Steve Perry completed his tenure as Dean of the Faculty of Science on June 30th. During the six years he held the position, he was recognized for his attentive listening, his compassion and his collection of stylish shoes but also for his remarkable sense of humor. So when we sat down to ask him a few questions about his tenure as Dean and what would follow, we were not expecting anything less. Here is what he had to say.
Why did you want to become dean of the Faculty of Science?
Well, to be honest, being dean was not on my bucket list. It was my intention to occupy the post for a single year as interim dean. Of course, I only realized far too late that being named interim dean is simply a clever ploy used to lure in unsuspecting rookies before “setting the hook.” Seriously, working with previous dean André Lalonde and then later as interim dean convinced me of the potential for growth in Science and the positive role that a dean can play during periods of University expansion.
What was your most memorable moment or event as dean?
Hmmm, there were quite a few moments to choose from. I guess two events in particular stand out for me. First, there was the time when a first-year student nearly knocked me out by slamming a pie into my face in front of 400 cheering students in Marion Auditorium. Another, more positive, experience also occurred in Marion when I had the pleasure of introducing Bill Nye to an unsuspecting first year BIO class. His comments about “Flat Earthers” were priceless.
What was your most challenging task as dean?
Eeny, meeny, miny … Actually, the answer here is obvious. The most challenging task was figuring out how to accommodate the needs of countless numbers of staff, students and researchers while McDonald Hall and the Cube were about to be demolished. I will confess to a few moments of personal panic as I dealt with some colleagues in McDonald Hall who were forced to move out while the building was flooding and furniture was being tossed out the windows — what could go wrong? I think we all would have laughed had we had viewed such antics in a Monty Python episode.
Learning French must have been a challenge. What will you remember the most from your French classes?
Having grown up in Montreal, I already was fluently bilingual — at least in hockey parlance — which was important as a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, because the best commentators were on the French stations. French lessons with René-Étienne were fantastic — we solved the world’s most pressing problems while I learned French at the same time! A turning point was adopting René’s philosophy on speaking French — “When in doubt, French it out!”
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment as dean? What are you most proud of?
This question is probably best left for others to answer. I’m not sure that it can be classified as a great accomplishment, but I’m particularly proud of repatriating Biochemistry to the Faculty of Science.
The new STEM building will be opening its doors in the upcoming weeks. What will it bring to the community of the Faculty of Science?
A huge mortgage? Just kidding of course. First, I’m hopeful that STEM will become the de facto home of the Faculty of Science, a place that Science students in particular can identify with and gather in for studying, socializing, whatever! I also see STEM as an opportunity to create something unique at uOttawa in an environment that will welcome and encourage serendipity and risk-taking in both research and teaching. The time to be daring is now!
What’s your wish for the future of the Faculty of Science?
Most of all, I wish for a future in which each and every building in the Faculty of Science hosts a Diet Coke dispensing machine.
What’s coming next? What are your plans for the future?
After I re-learn the names of my graduate students and postdocs, I will bear down and finish (or start) writing a large pile of manuscripts that has accumulated over the past seven years. Basically, I’ll be going back to something that I actually know how to do (or at least I used to) — research!
Any comment or wise words for the next dean?
Well, the advice is straightforward. When hard–pressed to explain any shortcomings in the Faculty of Science (admittedly an unlikely scenario), simply assign all blame to the previous dean!