For the Honourable Mr. Justice Ronald A. Skolrood (BA ’83), there’s no questioning the value of a liberal arts education. It not only set him on the path to a more than 30-year law career, it broadened Skolrood’s campus experience and helped established the ideals of community engagement and citizenship.
Now, 33 years after completing his undergraduate degree at the U of L, the highly respected British Columbia judge has been named the University of Lethbridge Alumni Association’s 2016 Alumnus of the Year.
“There’s a lot of discussion about the value of an undergraduate education and particularly a liberal arts education and how that compares to getting trade training,” he says. “In my view, an undergraduate arts education is the best job training you can get for anything. Who knows what the jobs are going to be in five or 10 years from now, but the opportunity to write, to think and to analyze – all those things you do in an arts degree – I think sets everyone up well for the future. From my perspective, it was a great training ground to go into the law.”
Raised in Lethbridge, Skolrood seemed destined for the U of L. His father was a founding member of the Faculty of Education and, after graduating from Lethbridge Collegiate Institute, Skolrood spent the summer working on the University’s maintenance crew. With a spot on the Pronghorns men’s volleyball team waiting and a group of friends planning on attending as well, it just made sense for Skolrood to stay close to home. The practical choice also turned out to be the prudent one.
“There were times I thought maybe I should have pushed myself a little bit more, gotten out of my comfort zone and gone away but I think the U of L was the perfect place for me at that time,” he says. “I had the opportunity to do a ton of things that I might not have at other places, particularly in my last year. I was on student government, I took part in drama productions, had three great years playing Pronghorns volleyball. I enjoyed being busy and enjoyed being involved in all aspects of the campus.”
After completing his bachelor’s degree in English, Skolrood went on to study law at the University of Victoria and never left the province. Recognized for his integrity and impassioned approach to law, Skolrood has made significant contributions to his profession, earning a position on the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2013. Skolrood spent the entirety of his practising life at Lawson Lundell LLP in Vancouver, and is known as a contemplative and thoughtful jurist, concerned with principle and the way in which his work might promote the values of justice and fairness. These qualities are reflected in his judgements and he is well respected by peers and colleagues across the country.
Beyond his work in the courts, Skolrood is renowned for his community involvement. He is an avid supporter of his children’s sports teams, having coached, managed or sat on numerous executives, often taking on several roles at a time. Outside of the sports community, he has committed more than a decade to the Ryerson United Church’s council. Academically, he has been a guest lecturer teaching courses at the University of Victoria and Thompson Rivers University Law School and served as a course group leader at the University of British Columbia.
“Maybe it’s because I have a poor attention span and can’t just do one thing,” he laughs. “I enjoy being involved in a number of different things and meeting a number of different people in different walks of life. I also think it’s important for people to get involved, that’s frankly what makes communities tick, is involved and engaged citizens.”
Skolrood has been back to the U of L a variety of times over the years and maintains many friendships from his undergraduate days.
“I must say, the times I’ve been back, I’m amazed at the expansion the University has undergone. It’s such a different place from when I was there back in the early 80s,” he says. “I’m still in touch with a lot of people from those days. It was a very, very friendly, engaging time in my life.”
He and his wife Jane have three children, with two now pursuing post-secondary education. The advice he has for them is simple, and rooted in his own experience.
“They don’t have any great career goals in mind yet and I keep telling them don’t be fussed about that because what you are doing now is going to set you up for the rest of your life. I and many of my friends who came out of the U of L are living proof of that,” says Skolrood, adding that the liberal arts path they are on will prepare them for anything they might encounter.
“By the time you get to be my age, you’ve probably had to reinvent yourself, two, three or four times in your professional career. Things change, society changes and the world changes so you have to be able to adapt and you have to be flexible and you have to have those underlying skills that allow you to do that. I think you get all of those things from a good, solid undergraduate education.”
The judge has spoken.