Graeme first entered the regional post-secondary community in 1992 as a short-term contract instructor in the college’s Forest Technology Program. Moving into a full-time teaching position soon after, the forest industry veteran began taking on leadership roles in the early 2000s before succeeding Selkirk College President Marilyn Luscombe in 2011.
As the affable leader helps incoming president Maggie Matear get settled into the role, colleagues, alumni, students and community members are reflecting on the impact Graeme has had in almost every facet of higher education.
“Angus is an authentic, magnificent human being and leader,” says Luscombe, who became president of New Brunswick Community College after 11 years at the helm of Selkirk College in the early-2000s. “He has provided leadership based on strong, unwavering values, and he has built relationships—both internal and external to the college—on a foundation of trust and excellent communications. Angus has always led with humility, putting the best interests of the college first, and he has made immediate and strategic decisions in that context.”
With students always at the centre, Angus Graeme spent an outstanding 30-year career at Selkirk College. Seen here at Convocation 2022 with valedictorian Gaganjeet Singh, he leaves the regional post-secondary in a position to continue its mission of building remarkable futures.
A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Graeme was working as a professional forester when he decided to bring his passion for the career into the classroom on the Castlegar Campus. With a focus on the Forest Technology Program, he mentored learners in the School of Environment & Geomatics with a zeal that was infectious.
“Angus was a role model for students,” says Selkirk College alumna Jenni Martin. “He was engaged, showed up and made it fun. On field days, he was tough to keep up with because his stride was superhuman. He shared his passion, knowledge, patience and support. He led a great team of instructors that provided much of the same leadership values and standards that Angus displayed.”
Martin enrolled in the Forest Technology Program in 1993 as a single mom with three young children, looking for a more promising future. Despite her appreciation for the instruction and course work, after the first semester she walked out of exams tapped of energy and pondering dropping out. When she told Graeme that it was not meant to be, the rookie instructor helped Martin adjust her schedule to part-time learning and assisted in providing the tools for success.
“Without that day of sincere respect, empathy and opportunity, I would never have been able to finish and go on to have the career I have,” says Martin. “The support I received allowed me opportunities that weren’t clear to me in the beginning. I will be forever grateful that I was able to get off welfare and find a full-time job that supported myself and my three children. I am celebrating 25 years in compliance and enforcement with the Ministry of Forests this year… it wouldn’t have been possible without Angus.”
A Humble and Supportive Leader
Graeme was a decorated faculty member with a Standing Committee on Professional Excellence Award in 1994 and a National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award in 1998. In 2002, Graeme moved into leadership positions starting as chair for the School of Environment & Geomatics. Over the next decade he took on portfolios that spanned the breadth of programs and services at the institution, providing him the foundation needed to tackle the difficult role of president in the ever-changing landscape of post-secondary.
“What stands out is how much Angus cares,” says Bruce Morrison, a former chair of the Selkirk College Board of Governors. “He cares for the students fully and he cares for the staff equally as much. Angus put the betterment of the college at the forefront, even if it made his job that much harder. In tight fiscal years where he had to take the lead by eliminating some programs and some jobs, it was like watching him sever parts of his own body. He cared so much for everyone, it really was tough on him. But Angus’s care for the overall health of the college always won out, regardless of the pain it cost him.”
One of the areas of post-secondary where Angus Graeme (left) made a significant impact was Indigenization and reconciliation. Graeme is seen here chatting with Shelly Boyd, a leader with the Sinixt/Arrow Lake band.
As both vice president of academic & student development and president, Graeme was focused was on relationships with the Indigenous communities of the region. He was instrumental in the creation of the Gathering Place on the Castlegar Campus and the Indigenization Plan 2019-2024.
Shelly Boyd is a leader with the Sinixt/Arrow Lake band of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation who has worked with Graeme over the years on strengthening bonds and programming at Selkirk College. In 2016, the Sinixt lost a leading voice and advocate Virgil Seymour to cancer. Graeme attended the ceremony in Washington state to pay his respects.
“When Virgil passed, and we as a community gathered to spread his ashes on a very steep hill overlooking Inchelium, trucks were required to get to this special spot,” Boyd recalls. “The humility Angus showed as he joined our community in honouring the late Virgil Seymour was important, but what really sticks in my heart is the image of Angus in the back of a truck riding with others in our community. He didn’t come as Angus the representative of Selkirk College, I felt he came as a man who respected and loved another great man. He joined in such a real and loving way.”
Bonding and Growing the Regional Community
In his time as president, Graeme oversaw a budget that grew from $34 million in 2011 to almost $60 million in 2022. He helped guide the college through a $23 million refresh to the Silver King Campus in Nelson, helped secure ownership of the building that houses the Trail Campus and spurred new growth in program offerings. Supporting a significant growth in internationalization, he has kept focus on learner outcomes while working with four different board chairs and five different ministers of Advanced Education & Skills Training.
One of Angus Graeme’s major accomplishments during his decade as president was the $23 million upgrade to Nelson’s Silver King Campus which was completed in 2019. Graeme is pictured here with Selkirk College leadership team members, Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy (middle left) and former Minister of Advanced Education & Skills Training Melanie Mark (middle right).
With more than $34 million in capital projects currently underway—including two student housing developments, one in Castlegar and one in Nelson—he leaves the college in a healthy financial position with an exciting future in program offerings.
“Angus brought the diverse communities in our region together,” says Kootenay West MLA and Selkirk College alumna Katrine Conroy. “Selkirk College became a much more regional entity under his watch, and he worked hard to include all the communities. Mayors from throughout the West Kootenay and Boundary always commented on his willingness to come to their communities and respect their diversity. His time as an instructor in the organization helped him to understand not only the needs of his fellow colleagues, but students and community members alike.”
Graeme’s footprint on post-secondary education extends beyond the mountain communities of the region. A respected leader on the provincial and national stage, his desire to see learners succeed and contribute is unquenchable.
“Angus’s vision and execution has ensured that thousands of learners have gained credentials and confidence to reach their dreams and contribute in their communities,” says Colin Ewart, president of BC Colleges, the association that bonds the province’s public post-secondary colleges. “At the college system level, Angus has brought ongoing thoughtful, caring and insightful value to the shared vision about the role of colleges in British Columbia and across Canada.”