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Fred Terentiuk died in Maui, Hawaii, of cardiac arrest. He was 85.
Fred Terentiuk died in Maui, Hawaii, of cardiac arrest. He was 85.

Lives Lived: Fred Terentiuk, 85 Add to ...

Teacher, haiku writer, tomato grower, husband, lateral thinker. Born Dec. 12, 1927, in Coalhurst, Alta., died Feb. 23, 2013, in Maui, Hawaii, of cardiac arrest, aged 85.

When Fred Terentiuk tried to register in the university-entrance program while in high school in Lethbridge, Alta., he was sent home with a note. The principal believed that, no matter how good his marks, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant coal miner could never afford to go to university. Fred’s father immediately visited the principal. “You stick to your job and educate my son,” he told him. “I will see that he can get to university.”

After earning a PhD in physics in 1953, Fred joined the National Research Council in Ottawa. However, this was the height of the Cold War. Senior staff at the NRC made it clear that promotion would never be open to someone with his background. One problem was that both his parents had been born in an area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that later became part of the Soviet Union. A possibly greater difficulty was that his father was a member of the left-leaning Miners Library Club in Lethbridge.

Fortunately for Fred, the University of Alberta Calgary Branch (as it was known then) was expanding. He returned to Alberta in 1958 to become an assistant professor of physics. One of his first jobs was to go to a pasture on the edge of the city. There he loosened the turf so the education minister could turn the sod, signalling the beginning of the University of Calgary.

An advantage to a new, small university was the ease of connections across departmental lines. Fred’s closest friends included historians, economists and artists. When he and Robin were married, the best man was a PhD in Middle Scots poetry.

Look at the history of U of C, and you’ll find Fred’s touch in many areas. He thought Calgary’s large concentration of engineers and geoscientists might like to learn about developments in science. This led him to be the first director of continuing education, providing part-time education for the public.

When the dean of fine arts left abruptly, Fred ran that department for three months while still teaching physics. When the dean of nursing left abruptly, he ran nursing for almost two years, again while still teaching physics. In 1974, he graduated the first class of nurses at U of C – and kissed every one.

Fred was lead organizer for the university’s involvement with the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. His conciliation skills were tested as he negotiated with three levels of government to build the world’s first covered speedskating oval and the athletes village at U of C.

He enjoyed explaining things – so much so that at times he could be overenthusiastic – what causes the “green flash” just before the sun sets, how to fix a toilet. He grew tomatoes and lemons. He recited poetry and wrote haiku, including the following:

High in the clear sky

A hawk views the scene below

Mice stalking grasshoppers

His logic and calm in the face of any problem were amazing. He could see a situation from many points of view. He was above all a lateral thinker.


Robin Terentiuk is Fred’s wife.

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