|Dr. James Greenlee (L) and former
student Mark Osmond
A student never forgets a remarkable teacher. That’s
why Mark Osmond didn’t hesitate when asked to talk openly
about Dr. James Greenlee.
“He’s one of the most gifted professors I’ve
ever met,” Mr. Osmond said of the respected Sir Wilfred
Grenfell College history professor. “He’s more
than a teacher; he’s been a mentor. Dr. Greenlee doesn’t
just teach you facts and dates, he teaches you how to be an
Dr. Greenlee is the recipient of this year’s Principal’s
Teaching Award, presented annually to recognize and encourage
excellence in teaching, teaching innovation and leadership.
He will be officially recognized for his contribution to the
university during Grenfell’s May convocation ceremony.
Mr. Osmond, a former student of Dr. Greenlee, will graduate
with a degree in historical studies and aspires to become
a professor. He applauds the anonymous student who engineered
the award nomination. “Dr. Greenlee has influenced me
more than anyone I’ve studied under,” said Mr.
Osmond. “He makes everything transparent. He’s
an eloquent, engaging speaker who makes a lecture come alive.”
Equally as important, Dr. Greenlee cares about his students.
Within the university, he maintains an open door policy. Students
are invited to call him at home and all Grenfell history majors
know where he lives, having been invited to dinner at least
once during their undergraduate careers. Dr. Greenlee founded
the Historical Society in 1977, the year he was appointed
to Grenfell College. In 2004 he endowed the Joanne Swan Greenlee
Prize in Historical Studies, in memory of his late wife.
A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Dr. Greenlee instructed at
McMaster University and the University of Windsor before moving
to Corner Brook.
“The only reason I have this award is because some thoughtful
student nominated me. It’s not something that would
have occurred to me,” he said quietly. “I was
quite surprised to get the nomination, and in fact I was going
Dr. Greenlee reconsidered after learning the nomination came
from a student. “I would never know who that student
was, and I could not look in the eye the people I am always
telling to strive a little higher, go a little harder and
get all they can out of themselves if I did not do so myself,”
He sees the award more as a reflection of the entire Grenfell
community. “I enjoy teaching, but we are a community
of teachers,” Dr. Greenlee pointed out. “I’ve
never thought of myself as particularly different from the
vast majority of my colleagues so I am very grateful to the
person who nominated me. I’m honoured to be singled
out among so many people I consider to be fine teachers. I
can think of many who are as worthy.”
Dr. Greenlee promotes a questioning attitude. He has developed
a technique that allows students to improve their writing
by critiquing each others’.
“I try to keep (the material) fresh,” he said
of his teaching style. “Before I go into a class I have
a habit of stopping and saying to myself ‘remember this
is the first and the last time these people are going to hear
this, so act that way.’ I try to hear what I’m
saying through my students’ ears rather than how I might
intuitively understand something.”
The man who has spent more than 25 years on campus and authored
Grenfell’s Historical Studies degree program has seen
many changes. “Bringing the degree programs on stream
was one of the most important,” he said. “History
had the opportunity to fashion its own degree to suit our
resources, talents, interests and the needs of our students.
After many years of grooming students to go on to St. John’s
we were able to see them start very raw and finish very polished.
That’s an enormous reward that was lacking before.”