Campus Life

Oordt remembered as a prof who inspired students

The following is a story that appeared in the Apr. 13 edition of the Lethbridge Herald

Generations of university students were blessed to be taught by Marty Oordt although they may not have known it at the time.

Oordt was one of the first faculty members hired at the fledgling University of Lethbridge in 1967. Owen Holmes, the dean of arts and sciences at the time, remembers meeting a lively and enthusiastic young man who wanted to inspire students.

"Marty was a real enthusiast for liberal education. I think of him as Mr. Liberal Education at the university," Holmes said. "In that context he was a great inspiration to a whole generation of students and a really great colleague when we were all trying to foster that kind of a beginning for the university."

Oordt passed away April 8 at age 73 after a brief illness. Born and educated in the United States, he joined the English department at the U of L and stayed for 30 years. He received the Medal for Distinguished Teaching in 1996.

Oordt was a writer and poet and, after he retired in 1997, publisher of Lethbridge Living magazine. He supported several local organizations as a volunteer.

"He was certainly an inspiration and a mentor to many students and to many people," said Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, a former student who took over Lethbridge Living from Oordt and his wife Mary in 2006. "He was always easy to talk to and you could always pick up where you left off when you saw him last. He was certainly more than just an instructor and he took a great deal of interest in his students and the projects they were working on."

Schmidt-Rempel had been a freelance writer for Lethbridge living for several years before she became managing editor in late 2006. As a student, she said Oordt helped her learn to think critically about her creative work, to take a step back and look at plot, structure and development. At the same time he was encouraging.

"Out of all the things that I really remember is probably my first day at university sitting in his English 1900 class. He was asking us to come up and develop characters for a short story that we were working on," she said, adding she had what she considered a ridiculous idea about a child and a cat. "He was really encouraging about that and he said 'You know what, it's your idea, go for it.' The whole thing spawned a series of probably 12 to 15 stories about this kid and her cat."

When Oordt joined the U of L, he came with the attitude that students should come first.

"Education was the flourishing of the student more than just the transmission of information. That was the spirit of it and Marty was right in that spirit all the way through," Holmes said. "He and some others organized a special program called Colloquium Study at the university. That was a pure form of liberal education; it was a
wonderful experience."

A celebration of Oordt's life is scheduled for Saturday, Apr. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Galt Museum.