It's been 25 years since the first students entered the University of Victoria's creative writing program, under the guidance of the late poet and teacher Robin Skelton.
On September 18 and 19, graduates of the program&endash;including an impressive and growing list of some of Canada's finest writers&endash;return to campus for a weekend of public readings and workshops to commemorate the department's silver anniversary.
Among those scheduled to read are novelists W.P. Kinsella (Shoeless Joe), left; Gail Anderson-Dargatz (The Cure for Death by Lightning), right; and Richard Van Camp (The Lesser Blessed); poets Patricia Young (More Watery Still), and John Barton (Notes Toward a Family Tree); and playwright Joan MacLeod (Amigo's Blue Guitar).
Meet Lydia Hwitsum: single mother of two, UVic Law grad, and Chief Counsellor of the Cowichan Tribes.
"I'm the first person in my family to earn a university degree," says Hwitsum, "and when word got out in the community the reaction was, 'Wow, someone from my community has done it. I can do it too.'"
Respect for Hwitsum's academic accomplishments and her commitment to her community translated into a landslide victory last December over five other candidates for chief counsellor of the 3,000-member Cowichan Tribes.
"I've always been quite driven to work with First Nations people. We're looking for a better way, for a better life for First Nations people. They are suffering and I'm looking for a way to help."
Hwitsum was born in her grandmother's house in Duncan. She worked in the local native friendship centre and as a youth counsellor before beginning her studies at UVic. She took the certificate program in the administration of aboriginal governments and then completed the diploma program in public sector management from the School of Public Administration.
She had to condition herself to the switch from part-time to full-time studies when she began her law courses but believes the skills she needed to juggle her academic and personal lives are the same ones she'll use to work for the Cowichan people.
"It was a high stress experience&endash;working part-time, raising a family and going to law school&endash;but it was a positive and fulfilling experience," says Hwitsum, who graduated last fall. "I'm living my life and walking my path with integrity. That's what I've always done and that's what I'll continue to do."
Peter Ciceri had an eye on distant horizons when he left UVic in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in economics. Now he's returned to this country after more than a decade in Southeast Asia to lead the Canadian division of one of the world's largest computer firms.
"[When I graduated] I knew I wanted to be overseas," says Ciceri from his new office at Compaq Canada in Richmond Hill, Ontario. His travels took him to Southeast Asia where he spent 13 years building an impressive career in the computer industry and "learning the value of relationships to Asian business." He worked at a variety of senior executive positions in the Asia-Pacific offices of information technology firms Tandem, UB Networks and Hewlett-Packard.
In January Compaq Canada named Ciceri president and managing director of the company and its 477 employees. Ciceri is responsible for all of Compaq's activities in Canada including sales, marketing, systems engineering, distribution and finance.
His appointment comes just as the Texas-based firm merges with Digital computers (the largest merger in computer industry history at $9.6 billion US). When the deal is completed later this year, it will place Compaq among the top three computer companies world wide.
Ciceri, a fifth generation Victorian, isn't the only member of his family to pass through UVic. His sister, Robin Ciceri, holds a bachelor's degree in history, a diploma of education and a master's of public administration degree. She's an assistant deputy minister with the B.C. government.*