A Lifelong Passion for Woodworking
MENTOR, EDUCATOR AND DONOR NAMED DISTINGUISHED FRIEND
Sitting in the living room of his south Edmonton home, Dr. Clarence Preitz points at several pieces of furniture – finely crafted wood cabinets and tables – that he’s made over the years.
“I’ve been bitten by the ‘wood bug’,” the 90-year-old former industrial arts professor says with a smile. As the professor emeritus from the University of Alberta, he explains that woodworking and teaching have been his lifelong passions.
Originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Clarence earned an industrial arts degree in teaching after a stint in the merchant navy and then the U.S. army in the 1940s. Over the years, he earned a master’s degree and then a doctorate, all the while practicing woodworking and learning from fellow craftspeople.
Then in 1965, he and his family moved to Edmonton where Clarence became an assistant professor for Industrial and Vocational Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. A decade later, he was appointed professor.
Named as NAIT’s 2017 Distinguished Friend of the Institute, over the span of his career, he met and taught several NAIT instructors. In June 2017, Clarence received the award for his commitment and service as a lifelong mentor to NAIT instructors and philanthropic support of the polytechnic.
“He was so important to me and many other tradesmen and professionals at NAIT, as he helped us get our degrees and higher education while we were still teaching at NAIT,” says now retired NAIT Baking instructor Bob Morgan.
Stewart Cook, the dean of NAIT’s School of Applied Sciences and Technology, was also Clarence’s student. “He taught me the value of process, breaking things down into small steps so students learning a concept for the first time can easily understand it.”
Close ties to NAIT
Now 90 years old and retired, Clarence has kept close ties with many of his former students and visits NAIT’s campus regularly. “I have a lot of friends in [NAIT’s] woodworking department,” Clarence says. “You won’t find a nicer group of people – period.”
Paul Roberts, the chair of the Cabinetmaker program, is both a former pupil and a long-time friend.
“One thing to know about Clarence: other than being a prof and a woodworker, he’s a very fine person,” says Roberts. “I think the impact that Clarence has is not just about the detail [involved with] woodworking or teaching, but basically about how to be a good person.”
In addition to mentoring NAIT’s instructors, Clarence has donated for more than 25 years, first by supporting an annual scholarship for students in the Cabinetmaker program and then by naming NAIT as a beneficiary in his will. He also intends to establish an endowment in honour of Paul.
Clarence says that he supports NAIT because he believes in its mission: “We need good people in technology and the trades, and NAIT’s doing a good job of that.”