Remembering Lloyd Barber
On Thursday, Sept. 22, almost 800 people gathered at the University of Regina to pay their respects to the university’s second president, Lloyd Barber. He passed away on Sept. 16 at the age of 79.
If actions speak louder than words, then the turnout for Dr. Barber’s memorial speaks volumes for the man so central to the U of R’s history. As president of the university from 1979 to 1990, Barber helped establish it to what it is today. He was a critical player in the founding of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, which is now the First Nations University of Canada.
Barber helped keep the U of R afloat in the earlier years of the institution’s history. Kent Peterson, president of the U of R Students’ Union, emphasized that Barber played a key role during the university’s formative years.
“Without him, the University of Regina establishing the First Nations University of Canada probably would not have happened,” Peterson said. “He really was a visionary; he was a builder.”
There is also reason to credit Barber with saving the U of R and establishing it as the university it is today.
“When he took office, it was rumoured that the U of R would almost certainly have to fold back into the University of Saskatchewan,” Peterson explained. “We had just separated, but after 10 years, it didn’t look good. He didn’t want [to separate], and so he got to work, really creating the U of R as a separate institution and he was clearly successful, because in his tenure, the enrollment nearly tripled.
“He really put the University of Regina on it’s own distinct course as a post-secondary institution.”
Barber also succeeded on a national level, as he was the Indian Claims Commissioner of Canada, from 1969 to 1977. He was also named an honourary Saskatchewan Indian Chief in 1980 and was awarded the Aboriginal Order of Canada in 1985.
“Those things, in addition to him establishing or at least partnering with the forerunner for the First Nations University of Canada, show that he put a lot of focus on Aboriginal education and First Nations leadership, and all those sorts of things that we can be proud of as an institution,” Peterson said.
Peterson said that Barber’s legacy is not limited to what he did with the U of R, but what he did with his career and his entire life. In 1993, Barber was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
He also believes that Barber’s success sends a powerful message to the students at the university.
“I think it’s inspiring for students here to know that this man was born in Regina. [He] was educated in Saskatchewan in terms of his undergrad, then went on to do his masters and a doctorate in different universities around the country and in Washington and California,” Peterson said. “It just shows that you don’t have to be from an Ivy League university to do great things.
“He came back here and provided his leadership in both terms of federal service, when he was the Indian Claims Commissioner of Canada and, of course, provincial and local service when he was our president and did all those great things at the University of Regina and for Saskatchewan. He made the University of Regina better, even though he could have basically went anywhere else. I think that is important.”
In the sadness of Barber’s passing, there is a silver lining. There is the chance for everyone to look at the history of the U of R.
“Although its unfortunate, the passing of Dr. Lloyd Barber gives us the chance to be a bit retrospective, and look at what this university used to be so we can look at what our successes have been, what worked, and what hasn’t,” Peterson said. “We can use those lessons going forward, to make the University of Regina and our education even better.”
Next time you’re walking around the Academic Green, officially dedicated to Barber in June of 2004, take a moment to reflect on the university’s history, and another moment to think about where it’s going.