Spot Light

The University of Regina has been the second home of Chancellor Jim Tomkins for more than 50 years. While a student in 1963, he worked for a local concrete company that poured the foundations for the Laboratory and Classroom Buildings. As Tomkins likes to say, “My roots go deep at the U of R.” In the intervening years, his roles have included professor, department head, vice-president, senator, president and now Chancellor. As chancellor, he has conferred degrees, diplomas and certificates on some 15,000 graduates. He presided over his last ceremony in early June.

What is it about the University of Regina that prompted you to devote almost your entire working life to the institution?
Regina is my hometown and the U of R made an attractive job offer in 1969. At the time, I didn’t foresee spending my whole career in Regina, but Lynn (Tomkins’ wife) established a family medical practice and the University offered me a succession of interesting opportunities as the years went by.
You spent your time teaching and in University administration. What did you enjoy most about those roles?
When I first started teaching, I discovered great satisfaction in teaching first-year calculus and statistics. I enjoyed helping students gain some confidence in their math and stats abilities. It was similar on the administrative side: it’s all about the people – the ones I worked closely with and those I was able to help in some way.
What about your role as chancellor brought you the most joy?
There is real joy and happiness on the Convocation stage for the graduates and also for their friends and relatives in the audience. The ceremony reminds us what a university is all about. I will cherish my interactions with the members of the Board of Governors and Senate, but the place to find joy is at Convocation.
What are you and Lynn’s plans now?
We enjoy travelling and I expect that we will do more now. We both are completing non-renewable terms on non-profit boards and, without those commitments, we hope to take some longer trips and some cruises that we’ve been postponing.
Describe your perfect day.
There’s no one perfect day. Spending a cold winter day by the fireplace reading, watching movies and checking the markets can be perfect. Playing a round of golf or working in the yard in the morning on a nice summer day, then sitting on the deck with a book in the afternoon is a lovely day. And it’s always a perfect day when I spend it with Lynn.
Your retirement celebration was in 2008 yet you never left the service of the University. Are you really going to retire this time?
It seems that every time I think I’m done, the University has always found something new for me to do. I plan to stay involved with the pension committees for a time and I will be a member of Senate for the rest of my life but I think that being chancellor will essentially be my swansong. And my time as chancellor will end exactly 50 years to the day from the beginning of my appointment as an assistant professor of Mathematics. As a mathematician, I like that kind of coincidence!