Student Success

Scholarship honours U of L’s first acting president

Fifty years ago, Dr. Russell Leskiw (LLD ’93) became the University of Lethbridge’s first acting president, guiding the institution from its birth on Jan. 1, 1967 through its first six months.

In honour of his legacy, the U of L recently established the Dr. Russell Leskiw Memorial Scholarship and, this fall, the first scholarship was given to Kelcey McCarthy, a fifth-year education student.

“We’re very pleased that the U of L is doing this and know that students will appreciate this scholarship,” says Evelyn Leskiw, Russell’s widow. “Our three adult children are delighted and realize that this is a very special tribute to their father.”

Kelcey McCarthy, a fifth-year education student, says the U of L's focus on practicums has helped her become a better teacher.

“I’m very grateful to the Leskiw family and the donors who helped create this award,” says McCarthy, a fifth-year student in a combined biological sciences and education program. “I’ve read about Dr. Leskiw and what he did for the University, and I feel very honoured to receive this scholarship.”

Evelyn, who now lives in British Columbia, recalls their years in Lethbridge as an exciting time. Seeing the University take its first steps as a separate entity was pretty heady. When Dr. Sam Smith became the U of L’s first president, Russell became dean of the Faculty of Education. In its first year, the Faculty of Education had seven members, a number that doubled the following year. Russell had focused his doctoral thesis on long internships patterned after the medical and legal professions, and the U of L’s education program evolved to have a significant focus on practicum.

“To have the opportunity to put some of that into practice was really satisfying for Russ,” Evelyn says.

McCarthy, who’s from Edam, Saskatchewan about an hour east of Lloydminster, is currently completing her third and final practicum at a Lethbridge high school. She can attest to the value of those practicums.

“I’ve had really good experiences here,” says McCarthy. “The Education faculty is just phenomenal and all the experience you get to have in practicums, that’s been really great for me, too. I’ve had awesome teachers to work with and they really helped push me and become a better teacher myself.”

Those words would, no doubt, be music to Dr. Leskiw’s ears.

Leskiw describes the challenges he faced to establish the Faculty of Education in the 50 Years, 50 Voices oral history project.