Lois Aspenes Award winner works to follow Augustana ideal of “to lead and serve”

“Augustana is the thread that pulls through much of my life,” says the 2020 award recipient and former Augustana professor, Yvonne Becker.

Sydney Tancowny - 14 June 2021

Throughout her involvement at Augustana—as a student, athlete, professor, coach, athletic director, volunteer, donor and community member—Yvonne Becker has cemented herself as a standard of involvement for others to embrace and emulate.

Born in Camrose and convinced she wanted to teach after high school, Yvonne first came to campus (then Camrose Lutheran College) as a student to complete her first two years of university. While her time on campus may have been short, it left a lasting impression on her. Despite being a shy student, Yvonne became wholeheartedly involved in various areas of the campus—including with Vikings women’s basketball and cross-country running—creating a memorable student experience that was important to her both at the time and now, years later.

However, it was her physical education instructor, Di Lundy, that inspired her future career. A lover of sport and physical activity her entire life, Yvonne was struck by Di’s approach to teaching and the fact that she was the first female physical education instructor Yvonne ever had.

“She made understanding people—understanding their experiences and what they bring to the learning environment—a part of her teaching,” said Yvonne. “All of my thoughts changed from ‘I want to teach’ to ‘I want to teach in a college environment and do what she’s doing’.”

After her two years at Camrose Lutheran College (CLC), Yvonne completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Alberta’s North Campus, where she would also earn her master’s. A year into her graduate studies, Yvonne returned to CLC as a sessional instructor in physical education for two years while she completed her thesis. While it was difficult for Yvonne to leave at the end of those two years, she wouldn’t be gone for too long. Nine years later, when Yvonne was working with a major sports supplier in Edmonton, she received a call from the campus asking if she would like to return to teach, coach and act as athletic director.

“I responded very quickly,” Yvonne laughed, “and then I was there for the next 31 years.”

Over the next three decades, Yvonne became known as one of the first people who would volunteer and lend a helping hand. In each role, whether as a women’s basketball coach on the court sidelines or as a volunteer welcoming donors to an annual awards banquet, Yvonne worked to build up community with those around her.

“Every bit of every day and every interaction is important,” said Yvonne.

However, Yvonne’s work to improve the Augustana community has also reached beyond campus. In particular, she’s dedicated countless hours towards the betterment of athletics. As the campus’ athletic director for many years, Yvonne represented Augustana within the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association (ACAC) and the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), often as the only female voice around the executive table. Such work included introducing a harassment policy for both associations, improving equity requirements within the CCAA, working to establish the CCAA Female Apprentice Coach program (which still runs today) and becoming an enduring champion of female collegiate sport, all while promoting the Augustana experience to her peers.

All of this is not to say that the entirety of Yvonne’s involvement with the campus was always filled with joy or was without challenge. For many years, the campus experienced financial trouble that impacted her work, even resulting in the dissolution of the Vikings women’s hockey team that Yvonne worked hard to establish only two years prior. Additionally, much of her work to improve equity within sport at both the provincial and national level was considered controversial at the time and often met with open disapproval.

However, part of what makes Yvonne’s involvement and commitment so admirable and deserving of recognition is her unfaltering support despite the challenges she has faced. With all that she has done and continues to do, Yvonne has bettered the Augustana community by being a part of it, making her a deserving recipient of the 2020 Lois Aspenes Award.

“Augustana is the thread that pulls through much of my life,” said Yvonne, “I take seriously the ‘to lead and to serve’ part of our history, and I think that's an important part of creating a profound community.”