The University of Lethbridge community was introduced to its next President just prior to the Christmas break, and if the enthusiastic reception he received during the announcement is any indication, Dr. Mike Mahon is a very popular selection.
The Winnipeg, Man., native and most recently Dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, was accompanied by his wife, Maureen, as he symbolically accepted a blue Pronghorns men's hockey jersey from Dr. Bill Cade, whom he will be succeeding officially July 1, 2010.
"I don't think my heart has beaten this fast since the birth of my third child . . . and that was 20 years ago," Mahon said as he addressed a crowded Atrium. "It's good to get the heart going."
Mahon, a vigorous proponent of physical activity for people of every age and ability, would know. He holds a PhD in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Science in Physical Education from the University of Alberta and a Bachelor of Physical Education from the University of Manitoba.
The move to Lethbridge and the U of L is one he and his family are anticipating.
"A big part of making such a big decision is where you're going to live. We always said that if we were to leave the U of A, we would only go somewhere that was obviously a good fit academically but also an interesting place geographically. We see Lethbridge as fitting that bill," he says. "Living closer to the mountains is exciting because we both like to ski, we also both run and do all sorts of outdoor things so we see the U of L and Lethbridge as providing a wonderful outlet for those interests."
Mahon is quick to credit departing president Cade for the work he has directed over the previous decade and is enthused about the direction the University is headed and the blueprint laid out by the institution's strategic plan.
"I had always known the U of L as being terrific at educating undergraduate students, but I really learned over the past few months how it has emerged as a research intensive university with a commitment to moving more in that direction," Mahon says. "That's a very important direction for the University and something I'm very excited about."
An accomplished researcher, Mahon has worked with, and conducted research for, the Canadian Special Olympics organization and Right to Play, a group that supplies sports equipment and support to children in developing countries.
"I've always been interested in the extent sport and play influences the social integration and quality of life of people with disabilities," he says.
His body of work has included more than 250 presentations, workshops, lectures and publications including more than 90 articles in refereed journals, book chapters and books. His wife Maureen is also a dedicated educator who specializes in early childhood development issues.
Regarded as personable and community-minded, Mahon identifies with the personal approach championed at the U of L.
"My greatest impression so far with the U of L is the people," he says. "They have been genuine and they've really wanted to connect with Maureen and myself in a personal way, and that's fundamentally why we're so excited about this opportunity."
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• Mahon and his wife Maureen have three children, Katie (23, University of Alberta graduate and assistant manager of a local Edmonton business), Brennan (21, currently studying physical education at the U of A) and Seann (20, currently pursuing a bachelor of arts at the
U of A).
• Maureen has an education degree from the University of British Columbia, a master's in early childhood development from the University of Manitoba and has worked as an early childhood consultant with the Edmonton Catholic School Board the past two years.
• Mahon says he would like to continue his research interests at the U of L but recognizes they may take a back seat as he transitions to the role of President.
• Mahon will continue to supervise his current PhD student through his defence, likely in
• An avid sports enthusiast, Mahon says his sons will reap the benefits of his move to the
U of L. "They're pretty excited because now that I'm a Pronghorn, they get all of my Golden Bear golf shirts."