Dave Turpin | 49 Langarans Award Recipient

This ‘problem kid’ became a university president

How Dave Turpin became a student at Langara College — and then the president and vice-chancellor at the University of Alberta — is an odd story.

Turpin readily admits he started as a student who was “profoundly bored in high school” and not doing well.

“I could be outstanding if I liked the teacher and I found the material exciting, I would be below average and be a discipline problem if I was bored,” he said.

One day during grade 9 Guidance class, the teacher announced that if anyone was interested in graduating early, they should stay after class for more information.

Turpin remembers everyone else leaving the classroom after the bell sounded, but he walked up to the teacher’s desk.

“The teacher looked at me and said, ‘Turpin, what are you doing here? You’re too stupid.’”

Later that night his mother learned of the teacher’s remarks, and by the next day the teacher had changed his tune and told Turpin what he needed to do.

“All of the sudden my marks went up,” he said, adding that by the end of Grade 11, he was only missing one course for graduation.

“Rather than hanging around high school I saw that I could register at Langara, I could make up that high school course, and I did a full first-year load,” he said. “I so enjoyed it that I stayed a second year there, too.”

He went on to complete further schooling and today he has a PhD as well as an established scientific research and leadership career.

“What Langara did for me is provide that opportunity to transition to post-secondary school in a non-traditional way,” he said. “We all have very different learning styles. What I found is I learn best when it’s experiential, really interactive, and when I can go at my own pace.

“High school was simply not motivating to me, whereas I found when I got to Langara there were opportunities to be independent and a self-starter.”

The learning style fits with his career as a scientist, he added.

“It’s not doing what somebody tells you, it’s doing what you recognize is important to learn,” he said. “That’s what any education should do; it should empower you to learn.”

As the 13th president of the University of Alberta and in former leadership roles, including 13 years as president of the University of Victoria, he said he supports courses offering different learning opportunities, such as lectures, readings, and interactive online material.

“Some people want to read a book, others want a lecture,” he said. “And people with different learning styles are now finding it easier to fit in.”

About Langara College’s 49 Langarans Celebrating its 49th year on 49th Avenue, Langara is honouring 49 Langarans; those who are making an impact in the community and have helped shape the College into what it is today. From theatre directors and journalists to small business owners, community advocates, and dedicated employees – the stories of the award recipients are as varied as the College’s journey over the past 49 years.

Meet the 49 Langarans at beyond49.langara.ca

Comments are closed

Just Posted

MLA Adam Olsen calls for ‘substantial’ changes in provincial economy

Green Party MLA also criticizes gap between government rhetoric and actions

500 pounds of turkey served at Cool Aid community Christmas dinner

Annual dinner serves hundreds of community members

VIDEO: Annual Tuba Christmas concert draws large crowd to Market Square

Over 100 tuba and euphonium players gathered to play festive tunes

Revisit Christmas past as Point Ellice House displays Victorian-era traditions

Antique bobbles, cards, decor and more are on display

Bold and brassy quintet touches down at UVic

Internationally recognized Canadian Brass performing with Victoria Symphony on Dec. 21

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Most Read