How does one speak about “the light” that was Dominic? How does one speak of this inexplicable tragedy that has shut off that light?

I am being neither flippant nor poetic in my use of the word “light”. I have heard it so many times from different people who either knew Dominic well or had only heard of him. I have heard students speak of him as “radiant light”, as “luminous.” He cast a certain light in the way he perceived the world, in the way he wanted people to be with one another, in the way he saw the place of music in our lives, in the way he saw his role in our midst.

“For Dominic, life and music was about love and compassion and forgiveness and kindness and gratitude and connectedness. As a friend put it, “Dominic was hired to teach music, and he did, but it was secondary to his teaching about love and compassion.””

I came to know him best was when I joined his choirs for The Messiah in 2017 and Faure’s Requiem in the spring of 2018. He shone the brightest of lights on the pieces and brought a new perspective to those of us who had been singing the choruses of The Messiah for 25 years. He made clear the symbiosis of the music and the words, the nuances and dynamics of the music that bring the story to life. He also made us understand that we had been given a gift, and we, in turn, were giving that gift to those who would be listening to us. We not only were singing, but also making a connection with each other in the choir and with those in the audience.

For above all, Dominic was a passionate connector.

And that was the role of music in our lives. For Dominic, life and music was about love and compassion and forgiveness and kindness and gratitude and connectedness. As a friend put it, “Dominic was hired to teach music, and he did, but it was secondary to his teaching about love and compassion.”

During rehearsals, he would constantly encourage us to reflect on those values, and make us greet and speak to the choristers beside us. It was annoying and quirky at first – all those homilitics and all that hugging your neighbour – but eventually it all made sense. We were not simply singing, we were connecting and living the music.

And the students in the choir – one could see how much they idolized Dominic, how they respected him and absorbed everything he said. He was full of joy and was genuine in his affection and care. As one student put it quite poetically, Dominic’s luminosity “radiated from his being and dispelled the shadows from every soul he touched.” And he worked hard – late into the night writing and sending us copious notes after every rehearsal – and he expected us to work on his notes.

As soon as he had come on campus, he worked hard at attracting students to his choirs. He eventually doubled the size of the University choirs as students responded to the freshness and vitality of his approach to music, and to his creativity.

He very quickly made a name for himself in the University as well as in the community.  Regina has always been blessed in its musical culture; Dominic tapped into that culture and enriched it. The concerts he directed were always a delightful and aesthetic experience –transcendent even.

And then there was his socializing, for he had cast a wide net of circles of friends. He was as intense in his friendships as he was in all that he did. He was loving and wanted desperately to be loved.

But I think Dominic would tell us to find comfort “in the strength of love”; love makes the tragedy endurable, which would otherwise inflame the brain and break the heart. There is comfort in knowing that though Dominic’s life was brief, it was a life profoundly, lovingly, lived. Dominic strongly believed that we live not in our bodies but in our minds and hearts.  And so though he is no longer with us physically, he continues to live in the spirit and the music and the love he left behind, in the many whom he taught and whose lives he touched with his “bright light.”


Samira McCarthy
Former professor of English at Campion College

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In the very first University of Regina Cougars basketball game I covered as a sports writer, Glen Nelson air-balled a jump shot straight out of bounds. No rim, no backboard, no mesh. And he was supposed to be the team’s best player!

While the fans reacted with shock and laughter, Nelson’s reaction was much more memorable: He slapped himself across the face. Hard. Twice.

“So stupid!” Nelson said afterwards. “Somebody needed to be punished for being that stupid.”

If the star player was that hard on himself, imagine how demanding he was of teammates and officials. There were no shortcuts, no uncontested rebounds and no excuses during Nelson’s five seasons (1980-85) with the Cougars. Playing before the advent of the three-point line, he set the team’s scoring record; it took 26 years and a few more career games for it be broken by Jeff Lukomski.

We talked about that during a visit in December 2018. Glen had just proudly shown me an ultrasound image of his grandchild. He was nibbling puffed-wheat cake and drinking his double-double. We were reminiscing about the good old days, about his prowess as a baseline-to-baseline player long before he was paralyzed from back surgery and dispatched to a wheelchair, only to start fending off cancer that kept causing his weakening bones to break, but never broke his spirit.

“I’ve still got the record for rebounds,” he reminded me, before adding with a chuckle, “Probably for turnovers, too.”

Glen Nelson was 61 when he died January 29, 2019.

As a basketball player, he was tall and strapping with a mischievous, needling sense of humour and a joyful zest for life. He once permed his hair — “10 bucks from a box,’’ he said — and the ensuing action photograph, taken when he was handling a basketball and wearing his Cougars jersey, regularly appeared in my newspaper, the Regina Leader-Post. He was the first star athlete I covered in my 30-year career as a journalist and one of my favourites.

