From spending Sundays on campus with her parents as a youngster, to being a student and alumna, to being a member of the University Senate and the Board of Governors, to the inaugural honorary ambassador, Grit McCreath (BEd’91) has held many roles at USask. On July 1, a new chapter of McCreath’s USask story began when she stepped into the role of chancellor—taking over from Roy Romanow (BA'60, LLB'64), who was named to the position in 2016.
Following the April 27 announcement of her three-year appointment, we sat down with our new chancellor.
Green & White (G&W): When you found out you were being appointed chancellor, what was your first thought?
Grit McCreath (GM): I was at the Khalifa tower in Dubai with my husband Scott when President Peter Stoicheff texted me the news. I couldn’t believe it. I literally screamed “This is unbelievable!” I was over the moon. I am so humbled when thinking about those who preceded me in this role—Roy Romanow, Blaine Favel, Tom Molloy and Vera Pezer—and I hope I can meet the high standard they have set. Being selected is just the biggest honour.
G&W: What interested you in taking on the role of chancellor?
GM: There is really no downside to this. I was thrilled to take on the role. I love telling the USask story. I’m a cheerleader, I get to talk about all the amazing things happening here. I could talk for days, there are stories in every single college and school. I get to hand out degrees at convocation; what a great privilege. And then you look at the remarkable people I get to work with. I have tremendous respect for so many at USask.
I am immensely grateful to be at this university at this time. We are one of the top 15 universities of 96 universities in Canada. That is phenomenal. How could you not be excited about this? It’s a dream job. For this particular chapter the stars aligned. I want to make it fun, I am at the age when I am not doing anything if it isn’t fun. This seems like a natural next step—I don’t know how to knit!
G&W: What’s the story of the first time you set foot on campus?
GM: I don’t remember it exactly, but I remember the time. My parents were academics from Europe who came to a new country with a new language, and had to pursue post-secondary education again. As a very young child I sat outside of their classrooms reading and waiting for them. I was a campus mouse. I knew my way around all the nooks and crannies. USask was central to my life growing up. On weekends we had family picnics on campus or would go to museums, concerts and sporting events.
G&W: What do you hope to accomplish in the position?
GM: I think every chancellor has a focus. With Roy Romanow it was building those political connections nationally. Blaine Favel helped make USask a leader in reconciliation in Canada. For Vera Pezer, I think, she really focused on Huskies Athletics. She was the biggest fan.
For me, and I know this will evolve, I think I will bring it to students. I think that suits my style as a life-long educator. Something around the student experience. Make sure they are healthy, happy and involved.
When I was on the Board of Governors, whenever we were discussing spending money, my filter was always to ask: How are students going to benefit? It is pretty easy to make that the centre of your purpose.
Another focus for me would be to build on the strong relationships we already have with the provincial government and encourage them to continue to provide adequate funding so that there is clarity on the power of prosperity that will prevail if we educate and retain.
G&W: Favourite spot on campus?
GM: The Bowl. I mean, how could that not be anyone’s favourite place on campus?
G&W: Have you ever thrown an airplane in the Airplane Room in Thorvaldson?
GM: (laughing) Not yet! I will have to do that.
G&W: Favourite meal?
GM: Turkey dinner. It’s a boring answer, but I love it. I also love cooking it and hope I get the chance to thank my nominators and Senate with a big dinner some day!
G&W: What is one thing you tell people about USask who aren’t familiar with the university?
GM: It is the most beautiful campus in Canada. You have to come see it. Once you’re there, you will see we are becoming the university the world needs through our research, our students and our 158,000 alumni. Everyone is contributing to education and world class research. We are creating broad-minded thinkers and problem solvers. The USask community is humble, hard-working and generous, there’s nothing like it.
G&W: Is there a saying you live by?
GM: In every classroom or office I’ve had, I always have the words “carpe diem” visible and prominent. Enjoy every single day, every day should be a celebration and I am excited to do that as chancellor.