Getting to know Wade MacLauchlan.
H. WADE MacLauchlan's tenure as president of UPEI has been nothing short of revolutionary. The university has a new student centre, new business school, and enrolment and research funding have risen significantly. Although his presidency was due to end a year from now, UPEI's board of governors has persuaded him to stay in office until 2011, to help people new to key leadership positions make the transition. Saltscapes talked to him about the importance of community, his passion for his home, and foxes.
Q. How do you remember your childhood?
A. I grew up in Stanhope, PEI, and went to a local two-room school. There was a strong sense of community and of place, of family and enterprise... I have about 70 first cousins and we grew up within walking distance of the North Shore beaches. We were outdoors almost all the time with ponies, bicycles.
Q. Who were your mentors?
A. My father is a strong influence in my life. He had a Grade 10 education-but he believed in the value of education. It would be a rare evening you wouldn't be subjected to some quiz. My mother was also a very strong influence. She's a student of many things, including genealogy and community history.
Q. Why were they such strong advocates of education?
A. They went through the Depression and the war, and saw the second half of the 20th century as a time of tremendous opportunity. There was no instrument more important in all of that than education.
Q. You built your house near your childhood home. Why there?
A. A big part of it is about nature, how the house is oriented toward the sunrise. The elements and wind and wildlife… it's exactly where I grew up. I can see my grade school at the other end of the bay.
Q. Did you build the house after you returned to PEI?
A. I did that before the presidency job opened up. After eight years in Nova Scotia and eight years in New Brunswick, I had decided it was time for my PEI phase. It was also the time the Confederation Bridge was completed-I ran it the day it opened.
Q. What does the bridge mean to you?
A. It opens our sense of connection to the world-without taking away from the sense that PEI is a place you can get your arms around. You can see it in this university: the growth… the way we've stepped ahead in our achievements.
Q. You're rumoured to be a fan of good food, and you host legendary dinner parties.
A. It's a great way to be together with people, to be creative, and it's a way to use local ingredients... It's relaxation, a chance to be away from the preoccupations of the day. Life continues to be full and happy and not lacking in good things to do.
Q. Is it true you'd rather watch wildlife out your window than watch TV?
A. I don't have a television. To watch a kit of foxes grow from being these little fur balls to the point where they are off on their own after 10 weeks is amazing.
Q. When you attended UPEI as an undergrad, did you ever think you'd end up back there as president?
A. One never knows where life is going to take you 25 years later. When I came here as president, I said it was my dream job, and I would still say that.