Laurane Harding, the School of the Environment’s Business Officer, and recipient of the Dean’s Distinguished Long Service Award, has been a pillar of the School, in its various iterations, since its inception. We are pleased to recognize and celebrate Laurane for her dedicated service over her distinguished career. “Aside from the obvious contributions of four decades overseeing and ensuring the smooth operation of an EDU:B that has underwent multiple reorganizations, and holds unique cross-appointments, Laurane deserves special recognition for the good humour and humanity she has brought to the position and the University” says Professor Karen Ing. Professor Ing’s personal interactions with Laurane has spanned almost 30 years, evolving from when she was a graduate student to the present day, where she is now a valued colleague and friend. From those who have worked with Laurane for decades to those who have only known her a few years, the consensus is of a person who displays kindness, patience, professionalism, and faith. She is also a lot of fun.
When Laurane announced her plan to retire on July 31, 2020 the news was met with mixed emotions. “Always polite and gracious, on top of financial matters and providing essential advice to faculty, staff, and students around many administrative issues, I cannot imagine that she will stand still during retirement! As much as she will be missed, I expect that she will see a happy and productive time in this wonderful new phase of life,” says Professor Ingrid Stefanovic, founding Director of the then Centre for Environment from 2005-2010.
Laurane’s first role was as a Clerk Typist for the Institute of Environmental Studies in 1976, where she was mentored by the Administrator, Ray Sprankling, a former army general from England. “I learned a lot from him and his Assistant, Frances Blair. Going back to those days, the day to day financials was done manually and can you imagine typing multiple page documents on a typewriter!”, says Laurane.
Laurane says some of her fondest memories are from the years that the Institute for Environmental Studies was housed in the Haultain Building. The Director at that time, Professor Henry Regier, organized weekly catered lunchtime seminars; noting “the wonderful parties we had in the Haultain Building with students, staff, and faculty were memorable. We laughed, we danced, we shared, and some lasting relationships came out of it.”
Laurane is approaching her retirement with the same unflappability she has displayed during her time with the School. According to Professor Douglas Macdonald, Laurane “was always calm, always positive and always gently insistent that the rules had to be followed. I can remember so many times when we would go through a somewhat tense discussion or e-mail exchange and then, ten minutes later, meet up in the hallway, with Laurane giving me a big cheerful greeting. She never got rattled, she never took anything personally, and she was always one of the most friendly, helpful people I have worked with.”
While she has some mixed feelings about her retirement, Laurane feels ready; “though I have not been daydreaming about retirement, I think I’ve made the right choice to retire at this time. I look forward to having more freedom and flexibility to do what I would like to do.” Her post-retirement plans include travel, gardening, learning a new language, and getting her driver’s license – which she had let lapse. More importantly, she is planning, along with her sister, to volunteer and help those within the community.
Reflecting on her career, Laurane had this to say; “I had the opportunity to meet the most wonderful people at the university from across all three campuses, particularly the St. George campus. They have all impacted my life in one way or another. I like to connect with people regardless of whether they are the cleaning staff, the delivery person, the person delivering the mail, faculty, staff, students, or people outside U of T. I have learned something from everyone and vice versa. I have a special relationship with everyone I worked with, some more than others. I always tell my children to spend some time with people, invest in people. I told them making money and living in a big fancy house is not everything in life. Relationships and building friendships are very important.”
Those at the School and the University have benefitted from knowing Laurane. We congratulate her on the much-deserved Dean’s Distinguished Long Service Award and thank her for her many years of service. Laurane will missed by us all, and we wish her the best.