Reunion Weekend: Connecting Dots

Alumnus Doug Brimacombe reflects on Alumni Weekend and the connections made throughout his time in KSR

Doug Brimacombe - 10 October 2019

A few years ago I read a book by David Suzuki entitled "Letters to My Grandchildren". The author discussed the role of elders in our society and challenged us to remain engaged lest our experience and wisdom be lost to current and future generations. For me, his message was a clarion call to action and his challenge connected well with Dewitt Jones' suggestion that we focus on making a contribution rather than the overwhelming, and often immobilizing, notion of making a difference.

Accordingly, I have regularly sought to engage, at a minimum, in conversations with children, friends and others, focusing on a wide range of substantive topics. This activity underpins my decision to write the following brief, personal account. Hopefully, it will stimulate others to offer their perspectives.

This story takes a glimpse at some of the ways in which the University of Alberta's Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation (nee Physical Education and Recreation) has impacted my life. As I approached the Reunion weekend, and subsequently shared in the experience itself, I found myself "connecting dots" which link to the Faculty.

In 1965, I entered the Faculty. I was a boy in search of purpose and identity. I had already attended the U of A for an unsuccessful academic year and a university in California for a further year. In short, I was somewhat lost and lacked motivation, confidence, and direction.

As I flew to Edmonton for the Reunion, I was a three days short of my 73rd birthday. I looked forward to seeing old friends and acquaintances, learning their stories and enjoying the various events.

During the flight, I found myself reflecting on my personal and professional journey and the many "dots" which connect in some way with the Faculty, including:

  • Murray Smith: He introduced me to an opportunity which launched my career.
  • Larry Beres: He was an early graduate in Physical Education and became a highly respected recreation and parks practitioner. Larry was my mentor and had a tremendous influence on my personal and professional development. He enjoyed a lifelong relationship with Al Affleck, to whom he dedicated his PhD dissertation.
  • Al Affleck: After a workshop led by Al, I remarked to Larry Beres that it had been a tremendous success. Larry commented that "it's amazing how much smarter Al gets as we get older". His Quid served me well throughout my career. Al also imparted a turn of phrase which I have embraced as my own (Al preferred to be seen as a "human becoming" rather than a human being).
  • Maury Van Vliet: "Hi Doug…. This is Maury". This was how Dr. Van Vliet greeted me during a phone call after I had been announced as the CEO of the YMCA-YWCA of Greater Victoria. I enjoyed a number of lunches with him during my tenure with the Y.
  • Rick Curtis: When I met Rick we were teens in love with baseball. Rick graduated in the initial class of the Recreation Degree program. After a number of stops in an exemplary career, he became the CEO of the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association. During his tenure, and with his unique vision and skills, ARPA became the leading Provincial Association in Canada. I am proud to call Rick a colleague and kindred spirit. I am even more fortunate to have him as a special friend.

Dean Kerry Mummery, University of Lethbridge President (former U of A Dean) Mike Mahon, Dr. Tim Burton, Dr. Barry Mitchelson, Dr. Tom Hinch, and Deputy Minister Bill Werry: Together with Rick Curtis, these individuals were central to my experience with the Tripartite Partnership. From 2009-2012, I had the honour of serving as the first chair of this collaboration between the Faculty, ARPA, and Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Recreation. In this role, I also focused on building leadership capacity and taught as a member of the Faculty. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity to "give something back".

In a word, the Reunion was tremendous. There were great stories, lots of laughs, and moments of inspiration.

But what resonated most with me was something Dean Kerry Mummery talked about at the breakfast. He commented that the Faculty has always focused on "good people" and that this emphasis has been at the heart of the Faculty's success throughout its history.

As my mind drilled down on his reference to "good people", I recognized that the people of the Faculty (professors, staff, students, and alumni) are somewhat unique. They care about others, possess positive values, and have healthy attitudes. Additionally, they innately have a strong orientation toward leadership (doing the right thing) and relationships (the molecules of organizations, communities, and individual happiness).

This reunion afforded an opportunity to re-connect with many of the early "good people" who studied in the Faculty. These valued citizens were positive contributors. Some contributed provincially, nationally, and internationally. Most focused on their communities. And their post-career and extra-curricular stories are inspirational examples of what Suzuki was encouraging in his challenge to elders.

Yes, Dean Mummery was correct. Many good people have populated the Faculty. Good young people entered the Faculty as students. Good people assisted their growth and development. And, even better people left as graduates to make their mark on our world.

In closing, I express my thanks to the organizers for facilitating this wonderful experience with such a group of good people.

Until we meet again.

Best Regards,

Doug Brimacombe

Since graduating from the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation (nee Physical Education and Recreation) 50 years ago, Doug Brimacombe ('69 BPE, '71 BEd) has left his mark on the field of recreation and sport leadership. After a 16 year career with the City of Port Alberni Park and Recreation Commission, where he worked his way from sports coordinator to chief administrative officer, Doug served in various leadership roles in both non-profit and park and recreation sectors from 1987 to 2008.

In 2009, Doug became the Senior Liaison of Leadership and Professional Development for the Alberta Tripartite Partnership-a collaboration between the Faculty, Alberta Recreation and Parks Association, and the Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Recreation. In this role, Doug chaired the partnership and served as a Faculty member, teaching Leadership, Leisure Education and Program Planning. Through his teaching and the development and delivery of a "building leadership capacity" program, Doug has been instrumental in preparing young professionals for careers in recreation leadership.

Doug retired in 2012 and is enjoying retirement life in White Rock, BC with his wife Edie. Both Doug and Edie-who also taught courses for the Faculty in 2010-have passed along their passion for recreation and sport to their five children and four grandchildren.