Have You Met…President Bill Flanagan?

On July 1, Bill Flanagan joined the U of A community as its 14th President. Spend a few minutes getting to know him a little better.

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On July 1, Bill Flanagan joined the U of A community as its 14th President. Spend a few minutes getting to know him a little better.

What are you most looking forward to about being back in Alberta?

I love the big sky. I grew up in Alberta, and I remember that sky, and I am still impressed by how beautiful it is. You can see it forever.

I also have a great deal of family here, so it is great to reconnect with many cousins. And Alberta is just such a welcoming place and I am once again reminded of that as I return home.

In a few words, what brought you to the U of A?

It is a tremendous university with such an important role in the community, in the province, in the country, and globally. Its teaching and research excellence are renowned around the world. It’s a uniquely engaged community of faculty, staff and students, all of whom care deeply about the university and its future. Even though it is a large university, there remains a strong sense of community and connection.

If you were enrolling in one course, program or degree right now, what would it be?

I would study Classics. I did my undergrad in philosophy, and I have always been fascinated by the study of classics. I am a tremendous fan of ruins, especially Greek and Roman ruins. Last fall when I was on academic leave I took an online course on Greek and Roman mythology and I absolutely loved it.

If you could see any live performance tomorrow, what would it be?

Anna Netrebko at the Met in New York. She is a famous Russian soprano and one of my all-time favourites. I have seen her before, once at the Met and once in Covent Garden, and she has an absolutely spectacular voice.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Dream big. Explore. Take risks. Go outside your comfort zone; that is where you learn.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Meetings that go on too long that are not sufficiently structured.

What is the best book you have read recently?

NudgeNudge. It is a book about economics and public policy, and how you can use nudging to encourage people to make better decisions about their lives. It was a fun read about how to positively affect change in the world.

When we began working remotely, what was the most important part of your office setup?

Music is a big part of a nice working environment for me. I listen to a lot of classical music. I am a big fan of jazz and classical vocals. I also play the piano. Music is a big part of my life.

What is your favourite distraction?

I love cycling, and I am having so much fun exploring the Edmonton river valley. There are trails everywhere and it is endlessly interesting. I love the freedom of cycling.

What is your first U of A memory?

It’s a fun memory: my brother had a summer job painting dorm rooms in St. Joseph’s. I was in high-school at the time, and he got me a summer job helping him paint. Some U of A staff were painting the president’s office the other day and I told them I started my career as a painter at the U of A! I think they liked that story. It was a short-lived career but it was a lot of fun.

Coffee or tea?

I like both: coffee in the morning and tea after lunch. If I am drinking coffee, it is a double cappuccino.

What is your go-to comfort food?

Roast chicken with fresh tarragon.

What is something your coworkers would be surprised to learn about you?

I love horseback riding. It is something I did as a kid on my uncle’s ranch in Southern Alberta just outside of Brooks and it was always thrilling.

What is one thing you cannot live without?

The outdoors. I love hiking. I love cycling. I have a sister in Vernon, and every summer we go hiking in the mountains. Those are magical moments for me, filled with tranquility and peace.

You can invite anyone — alive or dead, real or fictional — to dinner. Who would it be?

It is a tie between Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela. Eleanor would be a fascinating person to meet. She had such an important role in establishing the post-war institutions such as the United Nations, that were designed to prevent the conflicts that were experienced in World War II. And Nelson Mandela is a remarkable historical figure.

What are you most excited about for the next year?

As you know, we have embarked on an ambitious restructuring program with U of A for Tomorrow, and while we face some major financial challenges we also have some tremendous opportunities. Albertans are no stranger to challenges and our history is one of overcoming adversity and making the most of all opportunities. With the extraordinary talent and energy at the U of A, I have no doubt that the whole university community will pull together and build a bright future for U of A for tomorrow.