Brigitta O’Regan and Maxine Ruvinsky honoured at luncheon for commendable work at TRU
In celebration of International Women’s Day, the TRU Faculty Association’s status of women committee held a luncheon on Friday, March 6, honouring Brigitta O’Regan and Maxine Ruvinsky. Both women were acknowledged as part of TRUFA’s Notable Women series.
This year, the series recognized TRU staff or faculty, retired or actively teaching, who have “contributed outstanding service and commitment to the development” of the school, according to a TRUFA newsletter calling for nominations. The first honouree in 2013 was the late Linda Deutschmann, once a sociology professor at TRU before retiring. Deutschmann passed away in 2008.
Brigitta O’Regan began at the University College of the Cariboo in 1990 as a sessional lecturer with a PhD in 18th century German literature. O’Regan’s most prominent contribution to the development of TRU was her instrumental leadership in changing the policy of mandatory retirement, arguing that “women are disproportionately disadvantaged by mandatory retirement provisions,” according to her Notable Women Series poster.
“It wasn’t just retirement, it was mandatory retirement. The institution did not have to choose that way, because [mandatory retirement] was gone within three months and it was no effort to rehire us back,” O’Regan said. “For any institution that claims to educate young people, you have to have an ethical basis.”
O’Regan became an assistant professor in 1998. During her eight years at TRU, O’Regan made many friends as she sat on numerous committees including the Study Abroad committee and acted as chair of the TRUFA Human Rights Committee and the TRU Africa committee. O’Regan helped create and develop TRU’s Study Abroad office while also fortifying relationships with German universities for study abroad opportunities.
“She would find out when a student might need some assistance or she would give people one-on-one language tutoring free of charge so they could represent TRU better,” said Ginny Ratsoy, associate professor in the English department.
For Ratsoy, one of the most admirable traits of both O’Regan and Ruvinsky is their fearlessness.
“It’s what I admire most about both of them, because, for me, it’s the toughest thing to have,” Ratsoy said. “They won’t stop.”
When describing O’Regan, Ratsoy used words like tenacious, compassionate and warm. Ratsoy noted that O’Regan’s parties at her home were always welcoming and filled with great home-cooked food.
For O’Regan, the luncheon allowed her to see her friends and colleagues that she hasn’t seen since retiring.
“It’s better to be appreciated amongst peers than [to be] appreciated by anyone else, because they know what it takes to do what you’ve done,” O’Regan said.
Maxine Ruvinsky came to TRU in 1999 with a PhD in comparative literature, and is one of the founding members of TRU’s bachelor of journalism program. Ruvinsky’s most prominent contribution to the development of TRU is her aide in developing the journalism program by creating “many of the core courses that have inspired and educated new generations of journalists,” according to her Notable Women Series poster.
Although Ruvinsky was unable to attend the luncheon and speak personally on her time at TRU, Eileen Leier, associate professor in the visual and performing arts department and a close colleague, stood up and spoke on her time knowing Ruvinsky. Also from Montreal, Leier watched Ruvinsky establish the academic direction that the journalism program now takes.
“I think within Maxine’s character, is a phenomenal intellect, but along with the phenomenal intellect, she has passion, compassion and commitment. She has that as an investigative journalist, as a writer and as a teacher,” Leier said. “She brings those things to her teaching and I think that inspires students.”
Her fellow honouree O’Regan thanked Ruvinsky for her support.
“Being [recognized] with Maxine makes a huge difference because I’m a great fan. She was very supportive when all of us had to go through mandatory retirement with no warning,” O’Regan said.
For Terryl Atkins, Ruvinsky is best described as “a force to be reckoned with.” Both met while acting on the curriculum committee, where Atkins remembers them laughing at similar points and “being on the same page.”
“When we started talking, it was about education, it was about what it means to teach a generation of students that are going to go on and become active human agents in the world,” Atkins said. “I think that’s one of the things that propels her forward. Teaching is an honorable activity.”
Outside of TRU but still within the realm of her passion for journalism, Ruvinsky is part of several national organizations: the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting and the Canadian Association of Journalists.
A particular passion noted by both Atkins and Leier is Ruvsinky’s strong belief and encouragement of responsibility and ethics.
“She teaches ethics and that’s very important to her – being responsible for your actions in the world,” Atkins said.