Remembering Mr. Meadus: Creator of NAIT athletics honoured for commitment to students

Published on July 04, 2024

“Everybody should have the chance to play.” 

That was Garry Meadus’s philosophy about sports, and to a certain extent, education.  

Starting at NAIT in 1963, Garry Meadus dedicated much of his career to creating a welcoming campus. In fact, he’s often credited with founding many of the services students enjoy today including the Ooks athletics teams and the province’s first intercollegiate athletics organization – the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference

“NAIT was part of dad’s life,” says his son Scott. “He loved being part of all of it.” 

After Garry retired in 1991, he was recognized for his efforts with the honorary title “Architect of Student Services and NAIT Athletics” on a plaque on the Athletics Wall of Fame just outside the gymnasium doors.  

So, when Garry passed away in March 2023, at the age of 88, the Meadus family – including Garry’s wife Pat and sons Scott and Michael – gathered with friends and colleagues, appropriately, in NAIT’s gymnasium to honour him and his 28 years at the polytechnic.  

“It was a no brainer that the gymnasium, where countless NAIT student-athletes performed, would be the right place to celebrate dad’s life and his legacy,” says Scott. 

Making NAIT a welcoming environment for students

When Garry started at NAIT as the head of student services, there was little by way of student supports. The institution was newly formed with the first-ever class of communications electrician students enrolled the previous year. But by 1963, when Garry arrived, NAIT had grown to include 3,633 students in 51 business, apprenticeship, and technical programs. He needed to quickly build on-campus supports from the ground up – a job he took very seriously, says Scott.  

Among his first steps were creating the Students’ Association, The Nugget student newspaper, and The Northern Torch student yearbook. He also helped to establish the health, counselling, and library services. 

But Garry knew that making NAIT a welcoming place for students involved more than just implementing services. He was present and involved; he made it personal, and his family was a fixture at many campus events. Pat, his wife of 61 years, fondly recalls pulling him out on the dance floor when they chaperoned student dances. 

“Garry was a lot of fun to have around,” she says. “He had a sneaky sense of humour.” 

That sense of humour made him popular among students and staff alike. In the Northern Torch, some of Garry’s photos (a few in which he sported a fedora and a pipe) are simply captioned with “Mr. Meadus.” 

“He made a point to know all the staff. It was important for him to have those relationships with everybody there,” says Scott.  

A yearbook photo of Garry Meadus wearing a fedora hat

A founding father of Alberta intercollegiate sports

Another way that Garry made NAIT welcoming was through sports, playing a key role in forming NAIT’s first athletics teams. He coached basketball and golf and volunteered to referee at hockey games. Family outings with sons Scott and Michael were to cheer on the Ooks athletic teams. 

“It was important to him for students to have foundational support, in academics and health,” says Scott. “He wanted everyone to have an opportunity to participate on campus, and that’s why he was so focused on intramurals and inter-varsity sports.” 

Throughout his career and life, Garry spoke often about the importance of physical health. He also spent many days on the greens golfing with his sons. His passion for fitness earned him the endearment “gym rat” from his loved ones.  

Sports were part of his childhood spent in Sedgwick, Alberta, where during the summers, he played short stop at baseball games. That eventually led to a career that took him all over the province and as far as Saskatchewan before he moved to Edmonton to pursue a degree in physical education.  

“He put a priority on education and fitness, promoting a healthy, active lifestyle,” recalls Scott.  

Garry’s passion for athletics also reached beyond NAIT.  In 1964, Garry and 3 fellow post-secondary educators – Dr. Gary Bowle, Allan Butte and Ben Brooks – teamed up to create the Western Inter-College Conference, later renamed as the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC). Garry served as the organization’s first-ever president, then represented NAIT on the council into the ’90s.  

Even after his retirement, he continued to play a role at the ACAC. His unwavering support saw him inducted into the ACAC Hall of Fame in 2014. 

“The ACAC was a great source of pride for my dad,” says Scott. “He was especially proud of the many teams that NAIT produced that would go on to win national championships.” 

Thanks to his legacy, the ACAC has now grown to include 18 Alberta colleges and polytechnics and is recognized for its high achievements among Canadian college leagues. In 2019, the City of Edmonton saluted Garry’s efforts by inducting him into Edmonton’s Sports Hall of Fame. 

A legacy to support student-athletes 

Inspired by Garry’s philosophy of providing students with the support to play, participate and succeed inside and outside the classroom, the Meadus family established a scholarship endowment in 2023 to support 4 annual awards for NAIT student-athletes.  

“It makes sense to give back to the programming that dad so strongly believed in,” says Scott. “He was so proud of the thousands of students that graduated from NAIT and went on to have successful careers and families.” 

Last April, Scott and Pat saw their family’s generosity in action at NAIT’s annual Athletic Awards Gala, where they met student recipients. It was a meaningful moment for them. They knew Garry would have been pleased to see the students recognized for their hard work in both sports and academics. 

“We hope students continue in their studies, and they become successful, and hopefully one day they'll be leaders in their classrooms, in their careers and communities,” says Pat. 

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