The following are the words I shared at the amazing retirement party celebration hosted for me by the Faculty of Science with more than 120 people attending…
This is the first time the University has given me a microphone before an audience this big, and now I am just a visiting speaker. I did manage to keep the sermon at church to 22 minutes last Sunday, so I will do my best to stay brief.
I quote from my resignation letter…
“I have been on campus, in three different roles, since June 1988. All the while I have been immersed in the basement of Science A, it is now time to come up for air and put my gifts and skills to use in a different theatre. The University of Calgary has provided an awesome place to work. I have been challenged and stimulated, as I worked alongside many brilliant scientists, to become a continuing learner, a diverse researcher, a casual teacher, a diligent manager and a stronger leader; and all the while earning abundant financial compensation. I am forever grateful.
As the Science Workshop reforms to meet the future need of the Faculty of Science I truly believe that this is the right time to hand over leadership and management to another.”
Bear with me as I fill in some gaps that many of you will not be fully aware of. Those of you who have had an opportunity to leave me a voicemail will know that I consider there are only 2 questions that really matter in life – Who are you? and What do you want?
Who am I? I came to Canada with my young family in May 1988, and started at the UofC at the end of June as a technician in the workshop, but in 1991 dollars were short and the Faculty slashed the Technical Services. Last to be hired I was the first to be gone.
I stuck around and did some projects on contract, but the summer was not good. I had worked hard, I was angry that I had lost my job, while others kept theirs. Up until this I had managed the universe I had created for myself really well. I was proud, and as the old adage says pride comes before a fall. All of the balls I was juggling began to fall to the ground.
It was a hard time for me, I pushed my family away, I began drinking, heavily, and I got into some trouble. Things came to a crunch one night and I found myself running away, heading north. I stopped for some sleep just outside Leduc, it was 6 in the morning and sobering up I realized I had to let Glenda know that I was going. I had a cell phone, a big clunky one, and I called and explained all.
She responded with “Come home!” I did. I now found myself needing to rebuild the trust that I had lost in a few short weeks, knowing it would take years.
I decided at Christmas I could gain a few points with Glenda if were to take her to church, I did, and there began a journey of discovery. I had attended a Church of England school so many of the stories in the Bible were familiar to me. Psalm 34 in the Bible says “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” As I sought Him, things began to change for me. Out of the blue I was offered a contract with Novacor Tech Centre to install some large equipment, 40 hours a week, a more regular pay cheque, plus some contract work at the UofC in the evenings. Less than a year later, I got a call from John Kendall, then Dean of Science. Fully expecting him to tell me the contract with the University was done because of my abuse of it, I walked into his office prepared to give back the keys. Nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened. He offered me the position of Technical Supervisor for the Workshop. I didn’t have to think for long, it was an amazing opportunity and one for which I was nowhere near qualified.
I had left school at 15, spent time working on pig farms, some months in a cadetship with the Metropolitan Police, leaving to get married at 18. I joined the Army and served as an Instrument Tech for 9 years, I then worked as a research tech in High Power Electron Beam Welding at the Welding Institute until coming to Canada.
I share this because I believe that I got the job as a reward for faithfully seeking the true creator and manager of the Universe. I started as the supervisor in November 1993, then a year later, my faith made an unexpected leap. On November 4th 1994 I awoke to the realization all the Bible stories I had a read and heard were real, that the resurrected Jesus is alive and well and living in people. I had become what is often referred to as a “born-again Christian.” There is no better term.
My life direction changed, my character changed, some of you may recall the early days and see that there have been some changes. I know there have been huge changes, and my life has been transformed.
So, I attribute any success I may have had to my knowing Jesus Christ and my desire to make him real to others, not through Bible-thumping and preaching but through sharing the forgiveness, grace and unconditional love that I have received. If this makes no sense to you I fully understand I was there for years myself. Last Sunday I had to preach on a Biblical text, written by Paul the Apostle it says, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Think about it and don’t perish.
First, and foremost then, I do thank and give the glory to my creator and savior, Jesus the Christ!
I thank my family, especially Glenda, my forgiving and loving wife of almost 40 years, with whom I will now be able to spend many more hours as we work together. I also thank my children, my foster-children, my grandchildren — you have all helped me become a better man.
I thank Dean John Kendall, for cutting my position; you started a sequence of events that changed my life, and then for hiring me back again. (You were working for God and didn’t even know it) I thank Deans Mike Boorman, Sandy Murphree and Ken Barker for their patience and their trust.
Next, I thank, and give glory, to the people I have worked with in the Workshop.
Those who have retired – Dan Spevak, Ted Mani, Jose Lopez & George Kominek, those who have left to work elsewhere, Joel Schreiner and Mike Shewchuk, and those who remain to carry on the good work under new leadership, Bill Stillaway, Colin Branner, Todd Willis, Chris Sykes, Jay McIsaac and Cathy Bartsch. Without you folks making me look good I would have been no-one. Thank you.
I thank all the professors, research assistants, Post-docs, doctoral and masters students, undergrads and staff who brought me many problems to solve, big and small, not just the technical ones, but also the cultural, social, emotional and spiritual ones. You have all helped me grow me in so many ways.
Thank you to the Wednesday Lunch hour Staff Bible Study who for the past couple of years has provided a mid-week spiritual break.
Many of the skills I have learned here are going to be very useful as we head out into the next round of challenges.
What do I want? I want to be more like Jesus so that everyone I meet will experience his love and grace while working more overtly in Christian missions.
I will finish now, hopefully, you have a better understanding of who I am and what I want…
If you want to stay informed about Glenda and myself in the future, you can follow my blog at andysread.com