Businessman Rolf Hougen tacked another credit onto his resume with his recent appointment as chancellor of Yukon College.
“It is clear from business activity, your commitment to the community service and to the fact that every one of your six children are still in the Yukon that you are a proud Yukoner,” said chairman of the board Clarence Timmins.
Hougen serves as president or director of a number of Yukon companies, is an officer of the Order of Canada, an honorary consul to France and founder of the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous.
With a long history of community work, Hougen said he has become well-accustomed to saying ‘no.’
“I had served for 60 years in community activities in the Yukon, nationally, internationally — and I thought it was time to slow down and just take it a little differently,” said Hougen.
When Weninger first offered him the chancellorship, he rejected it.
“So I went and I told Marg (his wife), and she got on Terry’s side, twisted my arm, and after a weekend I decided I would say ‘yes,’” said Hougen.
“When I reached that point to say, ‘yes,’ it was with great enthusiasm, because I was really excited about the prospects of the college,” he said.
Twenty-seven years ago, long before the establishment of Yukon College, Hougen was part of a scheme to establish a full-fledged university North of 60.
The proposed university was part of the “northern corridor” scheme put forward by RCAF Major-General Richard Rohmer.
“He maintained that there was a greenbelt across Northern Canada and the 90 per cent of Canadians who live a few miles from the border should move north,” said Hougen.
“In the end we could get no enthusiasm and no interest from the governments of the day, so unfortunately we abandoned it,” he said.
“Now, a long time later … there’s no doubt in my mind that this will indeed become the university of the North,” said Hougen.
The role of the chancellor is purely ceremonial. In the position, Hougen will represent the college board of governors at public and private events and “provide community perspective to the board.”
At graduation, he will be entrusted with conferring all diplomas and certificates.
The previous five days Hougen was boning up on college programs, history and activities.
“(The board of governors) has a visionary program for the college, which will lead eventually to a university designation, not immediately, but it will lead in that direction,” he said.
Hougen’s appointment marks the end of the four-year chancellorship of Elder Sam Johnston, former chief of the Teslin Tlingit and former speaker of the house.
“My thing is I always try to encourage people, especially to come back to education again, to further their education,” said Johnston.
“I know and feel from being around, how important education is — in all walks of life,” he said.
At times during his tenure, Johnston lived onsite at the college residence, where he could “communicate with the students and give them encouragement where needed.”
At the end of the induction ceremony, Johnston presented Hougen with the chancellor’s chain of office — fashioned in the late 1980s by Fred Edzerza.
Carved eagle feathers represent strength and wisdom. A large pendant hangs from the base of the necklace. Under West Coast native tradition, the bigger the pendant, the more important the person.
The two men represent very different backgrounds, but they both share a long-standing relationship with the Yukon.
“Each chancellor has something different to offer,” said Johnston.