He was proud but self-effacing about his basketball career. It started at Martin Collegiate because a teacher opened the gymnasium for anybody who wanted to shoot hoops. He excelled quickly, playing for high-level, under-21 teams before winning senior championships and taking the circuitous route back to university. Four times he was the Cougars’ MVP, three times a first-team conference all-star.

The Cougars weren’t very good when Nelson arrived with long-term teammates Mark Benesh BEd’85, MEd’07 and Warren Poncsak. But they started taking big steps forward when Ken Murray, his third coach in three seasons, took over the program. The improving Cougars soon attracted the team’s first all-Canadian, Chris Biegler BA’89, BASc’96, a Regina product who ultimately eschewed the more established, successful program at the University of Saskatchewan to join his hometown Cougars. Now the team proudly represents the University of Regina, and the institution is proud of the team.

After winning the President’s Award as the University’s top graduating athlete, Nelson went to Australia to play professionally. He returned to Regina, played senior basketball, got married, and went to Europe to play professional basketball. He played in Germany and Austria, where he later coached a women’s pro team before returning home and raising two daughters, Alexis and Katie.

When his young daughters needed a coach, Nelson coached and tried wooing them to basketball. He often joked about losing his daughters to volleyball, their mother’s sport, but his pride and love for them were obvious. Glen coached some more and later became a basketball referee and scorekeeper.

When he was inducted into the Regina Sports Hall of Fame, Nelson left the hospital and doffed the surgical mask he was supposed to wear before giving an honest, emotional speech to an audience that included lots of his closest, caring friends.

“I’m so, so lucky,” he said, after telling the crowd he forgave the surgeon whose mistake left him paralyzed from the chest down and, in the same sentence, said with a grin it was OK because it meant he couldn’t feel any pain when breaking a leg while pulling on his pants.

LIT, a well-known tournament he yearnfully never got to play in, had announced Nelson was going to be its special guest in 2019. He died before the tournament, but the organizers honoured him posthumously. It truly thrilled him, knowing a Martin Monarch was finally going to be treated nicely inside the Luther High School gymnasium.


Darrell Davis BA’82
Author of six sports books, journalism instructor, Canadian Football Hall of Fame member

[post_title] => Glen Nelson BEd'89 [post_excerpt] => It’s been a sad few months for the University of Regina family. We have endured a string of passings of several people who had strong ties to the University. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => glen-nelson [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-05 17:18:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-05 23:18:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3099 [post_author] => 6 [post_date] => 2019-05-28 15:32:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-28 21:32:23 [post_content] =>

My history with Joe goes back to 1970 when we were both hired as professors of art at the University of Regina. We were a lot younger back then and we both had long black hair and full beards. We dressed in jeans and often wore colourful striped t-shirts. We looked like your stereotypical artists and some people around Regina had difficulty telling us apart.

“We are all richer for experiencing the power of Joe’s work in our midst.”

I remember standing at a checkout counter and being approached by a prominent Regina resident. She said, “I was in Toronto recently, Joe, and enjoyed seeing your herd of prairie cows on the lawn at the TD Centre. What a terrific installation in the financial district.” Occasionally I would just nod and graciously accept the praise on Joe’s behalf. Most times I would say, “Thank you for compliment. I’ll pass it on to Joe next time I see him.”

We both received catalogues from a prominent auction house conducting an auction of the Bronfman art collection. Several of Joe’s bronze animals were being auctioned off. Also included in the collection and attributed to Joe were my bronze tables. I phoned the auction house and asked: “Do you ever turn a work over to check for a signature? Just because the plums on my table look like goat testicles doesn’t mean it’s Joe’s work.” We laughed, and Joe signed the catalogues as Joe Cicansky while I signed Vic Fafard.

We didn’t buy into abstract expression, the current art fashion of the time, or the fundamentalist aesthetic taught in most art schools. We were independent. We created art from our own life experiences: Joe created animals and people; and I created garden vegetables and gardeners. Our careers blossomed. Joe’s more so.

Joe’s achievements are numerous and familiar to all of us who have been touched and inspired by his work. Joe is not just any Joe. He’s Joe intensified: intensified by his passion to make expressive and powerful sculptures and intensified by his gift to excite a wide audience of art lovers with his sculptures of people, cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and more.

Many of the ideas that Joe has developed for decades are summarized in his landscape sculpture, Le jardin de l’esprit (Mind’s Garden), on the south shore of Wascana Lake. This sculpture is in the University of Regina President’s art collection and visited by walkers in the park. We are all richer for experiencing the power of Joe’s work in our midst.


Victor Cicansky BA’67
Saskatchewan artist
Member of the Order of Canada

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