Saturday, May 10, 2008

In Memoriam - Arthur Kroeger

I was given the news by a friend late last night that Arthur Kroeger has passed away in Ottawa at the age of 75.

For those who don't know of Arthur Kroeger, he was considered by many of those who work and study in the field of Canadian public administration to be the "Dean of Deputy Ministers" and one of the exemplary public servants to come from the "golden age" of the Canadian civil service in the 1950s & 60s.

A much younger generation of those interested in
Canadian public administration (myself included) got to know Arthur Kroeger when he went by a different title - Chancellor. Not only was he the Chancellor of Carleton University from 1993 until 2002 but he was also instrumental in setting up the first undergraduate program in Canada specifically dedicated to training the next generation of public sector leaders. I was very fortunate to have been a part of the inaugural class of the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs and as such we got to spend more than our fair share of time with him over the four years that we were there.

Arthur Kroeger (far left) with four of the founding members of AKCESS (Arthur Kroeger College Educational Students' Society) at our first event

This afternoon as I was reading some of the coverage of his passing, I thought back to a reception that was held about 5 years ago for students, family, and faculty in honour of our impending graduation. I was asked to give some remarks on behalf of the students and I remember making the point that so many institutions end up becoming a very expensive tombstone for some great man or woman who once upon a time left their mark on society and then departed this earth long before getting to meet any of those who would benefit from the institution to which their good name was lent. And I then remarked that we were truly blessed that not only was the exceptional Canadian public servant for whom our institution was named still with us, but that he had taken an active interest in our aspirations and enriched our educational experiance in the process.

Around that same time, Arthur Kroeger asked the Carleton University Board of Governors to allow him to serve as Chancellor one last time on the afternoon of June 12, 2003. He made this request, which was of course granted, so that he could personally present diplomas to the first cohort of students to graduate from the college that was founded to celebrate his contributions to Canada and ensure that his legacy of public service would live on.

It occurs to me today that we have a lot to live up to.