My dear friend Terry
I understand that you are officially retiring from Athabasca University and I am sorry I cannot be at your farewell party. I would, however, like to pass on my best wishes as well as some thoughts with regards to the impact you had upon my life and career, and through a similar lens, what impact I know you had on the lives on many students throughout your academic career.
I was your first doctoral student. We met for the first time at Athabasca in August of 2008 during the cohort weeklong residency. You had earlier written to me and proposed you and I might be a good fit for my research interests. I was over-the-moon as I knew you by reputation and the thought of having the Canada Research Chair in Distance Education as my potential dissertation supervisor was, I thought, a dream come true. In retrospect, this was a dream come true, but for many reasons at the time I did not nor could not appreciate or imagine.
In our six years together as mentor and student I was frustrated yet continuously encouraged to find the limits of my academic capacity. I was nurtured and supported in the opening of doors, the ramifications of which neither you nor I fully appreciated at the time, yet you did not blink. You continued to be excited with and for me in this journey. You were always present. You taught me about the whole idea of presence, not just through your daily academic work with students and your prolific publishing record but most of all by you being everything and more you talk about and tell us in your very public writings: You live as you speak and write. I never once felt anything other than your continual presence throughout my doctoral journey.
I saw impenetrable walls. You waited patiently for me to see these obstacles through different eyes knowing when I understood what was needed to be known, the walls would become new knowledge and understanding and would cease to be perceived barriers. You took me places (physically, intellectually, and spiritually) and introduced me to a myriad of worlds of understanding that have helped shape the ground upon which I teach, learn, and interact with others and for this I am ever grateful. I know at times I resisted your shaping and your gentle nudgings. Maybe that is just part of the journey but as I have had the time and space to revisit and re-examine my six year journey with you I feel what stands out most is your gentle, open, and unhurried approach to dealing with the challenges we all face everyday.
Your list of accomplishments is quite legendary. If I have learned anything from you it is this: we are all working together for a common purpose; our hearts and minds need to be ever open; the work we do in education is for everyone and not a select few; and, most of all, the journey is the gift. I thank you for allowing me to be part of that journey.
It has been an honour and a pleasure and I wish you a long, healthy, and happy next phase of your life, especially sharing it with your wonderful Susan.