The reasons why Tyler Clark’s late mother Sharon supported UNBC during its formative years are still very fresh in his mind.
“Mom was always learning,” says Tyler, whose mother was a school teacher. “Learning was a big part of her life. She really wanted to see people achieve what they could achieve. She spent a lot of time helping people who were underdogs or down and out, get back on their feet and achieve what they wanted. Education was always important in our family.”
Tyler Clark with a picture of his late mother Sharon, who passed away in 2009
Sharon Clark was one of 16,000 people to sign a petition calling for the creation of UNBC in the late 1980s. Support for UNBC ran deep in their hometown of Vanderhoof, with more than 500 residents signing on to encourage the provincial government to create a university in the North. Tyler’s father-in-law also signed the same petition.
The university became a reality in 1990 when the provincial government passed the UNBC Act.
Tyler was 23 when UNBC officially opened in 1994. He remembers the day Queen Elizabeth II came to Prince George for the ceremony.
He was in his fourth year of his first degree then, a Bachelor of Science with a major in chemistry. He attended a university out of province because there was no way to get a degree in Northern BC.
Tyler worked in Toronto for a few years before coming back to Vanderhoof to raise his family. He wanted to become a teacher and by that time UNBC was offering a Bachelor of Education degree. He earned his second degree in 2012 and is now a high school teacher in his hometown.
“I wouldn’t have pursued my education program if it hadn’t been for the university being in Prince George, because I probably wouldn’t have gone elsewhere to get it,” he says. “We had a young family and we didn’t want to go anywhere. We really wanted to focus on the family.”
Tyler says he cherished his time at UNBC. He liked the faculty and his fellow education students. It gave him the training he needed to work in the field of his choice, and live where he wanted. Tyler says many in his cohort came from Northern BC and chose to stay in the region after graduating. Others came from away but chose to make a new home here.
It also makes university education more of a reality in the minds of teenagers, like Tyler’s students. Some of them are the same teenagers Tyler’s mother would have focused on helping when she was a teacher.
“I ask my students what they’ve going to do, what they’re going to be,” says Tyler. “I try to challenge them to a higher level. I think the chance for them to achieve those goals is greater with a top ranked university in the north.” Tyler says if Sharon were alive today she’d be proud that a university she advocated for in the early days became a place of higher learning for a generation of Northern BC.
“If my mom was here, she’d love to see that here it is, 25 years later,” he says. “It’s not every day you get to get in on something like that on the ground level and make such a deep impact. I’m very proud of her for doing that, and I think she’d be very proud that I’ve attended UNBC.”
Were you one of the 16,000 who signed the petition? Tell us your story here: http://www.unbc.ca/25/public-campaign-update-form