DeDe DeRose formally installed as TRU’s new chancellor – TRU Newsroom

DeDe DeRose formally installed as TRU’s new chancellor – TRU Newsroom

April 23, 2024 at 3:44 pm  Education, Kamloops, News

Sun beams throughout the Grand Hall on the morning of April 23 as DeDe DeRose takes her oath of office in a ceremony steeped in tradition and infused with culture.

“It’s my honour to stand before you as Thompson Rivers University’s fourth chancellor. This rates right up there with my family with the Canucks making the playoffs,” says DeRose. The crowd laughs and claps.

DeRose’s mother, Cecilia DeRose, enhanced her daughter’s traditional stole with buckskin and yellow beads, showcasing a wildflower floral design that pays homage their matriarchal line. Secwépemc names of immediate family grace the fabric.

TRU Chancellor DeDe DeRose faces TRU President Brett Fairbairn during her installation ceremony.

“By wearing a stole so profoundly connected to her cultural and familial background, DeDe will undoubtedly inspire others within the academic community to appreciate and respect diverse cultural heritages. This will promote an inclusive educational environment and underscore the importance of integrating cultural identities within academic settings,” says TRU President Brett Fairbairn.

DeRose was born in Williams Lake to a Secwépemc family and is a member of the Esk’etemc First Nation. She has long been an advocate for Indigenous education with a distinguished career that includes serving as an educator and principal within Kamloops-Thompson School District 73 and tenure as B.C.’s first superintendent of Aboriginal Achievement.

“I had a fantastic and challenging career as an educator, retiring in 2015. Since retiring, I’ve enjoyed volunteering on local, provincial and national boards, while also keeping busy doing things I didn’t have time to do when working, including spending time with our grandkids and riding my horse,” she says.

DeRose shares the story of when she was invited to consider becoming TRU’s fourth chancellor last June. She had just coming in from horse riding and was rushing to town trying to catch a press conference for the Day One Society. She thought the call was to ask for her recommendation for outstanding people for the chancellor’s position, such as her predecessors: Nancy Green Raine, Wally Oppal and Nathan Mathew.

“I didn’t think an Esk’etemc, rural, ranch girl turned teacher who liked to hike, play golf, downhill ski and ride could possibly have the credentials required for such an esteemed position, even though I really had no idea what a chancellor did,” she confesses.

Verna Kirkness, Cree scholar, grad school supervisor to DeRose and a lifelong friend, says she’s been fortunate to see her step into this deserving role. “When I grew up, you’d hardly see an Indigenous person in such a role. DeDe is certainly symbolic of what’s ahead for our people,” she says.

Fairbairn explains the role that DeRose has accepted.

TRU Chancellor DeDe DeRose listens to her mother, Cecilia DeRose, during the installation ceremony.

“It’s really only universities that have chancellors. The role of the chancellor in Canadian universities is ceremonial and profoundly significant. It embodies the spirit and the ethos of the institution. Much like Canada’s Governor General at the federal level, who represents the Crown and carries out duties on behalf of the sovereign, our chancellor is the apex of our government structure.”

Justin Gottfriedson, Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc councillor notes that the foundation for reconciliation is through education.

“On a serious note, I want to thank TRU for the work they have been doing, not just with DeDe, but also with Nathan Matthew, on starting what true reconciliation looks like,” he says. “DeDe has a heart of stone, but also so much compassion and education, for the students, for the future, not just for First Nations Peoples, but all students. She’s always been there for all students. So when we think about the future of TRU, it’s in good hands.”

In a more sombre moment, DeRose talks about her son, Tyrell, and a sign he gave her for Christmas three years ago: “Always believe something wonderful is about to happen.”

Two weeks later, Tyrell died of an overdose, devastating DeRose and their family.

“This saying has become my mantra. To President Fairbairn, (TRU board) Chairperson Chung, the board of governors, faculty, staff and students, Esk’etemc and Secwépemc nation, to the larger community at Thompson Rivers University, I humbly accept the position. I believe Tyrell was right: something wonderful is about to happen.”

DeRose’s term commenced March 1.

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