Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte is the president at St. Mary's University in Calgary.

In the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar summons the magicians, enchanters and sorcerers of his kingdom to explain a troubling dream he has had. In a test of their ability, he declines to tell them what he dreamt, but instead insists that they reveal it to him and put it into context. The Chaldeans respond that no one could do such a thing “except the gods,” prompting the king to issue a decree that all wise men be executed.

One of my favourite sights when driving along the increasingly paved landscape of Calgary is an ospreys’ nest that has been built atop the metal girder that supports a ubiquitous piece of highway signage. My children and I have marvelled for many years at the site of this large nest, perched out in the open on unprotected steel, which has supported generations of fledgling hawks. So imagine my disappointment driving past the spot recently only to discover that workers had covered the nest with a wooden pyramid. It is impossible not to personify the forlorn hawk, who sat miserably beside this intervention, appearing lost and confused.

The discovery of 215 bodies of children in unmarked graves on the site of the former Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia understandably triggered a national response of outrage and mourning. Less understandable is why this particular discovery has unleashed an outpouring of grief and accountability by community leaders and politicians when the evidence of these atrocities is so well known, and when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report highlighted this issue for special mention.

 It has become commonplace to speak of our current reality as “a time like no other.”

In At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, Roger Ekirch discusses a practice in the early modern era whereby Western Europeans divided their nights in two, with a “first sleep” until midnight, and a later “second sleep” running through until morning.

Growing up in Montreal, with a mother who couldn’t speak French and a father who couldn’t speak English, I had an uncanny understanding of the power of words.

In The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman (now Saint) outlined his vision of a liberal education that spoke of the virtues and purpose of a university. Originally an Oxford man, his famed conflict at Oriel College — where he argued with the Provost that a tutor needed more engagement with undergraduates — resulted in Newman being cast out of his beloved institution and turning instead to a life of research.

Recently I was listening to a report that explained why margarine was bad for you, which concluded that we would all be much better switching to butter.

An early December editorial cartoon struck a sympathetic chord with me. It depicted a weary Father Time, sitting at a bar and pleading to be relieved of duty early. Enough is enough, his hoary visage seemed to say.

At breakfast recently my daughter noted that my cardigan made me look like an academic. As a professor I wasn’t sure how to take the comment. But I admitted that the first thing I did when I began teaching in a university was to rush out and buy a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows.

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