Bill Waiser

History in the making

When Bill Waiser first began his journey collecting the stories of Saskatchewan, he had no idea how far the road would take him.

By Chris Morin

A graduate of the U of S with a PhD in history, Waiser left his home province for a job in the Yukon. That’s when he got the call from his alma mater, and returned to Saskatchewan as a history professor—a position he said he enjoyed for over 30 years.

After a lifetime of working as a historian, including writing and co-writing over a dozen books and penning a wildly popular column called History Matters for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Waiser was named a Member of the Order of Canada—one of the country’s highest civilian honours. One of 99 individuals inducted during a ceremony on June 30, Waiser joins the nearly 7,000 members who have been named to the Order, which recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society. It’s an achievement he does not take lightly.

“It was definitely not something that was on my mind when I started teaching at the university,” said Waiser. “Even so, three thousand students later, this induction comes as a pleasant surprise and I’m grateful for the honour.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have this opportunity at the U of S,” he added. “It’s one of the ways I’ve been able to interact with the public on a regular basis on Saskatchewan’s history. People will add to these stories, or even share their own, and it’s been very gratifying.”

In addition to receiving the Order of Canada, Waiser has racked up a number of prestigious accolades. The U of S professor emeritus was named to the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, while his book Saskatchewan: A New History (2005) was named one of the best books of the year by The Globe and Mail.

Although he has since retired from the U of S, Waiser promises his work is not yet done.

“Our history is not young. It’s thousands of years old. We need that understanding to be better informed citizens,” said Waiser. “Those who had read or participated in it know better. There’s always someone out there with a tough question and I try my hardest to find the answer.”

Waiser is not the only U of S alum joining the Order of Canada. Editorial cartoonist Brian Gable, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Time Magazine and numerous other publications, was also inducted this year. After graduating from the U of S in 1971, Gable began his career with The Sheaf before going on to work for the Regina Leader-Post and The Globe and Mail.

Waiser and Gable received the U of S College of Arts and Science’s Alumni of Influence Award in 2016.