve, according to the Thompson Rivers University Act. Under university legislation, Wally Oppal’s term was extended for one more year while a search for a new chancellor took place.
Under the university act, the chancellor of TRU is appointed by the university’s board after being nominated by the senate following its consultation with the school’s alumni association.
The TRU chancellor is a volunteer position. There is no pay that accompanies the role, though expenses are reimbursed.
The chancellor is the ceremonial head of the university and is one of 15 members of the university’s board of governors. Under the university act, the Chancellor is also a member of the school’s senate. The chancellor presides at convocation and confers all degrees. In addition, the chancellor represents the University at major events, including anniversary celebrations, building openings and awards ceremonies.
When seeking a chancellor, the university looks for a community leader with strong connections locally, provincially and nationally, one who is who is successful in their vocation.