February 6, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 71  

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NEWS

A day in the life of Western Prez Paul Davenport
Intrepid Gazette reporter follows the French knight

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

We all remember Professional Development days. The glory of a school-free weekday was second to none. Sleeping in, watching daytime television and eating cookies for breakfast because mom was at work — we all miss them for their freedom and lazy joy.

Earlier this week I had a PD day of my own: a chance to spend the day with Western’s President Paul Davenport.

Truthfully, I was expecting the day to be more like a PD day than anything else. I expected a late start, a leisurely breakfast, maybe a ride in the solid gold car; lots of money and little work.

6:30 a.m. — With slightly shaking fingers, I dial Dr. Davenport’s cellphone number. After exchanging a few confused words with him on a crackly cell phone, I finally come to understand he’s watching a Sean Connery film.

7:52 a.m. — Dr. D greets me at the front door leading into his office and explains that he was on his exercise bike when I called earlier. At 6 a.m.? I faint.

7:57 a.m. — Dr. D. engages me in some pre-PD Day bonding. He asks me some questions about myself, and I appreciate his attempts to make me feel at ease. However, he doesn’t seem to know much about the current Theatre Western season. I am saddened, but then I realize he’s got a world to save. I tell him about the planned events and he seems excited. Yay!

7:59 a.m. — Dr. D. explains that the first thing on his agenda is a teleconference with 25 other university presidents and administrators. He explains that in order to join the conference, he has to dial a 1-888 number, followed by a pass code. This all seems very James Bond. I am intrigued.

8:02 a.m. — Dr. D. phones the teleconference line while secretly eating an apple. None of the participants even realize! What a multi-tasker.

8:15 a.m. — Dr. D. feverishly takes notes as others speak, then pauses to explain to me that with the push of one button, he can hear everyone on the line, but they cannot hear him. He giggles at the possibility of joking about someone’s remarks without their knowledge, but you can tell he’s not really serious about such secret backstabbing. Too bad, that would have made a great article.

8:19 a.m. — Dr. D. shares his report on graduate enrollment trends with me. He headed the group that put it together. Throughout the conference, he jumps in to the conversation a few times. Each time he makes a point he is jolly, but definitely determined to be heard and understood.

9:00 a.m. — Dr. D. checks his e-mail while I go investigate the tea and coffee nook near his office. Everyone is super nice and keep offering me things. I finally accept some tea and hobnob with the lovely office compatriots while I my sugar.

9:01 a.m. — I take a closer look around the office while Dr. D. checks his e-mail on his fancy laptop. It looks shiny and new. I get depressed, remembering our well-aged Macs at The Gazette, and instead turn to admire the view. I suddenly realize I am looking at the Social Science Centre, shudder, and quickly look away.

9:15 a.m. — Dr. D.’s administrative assistant (and overall fairy godmother, it seems) Lucyanne Davison pops in with a thick booklet that ends up being Dr. D’s schedule for the next four months! Anne Baxter, administrative officer and manager of the office of the president joins us, as I silently wonder if I can hire Lucyanne to work for me. Just then Dr. D. sheepishly admits that most of the time he feels like he works for her, instead of the other way around.

9:15-10:15 a.m. — The next hour is spent pouring over the detailed schedule, as Dr. D. tries to make the most of all his trips by scheduling meetings and other events wherever there are gaps in his agenda. Some of the coolest items on the agenda include trips to Washington D.C., Hong Kong, Beijing and the Bahamas.
Dr. D. then proceeds to brag that the administration beats the University Students’ Council at bowling “every time” and that he hopes the Society of Graduate Students is practicing for their impending bowling match with the administration. He giggles gleefully, with just a hint of evil.

10:45-noon — Dr. D., Anne Baxter and I take a tour of Information Technology Services, led by ITS director Debbie Jones. Dr. D. tells me this is called a “Walk-Around,” wherein he visits an area of the university in order to meet its employees and check out its facilities.

11:05 a.m. — We meet an ITS employee named Ted Gauci, who’s worked at Western for 35 years. He’s set to retire next month, so Dr. D. wishes him a hearty congratulations and both of them reminisce about the good ol’ days.

Noon-1:00 p.m. — We have a fancy schmancy lunch “meeting” at Michael’s with Martin Kreiswirth, the dean of graduate studies, and are ambushed by a Gazette photo volunteer. Dr. D. is very gracious about posing for some candid pics during his lunch. After the photographer leaves, we chat about graduate studies, the United States and dessert.

1:15 p.m.-2:00 p.m. — Dr. D. and I brave the slush once again to travel to the CHRW 94.9FM studios in the University Community Centre, where he joins long-time CHRW DJ Barney Boothe once a month on his jazz show “Barney’s Room.”

1:30 p.m. — An Ella Fitzgerald song takes Dr. D. back in time to his sophomore year at Stanford University and he starts reminiscing about seeing her in concert there in 1965. Ella Fitzgerald? I seethe with envy. All we got was I Mother Earth. Sigh.

1:33 p.m. — Gazette photo Editor Matt Prince sneaks into the studio for another photo-op. Dr. D. gets Barney to pose for some “candids.”
“Pretend we’re having a funny conversation!” he insists. Barney complies and Matt snaps a hilarious shot.

1:35 p.m. — Dr. D. busts out a Lionel Hampton album, referring to the jazz great as — wait for it — “The Hamp.” In short, don’t be fooled by what he’s got; Dr. D. is still street.

1:40 p.m. — Dr. D. prepares to give away some tickets to a Big Band concert happening this weekend, but insists that the winning caller has to wish Barney a happy 70th birthday. The contest is a success! Dr. D. laughs and laughs. Good times had by all.

1:49 p.m. — Dr. D. reveals that jazz is his favourite type of music. “I listen to it when I do my e-mail!” he confides.

1:50 p.m. — Barney pops on the air to praise the “smooth” sounds of Dr. D. Indeed.

2:04 p.m. — Dr. D. and I make our way downstairs and decide to check out the Job Fair. As people notice Dr D. walking around, they do double-takes and their eyes get really wide. I feel like a secret service agent, or the unknown, unimportant, yet somewhat intriguing friend of a celebrity.

2:10-2:30 p.m. — Dr. D. drops me off in the comfy chair area of his office in order to make some private phone calls. I appreciate the opportunity to catch my breath. This day has been a lot more tiring than I expected. All that walking and schmoozing — Dr. D. really earns his money.

2:30-2:45 p.m. — Dr. D. has to proofread and sign some letters that Anne Baxter brings in. In the meantime, Anne and I set up some chairs, glasses and bottles of wine and Perrier for an impending reception.

3:00-4:05 p.m. — Engineering professor Tarlochan Sidhu and 12 of his closest friends and colleagues arrive at Dr. D.’s office for a celebration of Sidhu’s election as a Fellow by the Board of Directors of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in New York. We all toast prof. Sidhu and everyone tells a nice story about how they met him and what they like about him. Awww — group hug!

4:10 p.m. — Dr. D. prepares for one final meeting, but I’m so tired at this point that I politely make my escape.

My day as The Apprentice comes to an end and I pause to reflect. It turns out being Dr. Davenport is a lot harder than I ever imagined. He’s responsible for making a lot of important decisions and deals with tons of people everyday who all want something from him, be it time or money.

However, as I’m putting on my coat to leave, Dr. D. tells me that dealing with people is the best part of his job.

Maybe he is a superhero after all...

 

 

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