Sheila Matson is adept at playing a variety of roles, whether professionally or on stage. This has served her well in a three-part career at the University of Lethbridge that began in 1968 and has no end in sight.
"It's been wonderful," Matson says of her time at the U of L. "I love the University, I don't think there's a better employer in the city and I really don't say that lightly because I've been in many different spots."
Currently, playing an administrative support role in the physics and astronomy department, Matson has seen virtually every corner of the University.
She began with a job in the registrar's office in 1968, working out of a mobile trailer on the city's south side. Since then she's worked in the Department of Anthropology, as an administrative assistant for the vice-president of administration, the advancement (then development) office, the library and for the director of physical plant. All the while she's moved to England, Medicine Hat, worked for the Lethbridge Symphony and Lethbridge College.
The one constant is that Matson keeps coming back to the U of L.
"It's so neat walking around now and seeing how this place has grown from this one building that stretched across the coulees to what we have today. It's been amazing," she says.
Her ability to adapt to new roles and meet new challenges is surely aided by Matson's not-so-secret talent, musical theatre. She's long been recognized as one of the area's most accomplished actors, recently giving a command performance as Mrs. Lovett in Lethbridge Musical Theatre's presentation of Sweeney Todd.
"I've been fortunate enough to be in sort of a small pond like Lethbridge to be able to play some amazing pieces and have some wonderful parts in all of them," she modestly says.
Her role as Mrs. Lovett was a return to Sweeney Todd, a play she performed here on campus in 1991 with the Centre Stage Players. Her first piece with the University's Faculty of Fine Arts did not come until four years ago, when Brian Parkinson cast her in "Noises Off".
"We're an incredibly well-rounded artistic community so I'm thrilled and pleased to be a part of it. I almost feel as though I've taken over Joan Waterfield's role, I've inherited the mantle that she kind of passed down," Matson says. "That's why I've been able to adapt and move through things because nothing stays static. I love the variety and continued challenges you find."
That attitude, coupled with worldly experience, is the main reason she so seamlessly slid into her current position.
"When I heard the job was in physics and astronomy, I wasn't so sure my fine arts background would fit," she laughs. "But this is such a collaborative department in every way. I don't feel like I work for physics and astronomy. I'm treated as a member of the department and I'm involved at all levels. One of the things that I am here for is to be the face the students see and meet and I love that. That's the best part of the job as far as I'm concerned. I'm very proud to be that face and I always have been, whatever job I've done here at the University."
She's open to anyone dropping by the physics department to learn more about its programs but if you don't make it up there, check her out on stage next fall when she participates in the Lethbridge Symphony Association's kick-off fundraising production of Light in the Piazza.
It will be just another face she's eager to try on.
GET THE FACTS
• Matson managed the Lethbridge Symphony from 1998-2000
• Her daughter, Lindsay Pisko, and son, Matt Pisko, both graduated from the U of L
• Matson won the Grace Elliott Trudeau Scholarship for the best actor/actress under the age of 25 at the Dominion Drama Festival in 1970
• She credits longtime director Fran Rude as a mentor, having worked with her on Shirley Valentine and most recently on Sweeney Todd
• The Lethbridge Symphony Chorus spawned the LMT and Matson was a member of the chorus in LMT's first production, Finian's Rainbow, in April 1964