As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations, Wilfrid Laurier University will recognize their top 100 “alumni of achievement” in a banquet next month, including Elmira’s Ken Seiling. Seiling, a graduate of the school’s history program back in 1969 and Chair of Waterloo Region since 1985, said that to be included in that list was an unexpected honour.
“I was quite flattered, actually. It’s been 42 years since I graduated from there, but it’s nice whenever a university can recognize some of the things that you’ve done,” he said.
According to the school’s alumni page, all members of the community were invited to submit nominations from among the university’s nearly 80,000 alumni, and after a lengthy deliberation process, 100 individuals were chosen.
Criteria for selection included leadership and purpose by being actively involved in the personal and professional community. Earlier this summer Seiling received a letter from the school’s president informing him he had been selected.
“I was kidding around and asked one of the board members who it was that nominated me, and she said there was more than one [nomination],” laughed Seiling. “I don’t know who they are, and they won’t tell me!”
Throughout his personal and professional career, Seiling has embodied the qualities of leadership and community. He enrolled in the honours history program in 1965 and commuted from his parents’ Elmira home to school, which allowed him to maintain a job as organist and choirmaster in St. Jacobs to help pay for school, and to continue playing hockey in his home town as well as for the school team in his final year.
Unlike his brothers, Rod, Rick and Don, he opted not to take the professional hockey route and instead decided to focus on academia.
“Hockey was an option for me, but the academic route was more appealing. At that time I was planning on going into teaching, and I was still able to play hockey on the side,” said Seiling.
“Sometimes when you’re in a family it’s better to go in a different direction. That way there’s no comparisons,” he added with a laugh.
He completed his thesis on historical architecture in Bridgeport, which helped set the stage for his work as a history teacher from 1971-1974 then as museum director at the Wellington County Museum.
Seiling was elected to Woolwich council in 1976, elected mayor in 1978 and was acclaimed to the position in 1980, 1982 and 1985.
Later that December, he was elected as regional Chair at the inaugural regional council meeting, a position he has held ever since and one that puts him in an interesting position as a board member for Laurier’s down-the-street rival, the University of Waterloo.
“I’ve had a personal and social relationship with people at Laurier over the years, but an actual governance relationship with the other university,” he said. “Just a bit of irony.”
The list of alumni also includes a wide variety of distinguished graduates from the past century, including artist Woldemar Neufeld, former UN ambassador Paul Heinbecker and opera singer Jane Archibald, among others.
The group will be recognized at the Centennial Alumni Celebration on Oct. 1 at the Bingemans Conference Centre in Kitchener. Tickets are available for $60 per person.