It takes one to know one
Mount Royal University’s ninth president, David Docherty, PhD, loves a good story.
A glance around his office quickly reveals two of Docherty’s many passions — politics and baseball.
A framed photograph of Lyndon B. Johnson hangs on one wall and an opposing shelf is lined with autographed baseballs.
If you’re lucky, and if Docherty has the time, he’ll tell you a story behind each of them.
With a lengthy background as a renowned political expert — he was a full-time professor at Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University before moving into administration — it’s no surprise to see a tribute to one of his most admired historical leaders in his office.
Docherty says his love of baseball is tied closely to his love for his children. In fact, baseball is one way he relates to his boys Angus, 16 and Quinn, 13.
The young Docherty men will finish high school in Ontario and Kris Henry, to whom Docherty is engaged, has moved to Calgary with her daughter, Madison, 10.
“For one thing, baseball is a great facilitator for life talks with your kids,” Docherty says.
“I love hockey but if you turn your head away from a hockey game for one minute, you miss something. Football and basketball are the same. But there’s something special about being able to shell some peanuts, spread out with nobody around you for two or three seats, and spend an afternoon talking to your son about life in general.”
Mount Royal’s reputation as a community-oriented family was one of the things that excited Docherty about his move to Calgary — that, and our story.
“Mount Royal has a great story,” says Docherty. “One of the things I want to work on over the next few years is helping us tell that story to a broader audience.
“People in Calgary are familiar with Mount Royal’s great history and strength as innovators and educators but I’d like to see people in Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and Vancouver recognize that story.”
Docherty says he was inspired by Mount Royal’s ambition to become Canada’s premier undergraduate university for student success and satisfaction. He explains that his role is to help provide the framework to achieve that vision.
Face to face
For the time being, Docherty expects his biggest challenge will be getting to know the people who make Mount Royal what it is, and trying to remember everyone’s names.
If he doesn’t get an A on that test you’ll have to forgive him. Between now and Christmas break, Docherty will have met thousands of new people.
The president is up for the challenge. He is a firm believer in Mount Royal’s face to face brand and lives it himself.
Docherty says he has been preparing for his new role by reading up on the Mount Royal story and learning what he can from its people. He’s made a point of walking around campus and introducing himself to faculty and staff —a practice he intends to continue.”
The culture question
“For the next while, I just want to focus on understanding the culture — Calgary culture and Mount Royal culture. I can’t help but be influenced by my time at Wilfrid Laurier, but this is a different place.
“I will bring some new ideas based on my experiences back east, but I’m also aware that just because something worked there, doesn’t mean it will work here.”
Docherty says he has worked with numerous faculties and departments during his days at Laurier and believes his understanding of what makes a campus tick will help him adjust to life at Mount Royal.
“Although I come from an academic background, as a dean, I’ve worked with registrar’s offices, I’ve worked with university book stores, I’ve put on conferences where you work with groundskeeping or security, so I know a bit about how much different people bring to a campus.
“The fact is, I’m a creature of universities, always have been. When I was younger and I was travelling, I remember I was in Australia and instead of staying in a hostel, I’d stay at a university. That way I had a better chance of meeting local students.
“I’ve just always loved the environment.”
After spending a few minutes talking to Docherty, it’s clear that while he has strong ideas, humility will be one of his trademarks.
“Good leaders know that they aren’t always the smartest person in the room. Understanding that is important.
“And I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. When I was dean, if we had thousands of letters to mail out in a day, I’d spend an hour or two stuffing envelopes with everyone else because it had to get done.”
A good fit
Docherty says Wilfrid Laurier and Mount Royal Universities have many similarities — both are student focused institutions with an emphasis on the value of undergraduate programming. Both are smaller universities in a two-university town.
"I understand what that type of university has to do to create its niche in that type of environment. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what Mount Royal’s been doing on that front and what more we can do.”
Those similarities played a significant factor in his decision to move to Calgary.
“There’d be certain universities I wouldn’t want to be president of — not because they’re bad universities, but because I don’t think they’d fit my style or background.
“This is a place with a real community dynamic that places importance on learning in the classroom but also views the student experience in the broader sense. To me, that’s part of what a university should be.”
The next chapter — for Docherty, for you, for Mount Royal University — is just beginning.
— Steven Noble, August 18, 2011