|November 12, 1999||Volume 7, Number 6|
Extension publisher retiring after 30 years on campus
By Sigrid Klaus
Bert Wolfe says the variety of work hes done in his 30 years in Extension from which hell be retiring next month has been perfect for someone with his eclectic interests.
"Im lucky to have found a challenging job that has allowed me to work on projects in so many different fields, and with so many talented people."
To mark the end of his career here, hes inviting his friends and colleagues to a come-and-go function in the Faculty Club on Thurs., Nov. 25, from 3-5 p.m., a highlight of which will be selections by the Prairie Winds Ensemble, a group that includes two flutists one of whom is Wolfe.
"Obviously, that afternoon," he says, "Ill be meeting my guests, and so Ill let the others provide the music."
Wolfe joined the Extension Division in 1969, after a brief stint as a high school teacher in Ottawa and another with a publishing company.
He says he knew he was going to like Extension when, a few days after arriving here, "I found myself out at Camp Rayner, a provincial 4-H camp, pit-ching hay alongside Professor Bob Brack, of Extension, and a number of young 4-H trainees."
But aside from Wolfes hay-pitching skills, the Extension Division was mainly interested in his editorial and writing skills. Over the years, hes overseen the development of numerous University publications and marketing pieces and currently is publishing and marketing manager for the Division.
Because, he says, he often found it hard to stop thinking about his job, he pursued other interests although he notes that "they created equal obsessions."
It was about six years ago that he decided to take the flute more seriously, after dabbling in music for some years. Now, in addition to playing gigs around town with the Prairie Winds Ensemble, he plays with the Holy Cross Adult Band a group of men and women with an interest in playing music for themselves and the community.
Further testimony of his love of music baroque, in this case is his construction, some 25 years ago, of a harpsichord, from a kit. He says it still sits in his house "and is now useful mainly for attracting musicians to play it."
But he has discovered that his main music love is jazz.
"In a way, my interest in jazz illustrates one of the benefits of working at the University. When Bill Richards, then a sessional in the Music Department, heard I was learning to play the flute, he came up to me one day and said, I hear youre interested in jazz. I want you to take my class."
Music isnt the only muse Wolfe will be courting in retirement. Hes interested in tapestry, for example, having recently built his own frame. He also draws, paints in watercolors, and plans to continue writing poetry.
"Im looking forward to having more time to indulge in all my interests, and that includes hanging out with people and taking it easy."
In his current position, he says, "I learned more than I thought I would ever have wanted to know about a number of areas. The Crow Rate, rail-line abandonment, the recharging of wells, boreal forest mushrooms, equity issues, adult education theory, and copyright laws are some that come to mind."
His overarching emphasis as an editor has been on readability.
"Ive always tried to be a champion of the reader, or the learner if you will to understand a complex or technical subject then explain it in simpler terms."
Wolfe says hes pleased with a number of the publications hes worked with. Understanding Western Canadas Dominion Land Survey System, for instance, a publication he enjoyed researching and co-writing with Agriculture Prof. Robert McKercher, has sold thousands of copies and continues to be in demand.
With Margareth Peterson, an Extension colleague, he also wrote A Guide to Copying at the University of Saskatchewan, which was published in 1998.
"We took highly specialized, legalistic material and made it simple, by reducing it to a series of checklists. To date, 10 other post-secondary institutions have adapted it to their situations."
He says hes also pleased that works he managed, such as Peggy Brizinskis Knots in a String: an Introduction to Native Studies in Canada, and Sara Williams Creating the Prairie Xeriscape, have been hugely successful the latter winning two awards in the 1997 Saskatchewan Book Awards.
Because Wolfe is a believer in mentoring, hes tried to help young people wanting to get into the world of letters.
He says his former boss, Joe Campbell, whom he worked with in Extension and Community Relations, was one of his most supportive mentors.
"As well as being a talented musician, Joe is a fine writer who taught me a lot about the craft. His by-words in writing were integrity, clarity, and honesty a credo that I think cannot be much improved on."
Wolfes own retirement will be "an adventure" hell share with his wife Vera-Marie, who also intends to retire soon from her job as acting assistant director of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
"Shes always been more adventurous than I, but in retirement Im going to follow her lead. I tend to be a stay-at-home, who likes to putter about with watercolors and flute. But shes looking forward to traveling and Ive promised to go along."
Next spring, they plan to move to Nanaimo, B.C., to be closer to family and to locate seaside.
"Living on the Prairies has given us a love of big skies and open spaces. I dont know if we could live at the coast if we couldnt look out over a vista of sea and sky."
Hes already determined that Malaspina College there offers university courses, and he intends to continue the lifelong learning that has been such a feature of his career in Extension.
Wolfes advice to the U of S community:
"Take advantage of all thats available on campus, including lectures, art gallery showings, exercise classes, etc. I dont know how many people Ive got to know during my noon swims, and that includes Pres. MacKinnon, who used to be a regular at the pool in less busy times.
"This University has a great deal to offer and the only way youll realize something of its full potential is to experience its many features."
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