Quiet confidence

Judge Bill Andreassen receives Augustana’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award

Anna Schmidt - 20 January 2023

Photo of Bill Andreassen

In 1974, a group of young men from the Canadian prairies stepped off a plane in Stockholm, Sweden.

The language, architecture and food were unfamiliar, but one thing was not — the ice. The young men laced their skates, donned their jerseys and made a name for the Camrose Lutheran College Vikings hockey team, playing against junior teams across Scandinavia. The Canadians were captained by 20-year-old defenceman, Bill Andreassen, ’75 CLC, ‘76 BA, ‘79 LLB.

“For most of us, I think it was probably the first time we flew anywhere. It was much anticipated,” says Andreassen. The Vikings played in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, returning to Camrose with 10 wins out of 12 games — including a victory against one of Sweden’s best junior teams at the time. The 1974/75 Vikings went on to finish first in their league and win the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association hockey championships.

For Andreassen, the success against tough teams sparked confidence — both on and off the ice. He graduated from Camrose Lutheran College in 1975, and set his sights on finishing his bachelor of arts and pursuing a law degree at the University of Alberta.

“Through our hockey, we realized that we could come from a small town and a small school and succeed against bigger places. Then I did okay in law school too,” says Andreassen. “I realized that just because I was from a smaller place and had a quieter personality, it didn’t mean I couldn't do as well as anyone else.”

He graduated from the U of A’s Faculty of Law in 1979, receiving the Horace Harvey Gold Medal in Law for achieving the highest grade point average of his class. Over the next 30 years, he built a successful law practice following three years as in-house counsel with Canadian Utilities. Andreassen worked in the firm Andreassen Borth until 2009, when he was appointed to the Provincial Court of Alberta. As a judge, he travels around central Alberta hearing cases largely on criminal matters, he explains.

Now, Andreassen is the recipient of Augustana’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award, recognizing his outstanding achievements as a lawyer, judge and community member. Reflecting on what brought him to the campus initially, he says he “never really considered going anywhere else.” Andreassen grew up in Camrose, playing hockey against other local kids in the city’s only indoor rink. In Grade 12, he played for the Vikings, who were part of a “Junior B” league at the time. After high school graduation, Andreassen and the Vikings moved up together — he was accepted as a student at Camrose Lutheran College, and the hockey team joined the Alberta College Athletic Conference. It meant Andreassen could stay with the team, but at the college level.

Throughout his career, Andreassen stayed connected to his alma mater. While practicing law, he taught as a sessional instructor at Augustana and served as an assistant coach for the Vikings hockey team, working alongside coach Joe Voytechek, who had led Andreassen and his teammates to the championship back in 1975. All of Andreassen’s three children started their post-secondary studies at Augustana.

“The institution here is a fantastic option for people who are from smaller areas to start an academic career without the intimidation of moving…to a larger city and [being in] large classes,” he says.

Andreassen also coached local youth hockey and baseball, and was a founding member of the Camrose Sport Development Society, helping to bring junior hockey to the city. “If you live in Camrose, why would you ever want to live anywhere else? It’s so easy to live here. We have services, we have retail, we have sports opportunities, we have cultural opportunities. It's all within a 10-minute drive,” he says.

Thinking back on his career, Andreassen advises young people not to underestimate themselves. “You can be from a small place and be just as capable as people who have grown up in a bigger place. You can have your own personality — and keep that personality — and make your way in life. You don't have to be the loudest person in the room.”