Rick Myers had a peculiar introduction to the world of St. Thomas.
A young political science student, Myers was just finishing his PhD at the University of Toronto when he noticed an advertisement on the wall of the political science department.
A small, East-Coast liberal arts university was looking for a part-time instructor.
Intrigued, Myers called the number, explained who he was and that he was about to finish his doctorate.
“The guy said ‘oh, sorry. Can you hold the line for a sec?’ He was clearly talking to someone else,” Myers said. “He came back and said ‘oh, what was your name again?’ ‘It’s Rick,’ I said. ‘Oh Rick, yeah, ok, the job is yours.'”
“I was just looking for some information,” Myers said. “And besides, don’t you have to interview me or something? He said ‘no, you have a PhD from U of T, that’s fine. Come on down.’”
That was 24 years ago.
Since then, Myers has become a tenured political science prof, spent seven years as vice-president academic, and was assistant coach to a championship-winning STU basketball team.
He was also once a candidate for STU’s presidency.
Now, he’s poised to assume leadership of Sault Ste. Marie’s Algoma University.
“I think this is a real opportunity to do something distinctive, and something worthwhile,” he said. “I think it’s a place that is new, that is going to be receptive to doing innovative and interesting things. The people I’ve met there are all very energetic, looking to build something special. I like building things. I’m not the sort of manager type, I don’t get a big charge out of oiling the machine. I like to build machines.”
Myers said the school, which has about 1,200 students, is similar to New Brunswick’s UNBSJ – a small, regional school with students almost exclusively from the immediate vicinity.
“The search consultant called me up out of the blue and said ‘listen, I think there’s a real professional opportunity here that is tailor-made for you,’” he said. “The more we looked at it, the more it seemed like ‘yeah, that seems true.’”
He said Algoma sought him out because they knew his interests and values.
One of those values is his love of teaching, which he plans to continue doing even while serving as president.
Algoma, he said, is primarily a teaching university, and the person leading it needs to lead by example.
Combining administrating and teaching isn’t something new to Myers, who taught a course every term at STU while in the vp academic position.
“In lots of ways, it has that kind of symbolic leadership significance,” he said. “But it’s also important in terms of keeping you in touch with what’s going on at the core of the institution. And it’s also good relief.”
As for what he’ll miss most about STU?
“The personal connections,” he said. “Universities are, ultimately, collections of people. So, I’ll miss a lot of the great people around St. Thomas.”