|Volume 41 Number 5||Edmonton, Canada||November 7, 2003|
The name says it all
University makes good on promise to honour APO
Eleven years ago, when Pam Jarvis passed away suddenly, the University of Alberta lost a staff member who was respected by her colleagues and the students she served. And it took some doing, but the U of A has finally recognized Jarvis' contributions to the university.
In the early 1990s, Jarvis, an APO working in the department of sociology, created a computer room for graduate students as part of a reorganization of the department. When she died, her colleagues decided to name the room in her memory. But because of a policy that required three years to pass until the move could be formalized, the project fell by the wayside.
"During those three years the office that had the application physically moved, and then there were some staff changes and the application was lost," explains Pam's daughter, Georgie Jarvis, an administrative assistant in the office of the dean in the U of A Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics.
"One day my brother James came here and said 'take me over to see Mum's room.' We went there, but there was no sign," Georgie said.
When Georgie and her brothers began asking about it, the university realized its oversight. To make matters worse, the university's naming policy had changed - the good intentions and a commitment made a decade earlier would have to pass a new, more strict naming policy.
"The rules had changed so much since then," said Georgie. "To get a room named after you now you've got to be all that and a bag of chips."
And by all accounts, Pam Jarvis was.
"She deserves the tribute of a named room," said Dr. Bob Silverman, who, as chair of the department of sociology, hired Pam from the department of psychology in January 1990.
"I hired her away from psychology and gave her a chance to show what she could really do. What made her special as an APO is that she was a problem solver. When faculty members or students had a problem, she didn't point out the roadblocks generated by the local bureaucracy, she figured out how to solve the problem. I can honestly say that I believe she was universally loved by faculty members and staff in sociology," said Silverman, who is now dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen's University.
"Students felt the same way. If students needed some cash to get them to the end of the month, Pam found the money for them - I never asked how or from where. They always paid her back. Her loss was devastating for the department."
Silverman said he and Pam shared a love of jazz music. And music played an important role in her life. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Pam became an integral part of London's music scene in the 1960s. She was hired by musicians John Dankworth and Cleo Lane to manage a new music publishing company and, under the pen name Jix Clark, co-wrote the hit African Waltz with Dankworth.
"Every time I'm in an old record store I look for a copy of that, but most of the time it's only available in the instrumental version," said Georgie. "The lyrics were really funky, especially considering that this was written during the early 1960s."
It was during the same era that Pam found herself stuck in an elevator with a young musician who appeared to be smitten with her. The up-and-coming musician, named John Lennon, asked Pam if she would help come up with a title for a new song, and serenaded her with I Want to Hold Your Hand.
"She told us all these stories. Music was her passion, and she passed that along to all of us, my brothers, and me."
Pam joined the U of A in 1976 and worked in the department of psychology until 1990. "She did so many things so well that we became the envy of campus," Dr. Tom Nelson, now a professor emeritus, said of Pam during her memorial service.
But there was something more to Pam than competency. "I believe Pam's greatest strengths lay in her personal morality and day-to-day constancy," Nelson said. "Not once in all those years did I see her demonstrably angry or hear her raise her voice. She was unfailingly civil."
It's that kind of genuine feeling that makes the Jarvis family most pleased with the plaque commemorating their mother.
"When she died it was a big shock, and the university almost immediately announced that they would name this room after her," said Charles Jarvis, one of Pam's three children. "Had they done that right away I think it wouldn't have been anywhere near as nice as what they've produced here."
When the family and faculty and staff of the department met recently for a formal ceremony to unveil the plaque, a graduate student thanked the family for their generosity.
"She made the natural assumption that we had 'bought' the room for our mother," said Charles. "But the real honour here is that there was no money involved. This is all out of memory and respect and love for our Mum."
"I felt my heart swell when I saw that plaque for the first time," added James, Pam's eldest. "I think it speaks volumes to the fact this great university does not offer its enthusiasm or inclination based solely on monetary offerings, but also on contributions that you can't assign a dollar value to. I can hardly wait for my children to see this."
Georgie Jarvis feels the same way.
"This just fills me with pride," she said. "I have to wonder if any APO or any other person like that has been recognized on this level. I think it's pretty fantastic that they wanted to honour her in this way."