James Mayer named 2023 Lois Aspenes Award recipient

The support James Mayer received as a student has driven him to give back to Augustana for nearly 50 years.

Jordan Whitehouse - 20 September 2023

2023 Lois Aspenes Award recipient, James Mayer.
Photo by John Ulan.

It’s been 44 years since James Mayer, ’83 BCom, first set foot on the campus of Camrose Lutheran College — now Augustana Campus — but he can still remember his sweaty palms and the feeling of butterflies in his stomach as he lined up at the registrar’s office to adjust his class schedule. 

As a small-town, 18-year-old kid from Camrose, Mayer was in a completely new environment. “I was so intimidated,” he remembers. “Way out of my element.” 

The young commerce student quickly learned, however, that one of the advantages of attending a small school like Augustana is that you weren’t a number. That people like the registrar and many others he met could recognize his nervousness and were more than willing to help.    

It was a lesson that Mayer would often think about as he moved on to North Campus in Edmonton to complete his degree and later join the family business in Camrose as an insurance broker.  

It was a lesson that made him want to give back to students, too.

In the past four decades, Mayer has been a constant supporter of Augustana, volunteering his time and money to everything from establishing student scholarships to off-setting the cost of acquiring scientific and athletic equipment. He is the recipient of this year’s Lois Aspenes Award for his many contributions to the life of the campus.

Mayer has also been an avid proponent and board member of the Battle River Community Foundation, which has supported Augustana in various ways through the years. 

One of his favourite stories to tell is from 2009, when he was at Augustana attending the graduation ceremony for Reading University — a summer program developed through a partnership between the Battle River Community Foundation, Augustana and the Battle River School Division to help kids in grades 2 and 3 improve their reading and comprehension skills.

A thirsty Mayer headed to the water fountain that day. He hit the button, but somehow the water ended up on the floor. He was shaking his head, confused, when he heard a voice from behind him.

Turning around, Mayer looked down and saw a seven-year-old boy with a tie that barely made it to his belly button. “Here, let me help you,” said the boy. “This is my university.” 

“You think, 10 years down the road, if that kid goes to Augustana, he won’t have the same fear or intimidation that I did, because he knows every nook and cranny,” chuckles Mayer.  

He says it’s that kind of support and community involvement from Augustana that has made him want to stay involved all these years later. “Augustana is such a jewel in our community, and I am so fortunate to be able to give back.”