Lifetime Achievement Award for nationally known author

Posted: October 2, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Guy Vanderhaeghe has received numerous honours including Governor General's Awards for his fiction and the Lieutenant-governor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.
Guy Vanderhaeghe has received numerous honours including Governor General's Awards for his fiction and the Lieutenant-governor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. Stobbe Photography

Guy Vanderhaeghe is a national treasure who has written his way into the annals of great Canadian authors.

He has received numerous awards for his writing; his first book Man Descending, a collection of short stories, received a Governor General’s Award and the United Kingdom’s Faber Prize.

His novel The Englishman’s Boy won him a second Governor General’s Award, Saskatchewan Book Awards in two categories, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize.

Two later books also based on the history of the West, The Last Crossing and A Good Man, have received several awards. Daddy Lenin and other Stories, published in 2015, also won the Governor General’s Award.

Vanderhaeghe is a member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

“Awards are always hard to put into perspective,” he says. “I’ve been very grateful for each one I’ve received, and also very surprised. My response is, ‘Who, me?’ Having already received one-lifetime achievement award, a second is also a little scary,” he adds with a laugh.

Vanderhaeghe received his Bachelor of Arts degree with great distinction in 1971, High Honours in History in 1972 and a Master of Arts in History in 1975, all from the University of Saskatchewan.

In 1977 he spent an extremely busy year at the University of Regina, taking on a heavy course load for an Education degree so he could fulfill a contract to teach high school in Herbert, Saskatchewan. At the same time, he was writing a series of school radio programs for the Department of Education.

Much of Vanderhaeghe’s writing is rooted in the 19th-century West, which attracts him because it is a relatively unexploited field; fresh, new ground.

He credits his years as a graduate student in history and his work as an archivist for giving him the basic skills needed to ferret out information essential to a historical novel.

Unlike an academic historian, however, his focus is on what he calls the textures of the past: details such as what people ate, how they dressed and how they entertained themselves.

Being recognized by his alma mater pleases Vanderhaeghe enormously, because all of his formal education took place in Saskatchewan.

“In part, whatever I have achieved is due to what and how I was taught. I had two extraordinary teachers at the College of Education, Joe Duffy, and Sandra Whittick. They were,” he says, “passionate about teaching and passionate about the subjects they taught. I often think of them when I face a new class.”

Vanderhaeghe currently teaches a course in creative writing at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, where he impresses upon his students that writing is a craft that demands great effort.

“The most valuable thing a university can provide students is not job training, but a questioning and curious mind, the ability to ponder complex issues and arrive at their own conclusions,” he says. “And,” he adds, “anyone who thinks they have received something valuable from a university education has an obligation to support the work of the university. Donations are important, but also by being vocal about supporting the university as an institution and an idea.”

The University of Regina and the Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of our most accomplished graduates through the Alumni Crowning Achievement Awards (ACAA), one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on distinguished University of Regina alumni. Join us on October 5th at the Hotel Sask to celebrate five outstanding alumni. Learn more about the ACAA dinner here.