There was wonder in his voice, as Athabasca University’s president, Dr. Dominique Abrioux, expressed his gratitude to the almost 200 friends, family members and distinguished guests who gathered Monday, Nov. 24, to congratulate him on the most recent success of his university.
In September of 2003, Abrioux traveled to Versailles France to accept an Honourary Doctor of the Open University from The Open University in the U.K. With almost 200,000 students, The Open University is considered one of the world’s leaders in distance education.
“(Everyone) has been overly gracious in recognizing my role in what is, in fact, Athabasca University’s tremendous achievement,” Abrioux told attendees at an evening reception held at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton.
The event’s long list of distinguished guests included Lois Hole, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta and former Athabasca University Governing Council (AUGC) member. During her speech, Hole reflected on her 11 years on AUGC during the time before Abrioux came to be serving as president. At that time, Athabasca University’s future wasn’t so certain.
“It’s such a pleasure being here to honour you,” Hole told Abrioux, “because you are so very special. You were there all the time and you were sitting right under our nose, and little did we realize you were a very special person and thank goodness we found you.
“We do know it’s an incredible challenge to run a university these days,” she continued. “Athabasca University’s success would have been impossible without a committed leader – so well done Dr. Abrioux.”
Alberta Learning Minister, Dr. Lyle Oberg, brought congratulations from the Government of Alberta – and a very special message from Premier Ralph Klein, who was unable to attend.
“Alberta is proud to have one of the best learning systems in the world,” Oberg read from the Premier’s message, “and we can attribute much of this success to first-rate post-secondary institutions such as Athabasca University.”
Klein, a Communications student at Athabasca University, went on to praise his university for the quality and flexibility of its programs, and its high standard of student services.
“Dr. Dominique Abrioux, for his part, deserves to be congratulated and commended for his years of leadership as president of the University.”
In his absence, the Premier was subjected to some good-hearted ribbing from fellow AU Communications student Valerie Oczkowski, CFRN journalist, and the evening’s emcee. “Let’s be open about this,” she said, as Oberg left the stage. “(The) Premier : is studying tonight, isn’t he?”
Many dear friends and colleagues were also there to congratulate Abrioux. AUGC chair, Robert Fulton expressed his own appreciation for the man who has served as Athabasca University’s president since 1995.
“During Dominique’s tenure, this university has risen to become not just the undisputed leader : in distance education in Canada, but also to become recognized as among two or three distance education leaders in the world.
“It’s not just an honour, but a rewarding personal experience for me to have worked with you,” Fulton continued.