40 years: Looking back and forward

Posted on Sunday, May 1, 2016

Jean-Paul Vallière et Linda Arsenault.

The Library’s Jean-Paul Vallière and Linda Arsenault started working at uOttawa in 1976.

By Linda Scales

Forty years ago, Canadians were talking about Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the Montreal Olympics, and Parliament abolishing the death penalty. The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, Timbits were introduced, and the CN Tower opened to the public.

At the University of Ottawa, Father Roger Guindon was rector, and the first phase of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute opened its doors. For five current members of the uOttawa community, 1976 also marked the beginning of their journey as employees here on campus: Linda Arsenault and Jean-Paul Vallière of the Library, Linguistics Professor Ian MacKay of the Faculty of Arts, Elizabeth Maheux of Human Resources and Professor Michael McBurney of the Faculty of Medicine.

In this special issue of the Gazette, Linda Arsenault, Ian MacKay and Michael McBurney share some memories.

What brought you to the University in 1976?

Arsenault: I was hired as a clerk in the Education Library. It was in the basement of Tabaret Hall.

MacKay: I was offered a position in the Linguistics department.

McBurney: I was recruited into the Biology department.

What inspired you to stay?

Arsenault: The people and working with the campus community, teachers and students. The University has given me the opportunity to take many courses in my field over the years.

MacKay: My subfield is quite specialized so there were very few opportunities over the years to move to a different institution. The ones that came up were in places where I wanted to live less than I wanted to live in Ottawa. Bottom line: I was happy here.

McBurney: After five years in Biology with the usual mix of teaching, research and administration, I moved to the Faculty of Medicine to focus on research. In 1989, I started a cancer research group, which is now the Cancer Therapeutics Program of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. I’m the director.

What changes have you seen over the years?

Arsenault: I started my job using the typewriter — and then on to WordPerfect, to Word, and using email and Outlook. I’ve also seen the changes on campus, including the addition of buildings such as Perez, Desmarais and the second arena.

MacKay: The population of Canada has changed and that is reflected in the people that show up in the classroom. The increased diversity is particularly positive in a field of study such as mine. As well, the increase in the size of the University’s student population exceeds what I would have imagined.

McBurney: In 1976, the major players in biomedical research in Ottawa were the National Research Council and what is now called Health Canada. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, the University emerged as the site of research intensity in the city while the other two institutions became focused on other missions. Another change has been the emergence of the hospitals as major sites of biomedical research.

What else would you like to say about working at the University?

Arsenault: The years have gone by quickly and I’ve met some special friends. I’ve always felt proud to work here.

MacKay: As an Anglo from Vancouver, I find working in a bilingual institution quite inspiring. I teach courses in both official languages and am happy that my position encouraged working in two languages.

McBurney: I came to Ottawa expecting to stay for five years. However, the city is a great place to bring up a family and the University gave me no reason to leave. I’ve enjoyed the career of a lifelong student, and am slightly embarrassed about being paid for a career that has been so much fun.

What are your future plans?

Arsenault: When I retire I’d like to give some weekly time to the elderly in the hospital near my home and take the time to be with my loved ones.

MacKay: So far, I’m enjoying my life too much to be anxious to retire. When I do retire, I know I’ll miss the classroom and the excitement of working in the field that I’m most passionate about.

McBurney: I intend to wind down my academic career slowly over the next several years. My lab will remain operational for another 2 1/2 years and I expect to be replaced as the director of the cancer program at OHRI within the next year. I hope to increase the time I spend on travel, grandchildren and golf.

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