Celebrating the tenure of Dean Sheila Ager

Monday, June 24, 2024

Last Thursday, Faculty of Arts and campus colleagues gathered to celebrate Dr. Sheila Ager’s five-year tenure as Dean. Emceed by Doug Peers, former Dean of Arts (a “has-dean”), there were reflections, laughs, and almost-tears shared by Sheila’s friends, colleagues, and family. Speakers included Bob Kerton, Dean of Arts Emeritus, Mary Wells, Dean of Engineering, Lili Lui, Dean of Health, Dean Ager’s brother, and the dean herself. Jim Rush, Vice-President Academic and Provost, was unable to attend at the list minute but sent his best wishes

“I just want to say how fortunate the Faculty of Arts and University of Waterloo and has been to have such a kind and compassionate leader as Sheila Ager,” said Dean Wells.

“I always felt Sheila brought colour to our merry band of deans, and brought new ideas to many complex issues,” continued Dean Wells, who then presented a WStore Pride Goose and offered her thoughtful interpretation of how the colours might also represent the six faculty colours – starting with Arts orange on the beak and ending with Engineering purple on the tail/butt feathers. “No matter what part of the goose we represent, together we make up the full goose, just as we all make up one Waterloo.”

A feature at the event were diadems for all to wear. Handmade by Dr. Christina Vester (Classical Studies), the diadem is a decorated headband tied with ribbon at the back of the head symbolizing royal dignity. On Thursday, the many diadems worn served to honour both Dean Ager’s deanship and her extensive scholarship on Cleopatra VII.

Bob Kerton, who has been a colleague over most of Dean Ager’s 37 years at Waterloo, spoke with fitting metaphors from antiquity about her high-ranking teaching record and leadership roles.

Over the past five years including the pandemic years, remarked Dean Liu, “Sheila opened my eyes to what Classical Studies can teach us about modern issues.” And echoing her fellow dean, “As an academic leader, Sheila always brought compassion and care for members of the university to the table so that decisions and actions are in our community’s best interest.”

When it was Dean Ager’s turn at the podium, she first described her deanship as “a very wild ride”, and later added:

“When I contemplate the past five years, the one overwhelming feeling I have is that of gratitude.”

After thanking many people, teams and offices (while assuring the audience, “I promise I’ll feel terrible for the next five years for forgetting anyone”), Dean Ager reflected: “I feel I’ve seen a genuine and concerted effort to engage Arts as an equal contributor to this university’s mission. And I’m very grateful for the wholistic vision embraced by our university leadership.”

Along with wine, flowers and an entire box of has-dean reading material from Doug Peers, Dean Ager’s legacy is being honoured by the newly established Sheila Ager Scholarship which supports Arts students.

Dean Sheila Ager concludes her term on June 30 and Dr. Alexie Tcheuyap joins the Faculty of Arts as dean on July 1.

This article was originally published in the Daily Bulletin.

Sheila Ager speaking at podium with people smiling around her
table full of diadem headbands
crowd of people gathered for event
Sheila Ager holding flowers and waving