Joking that some might call her career path "checkered" – she prefers eclectic – retired nurse, Kathy Lewis (BN '83, MEd '99) is both nervous and excited to take on the role of University of Lethbridge Alumni Association (ULAA) president this year.
Lewis began her nursing career in the early 1970s after receiving her RN certificate from the Holy Cross School of Nursing, but a phone call from a University recruiting officer would lead Lewis to explore a whole new world of possibilities.
"I was married, had two young children and was working as a nursing sessional instructor at the Lethbridge Community College. The University was just starting the nursing program and I was asked to enrol. I remember thinking, 'Gee, why are you contacting me?' I really didn't feel that I had what it took academically, but you know the old saying: success breeds success. I found myself completing courses and did very well. I surprised myself," says Lewis, who completed her BN (with distinction) in 1983.
With an undergraduate degree in hand, Lewis says doors opened to her that had formerly been closed. She landed a job as a discharge planning co-ordinator for St. Mike's Hospital and eventually began working as a home care co-ordinator for the Lethbridge Health Unit. Working as a sexuality educator and counsellor in the 1990s, Lewis decided to pursue her master's degree.
"I had always liked the teaching part of my job so I opted for a master's in education at the U of L. My supervising professor was Dr. Cynthia Chambers. She was such an inspiration; she had a lot of life experience as a wife, mother, educator and writer and she brought that experience to the classroom," says Lewis. "By coincidence, Ron Chambers taught me my last class, which was a drama elective. It was one of the most rewarding classes I had in all my University time. Here I was, almost 50, and I found myself in class pretending to be a cow.
"That is what the university does; it gives you that opportunity to open up to a broad range of ideas, people, experiences and possibilities."
Despite her busy schedule with family, work and schooling, Lewis has always made community service a priority in her life. She has served on various boards, including the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, the Lethbridge Community Band Society and the Allied Arts Council, and has been a canvasser for a variety of different organizations such as the Canadian Diabetes Association. In 2002 she was nominated to the University Senate to which she dedicated six years of service. In 2008, while attending a Senate meeting, Lewis volunteered to join the ULAA.
"It was not in my life plan to be on the Alumni Council, but the University is such a positive force, certainly in my life and in the community. It is a major employer in the region, we have excellent research going on, wonderful fine arts and contribute to educating our population. I often say that Lethbridge is a different place because people in the 1960s had a vision. We can be proud of that and proud of the people who made all this happen," says Lewis. "Being a part of the ULAA is a valuable opportunity. I am very much a believer in working together; where we may have shortcomings in experience or knowledge, others fill in. Together we all contribute to the betterment of our society."
During the past two years the ULAA has revised its constitution and by-laws to ensure that the association continues moving in the right direction, maintaining its focus on building relationships with the community, students and alumni.
"In Spring 2012, thanks to the hard work of Cheryl Meheden and her committee, we will be launching a Fiat Lux ring as part of our 45th Anniversary celebration at the U of L. We hope every alumnus will want to have one and wear it with pride," says Lewis. "Our alumni chapters are essential. Together we are over 32,000 strong. We are represented on the Board of Governors, the Senate and many University committees. Our voice is at the table of decision-making and our participation is vital to the success of this institution. I would encourage each alum that when the timing is right and the opportunity to get involved knocks – open the door."
GET THE FACTS
· Lewis is a proud mother and grandmother.
· A member of ULAA since 2008, she served as ULAA vice-president from 2009 to 2011.
· Lewis plays clarinet with the Lethbridge Community Band Society, and is also a former concert planner.
· Lewis is a former ESL tutor with the Lethbridge Public Library.
· In 2009 she completed her RN re-certification through Grant MacEwan University.
This story first appeared in the September issue of the Legend. For a look at the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.