Celebration of Paz Buttedahl’s Life

Created 21 October 2007 03:10

Celebration of the Life of Paz Buttedahl
Robert Clift’s Comments
October 21, 2007

On October 8, 2007, Dr. Paz Buttedahl passed away peacefully at age 65. Paz was the President of the Royal Roads University Faculty Association and Vice-President of CUFA/BC. She was due to become President of CUFA/BC on July 1, 2008. These are the remarks CUFA/BC Executive Director, Robert Clift, made at the celebration of her life on October 21, 2007.

My name is Robert Clift. I’m a colleague and friend of Paz’s. Please forgive me from reading from my prepared notes. I’m not sure today that I could remember everything I want to say about Paz without them.

I started my Master’s degree at UBC in 1995, when Paz was still around campus. I knew her then only as a name on a door and as a fleeting image as she strode purposefully through the well-worn hallways. I wish I had known her better then. But fate dictated that I would not come to know Paz in the relatively sedate life as a student, but instead would come to know her, and work with her, in the crucible of conflict.

It was the summer of 2005. I was vacationing when I received a call on my cell phone from Paz — the first of many such calls — in her capacity as Vice-President of the Royal Roads University Faculty Association. Although I remembered her from UBC, I was surprised she knew who I was. I hadn’t taken a course from her, worked with her or hung around with her students. I don’t know the full magnitude of her investigations, but she assured me that I had the seal of approval from Roger Boshier in matters of labour relations and unions and that was good enough for her. I don’t know which was more astonishing to me — that she had checked up on me, or that Roger had provided me a reference.

That call was the start of what I thought then was a war, but what I know now was really a peacemaking mission. For as acrimonious as things got between the faculty and the administration, Paz never wanted to defeat anyone — all she wanted was to realize the ideal of Royal Roads as a learning community characterized by equity and respect. If it couldn’t happen through collegial discussion, then she was prepared to use other tools available to the faculty to get as close as they could to their shared ideal.

In conversations we had this past August and early September, she told me that she felt as if that ideal were within reach. Not there yet,President Cahoon, but within reach. She was looking forward to handing over to her successor the fruits of these efforts, albeit with some wistfulness. But she was moving on to new challenges as the first President of Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC from Royal Roads University. And incidentally, the first President over the age of 65 — two milestones for our organization. That this won’t happen is a huge loss to our organization, as well as to me personally.

I know Paz, my assistant, Angela, and I would have made a great team. I’ll admit I had had one small concern, however. I usually depend on the President of our organization to rein in my wilder and more provocative ideas. I think Paz would not only have given me full rein, but would have been yelling “giddy-up” at the top of her lungs.

But that was Paz. She wanted everyone around her to be the person they were capable of being, even if they didn’t know they had it in them. Or perhaps, especially if they didn’t know they had it in them.

At the beginning of September, my wife, Helena, and I came to an arrangement with Paz to take over the lease on her old Vancouver office for my wife’s new business. In packing up Paz’s files and mementos, a few weeks before her passing, we came across the artifacts of a life lived purposefully — maps, travel receipts, programs from trade missions, briefing materials, correspondence. Even a casual perusal of the records as we packed them up told the story of a vigorous and indomitable spirit.

We need not mourn for Paz. She has gone to a better place. We may, today, share John’s, Maria’s, and John’s loss, as well as the loss to the rest of her family, as friends and colleagues who also loved her. But tomorrow … tomorrow… we’d better be out there being the people Paz knew we could be. And, doing what we can do to make this world just that little bit better. This is the price of Paz’s friendship and love, and by the time each of us shuffles off this mortal coil, we’d better be able to say that price has been paid in full.

A scholarship is being set up in Paz’s name at Royal Roads University. Donations may be made to the Royal Roads Foundation. For more information, please contact Rebecca Bosma at [email protected]. The address for donations is:

Royal Roads Foundation
c/o Rebecca Bosma
Royal Roads University
2005 Sooke Rd.
Victoria, BC V9B 5Y2