Past University of Saskatchewan president hopes for new, similar role

SASKATOON – The man who took over the presidency of the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) during its tumultuous time in 2014 says he would be open to embarking on a similar challenge in the near future. Gordon Barnhart has been out of the interim president role at the U of S for roughly two weeks and says he’s not ready to retire.

In a recent interview, he said he would be open to taking on a similar role with a different organization or institution.

“It might be in the governance area, taking on an organization where they’re experiencing major difficulties,” said Barnhart during the interview at his Saskatoon home.

“I am now excited to say, what is the next chapter, what am I going to be doing next.”

Current U of S president Peter Stoicheff officially began his term in late October. Barnhart, who also applied for the permanent position, said he believes the institution is in a much better place then when he came into the role.

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“It’s calm, I think financially the university is in quite good shape,” said Barnhart, who also served as Saskatchewan’s lieutenant-governor from 2006 to 2012.

In May 2014, former U of S president Ilene Busch-Vishniac was terminated by the university’s board, leading to Barnhart’s appointment. The move was preceded by student anger over a cost-cutting initiative, as well as the firing and re-hiring of an outspoken dean.

“I think when you go into a situation like that, first off you have to say to people, ‘take a deep breath, relax, let’s have a look at what are the issues, what are the problems,’  without shouting at each other,” said Barnhart.

“It’s key to build a team that will work together, that you have trust with each other,” he added.

The current time in-between career moves has allowed Barnhart and his wife Naomi to complete a recent holiday trip to South America. It’s also opened up another transformational task that some may not describe as “easy.”

“I’ve always been involved with exercise, but I’ve ramped it up now to kind of doubling it,” he said with a smile.

“In terms of my calorie intake, I’ve reduced it by half, so you will see less of me in the future, meaning I am going to be losing weight.”


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