He readily admits he was not ready for the job of University of Lethbridge president 10 years ago and even jokes that he might not be ready for it today. Such is the self-effacing manner in which Bill Cade has guided the U of L for the past decade, a 10-year period of unprecedented growth and achievement for the institution.
"I think you grow into jobs and anybody who thinks they are ready for any complex job probably doesn't know the job yet," says Cade, who will conclude his 10-year tenure as president at the end of June.
"I remember saying at the outset, "I'm joining your team, you're not joining my team." And to join the team, you've got to know the team. I don't care if it's football, baseball or a team of 800. I spent a fair amount of time getting to know people and learning things about them so I'd understand the role they played here."
That's something Cade never let lapse throughout his 10 years on campus. Considered by many to be the most personable "boss" they'd ever worked for, Cade embodies the personal, supportive environment the University trumpets as one of its tenets.
"Right from when Bill came to the U of L, he was one of us," says Joan Zimmer, a Telecom assistant with the University's Info Tech team. "He didn't walk around with his nose in the air looking for subservience as so many do. He showed that he was in the trenches with us working for the good of the University."
Cade's ability to bring the U of L community together is universally lauded.
"Bill has an amazing capacity to see the strengths in people, to nurture those strengths and to challenge individuals to grow," says Senate and Board of Governors member Janice Varzari. "He is very appreciative of others' efforts and is very quick to acknowledge them. His capable and creative leadership has contributed very significantly to the excellence in the education of students at the U of L and the growth of programs."
What amazing growth there has been. Over the course of the last 10 years, the U of L has seen the rise of facilities such as the Library Information Network Centre, the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience (both initiated under prior president Dr. Howard Tennant), the Alberta Water and Environmental Science Building, Turcotte Hall, the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport and Wellness and most recently, the Community Sports Stadium. Throw in a new residence complex, a daycare facility, the Parkway Service Complex and soon-to-be-opened Markin Hall and the University has made building openings seem like an annual event. Cade has been at the forefront of these initiatives, introducing the new U of L campus to the world.
"I think one of Bill's great strengths has been his ability to promote the University," says Senate member Wendy Fox. "He is a true advocate and champion for the University."
Lethbridge West MLA Greg Weadick agrees.
"He is the greatest cheerleader the University has ever seen – it must be the Texan in him," says Weadick. "Under his watch, the U of L has become a stronger community partner and a source of immense pride for all southern Albertans. It would be impossible to list all of Bill's accomplishments but for me, his most enduring legacy will be the passion and joy that was always contagious whenever I spoke with him."
Cade doesn't like to discuss legacies, saying he'll leave that to somebody else to write. He does however, take great pride in how the University has evolved during his watch.
"When I first came here, academically I thought we were in pretty good shape, especially when it came to undergraduate programming," says Cade. "I still believe we're in good shape there but we've been able to add so much more, including many outstanding graduate programs.
"The research side of our mandate has also grown tremendously and is as high a quality as you could find."
He'll officially leave the position of president June 30, but anticipates returning in the fall to see the opening of Markin Hall, one of the most difficult, but now, satisfying projects undertaken during his tenure.
"Markin Hall had been wished for, for years," says Cade. "It had been at the top of the University's priority list for 10 years and we'd gotten nowhere with it. We clearly had to get the Faculty of Management moved out of its location, but to make it happen, we knew we had to construct the building with other academic groups."
The new Faculty of Health Sciences proved to be the right fit, and Cade still has the letter from the provincial government authorizing its $50 million contribution.
"That was a very challenging project to work on and to be able to come back in the fall and open that building will be wonderful."
With a new Strategic Plan in place, Cade is confident the University is on secure footing as it moves forward. He sees his time as president as a continuation of the legacy established before him and one that will endure after he leaves.
"The great success of the University of Lethbridge did not just happen," says Cade. "A group of visionaries persisted, overcame obstacles and founded the U of L. Many people followed and worked many years to grow and nurture our University.
"Today, we have one of the finest universities in Canada. The future of the University is very bright. I am confident the next four decades will be even more successful for the U of L."