Merlis Belsher Place construction hits halfway mark

Members of the media received a sneak-peek tour Tuesday of how the state-of-the-art Merlis Belsher Place facility is coming along, with construction now 50 per cent complete and on track to open the doors this fall. The $42.9-million multi-sport complex will serve as the new home for Huskies hockey teams, as well as brand-new basketball practice facilities for the U of S teams. In addition, the new facility will welcome community groups, including offering a much-needed 1,500 hours of ice time annually for Saskatoon Minor Hockey teams.

See more construction photos in the U of S Flickr gallery.

“It is great to note that we are now halfway through construction, so if things keep progressing as they have, it is safe to say that we are actually a little ahead of schedule,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff. “Merlis Belsher Place is such an important facility, not just for the university, but for our entire community. This is an exciting project and we are looking forward to opening this remarkable facility in the fall.”

President Stoicheff, major donor Merlis Belsher and Lorne Wright of Wright Construction, the local company completing the building, led the media tour of the new complex. Construction on Merlis Belsher Place, which will replace the aging Rutherford Rink that was built back in 1929, began in April of 2017 and is projected to be completed this fall, with the official grand opening celebrations expected in early 2019.

Belsher was thrilled to see first-hand the progress that has been made on the facility that will be named in his honour.

“It’s truly a multi-purpose facility, so I am overwhelmed, actually. It’s great,” said Belsher. “And I think the comment about the community and the City of Saskatoon, and their engagement to get behind it so (construction) could be commenced last May, I think that was critical to why we’re at this stage today … I never would have imagined, when I was first approached, that it would be this kind of a facility.”
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Home Ice volunteer, Kelsey Hahn

What do hockey and business have in common? For Kelsey Hahn (BComm’12), they both build character.

Hahn is a young business-professional in downtown Calgary where she manages Viewpoint Research, a Canadian-based leadership centre. She is quick to point out that her success as a professional has come from learned-traits that have stuck since her time as a Huskie athlete.

Kelsey Hahn played on the Women’s Ice Hockey Huskies team from 2007-2012

“From teaching me about time management, determination and focus, to teamwork and leadership skills, the diligence of playing a sport taught me more than any textbook ever did,” Hahn explains. “Being a student-athlete built a solid foundation for my life and subsequent career path —I owe more than I can ever repay to the game, to Huskie Athletics, and to the University of Saskatchewan.”

For many athletes, it’s the games they won and the moments of fierce competition that stick in their memories, but for Hahn, she fondly remembers the time spent in-between.

“I can remember pitching in as a team to shovel the ice in between men’s and women’s practices, when the ice plant and Zamboni broke down,” she recalls. “Looking back now, I feel lucky to have gotten to be a part of the tail-end of Rutherford’s history, though the next generation of Huskie athletics is very lucky to be able to use and enjoy a new world-class facility.”

It was a natural move for Hahn to get involved with the Home Ice Campaign as a way to pay tribute to her alma mater. After a number years of attempts with a campaign for a new rink, Hahn credits President Stoicheff for the support that began to build momentum with a number of dedicated individuals. With the support of fellow volunteers in Calgary — in particular, team lead, Dell Chapman — Hahn visited various alumni, business leaders, community members, and “friends of the Huskies” in Calgary to share the news about the rink and seek support for the project.

As the only women’s Huskie alumna in the group, she was thrilled to meet with lots of current and former women’s team supporters. “Being a part of such a devoted and strong group of volunteers has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Our Calgary team was full of very busy, yet selfless individuals who committed many hours to the campaign. I was amazed at how deep the alumni roots ran for these people.”

For Hahn, the engagement of supporters speaks volumes to the community that the Huskies has created, not just in the hearts of former and existing players, but in those who choose to rally around an asset to the province. “When I think about Merlis Belsher Place finally becoming a reality, I am also reminded of the incredible alumni, donors, and Huskie community that stepped up to make this possible,” she says. “Mr. Belsher in particular who was, and continues to be, a true passionate champion throughout the campaign. The generosity and comradery of Saskatchewan people is an amazing thing. Huskie Athletics have a bright and promising future enabled by this new facility.”

Farm Credit Canada makes investment in the future of agriculture

Members of the LFCE Steering Committee receive a cheque from Marty Seymour from FCC (third from left) on January 23 at the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference.

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) has committed $100,000 towards the construction of the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE) – a world-class facility that will unite livestock and forage research, and allow for enhanced teaching and outreach.

Marty Seymour, FCC’s director of industry and stakeholder relations, said that FCC was eager to support the project, knowing the positive effects the centre will have not only on the cattle and forage sindustries, but on students who will have access to the most advanced facilities and best practices.

“We are proud to invest in projects that support agriculture research and enhance the student experience. This will also help attract the best and the brightest into pursuing an education and future career in agriculture.”

FCC has been supporting agricultural initiatives at the University of Saskatchewan for more than 30 years, supporting student awards, helping to fund the construction of the Rayner Dairy Research and Teaching Facility, and recently provided the necessary funds to refurbish a study area for agriculture students.

Janelle Smith, M.Sc Candidate in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, will be one of the first students to conduct research at the newly constructed LFCE facilities once they open in spring, 2018.

Mary Buhr, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, said the support of donors like FCC has been crucial in helping bring the vision of the LFCE to reality.

“When we brought forward the LFCE initiative to Farm Credit Canada, they recognized the potential of these facilities and this centre to benefit the cattle and forage industries, to advance research, to help producers gain access to new innovation and to provide the human capacity and leadership that our industry needs,” Buhr said. “We are grateful for their support.”

FCC’s donation will go towards construction of the livestock and food building at the Clavet site, which will house a meeting room and handling facilities equipped with real-time video capability, allowing in-house and distance education and outreach activities to be conducted.

Two new facilities for the LFCE are expected to be completed in the spring of 2018 and will complement current livestock and forage research sites. The LFCE, a partnership between the U of S, the livestock and forage industries, and the Saskatchewan and federal governments, will unite livestock and forage field laboratories and science labs in a collaborative centre with a total cost of $36 million.

To learn more about the project, visit

Spafford a part of Huskies legacy

Former hockey captain Dr. Peter Spafford contributes $100,000 to Home Ice Campaign

Captain Peter Spafford (front row, third from right) with the 1987-88 men’s Huskies hockey team

Being a University of Saskatchewan alum is practically tradition for the Spafford family. The late Duff Spafford left a legacy at the U of S both as an alumnus and as a dedicated community member and Professor Emeritus of Political Studies. Keeping with tradition, his son, Dr. Peter Spafford, not only received his education from the U of S, but has spent much of his professional career educating others.

Dr. Peter Spafford graduated from the College of Medicine at the U of S in 1987, and has gone on to have a successful practice in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery. He has been the head of the Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the U of S for more than two decades, and also served as the president of the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

The next generation of Spaffords are keen to carry on the U of S tradition. Spafford’s daughter, Megan Spafford, is currently studying at the College of Medicine, and his son Matt Spafford (B.Comm ’16) recently graduated as a fifth-year player on the men’s Huskies hockey team in 2016.

Dr. Spafford beams with pride at being one of the few father-son duos to both play Huskies hockey, having himself captained the team in the ‘80s. He led the squad to a silver medal at the national championships in 1987, and says his time as a student athlete helped instill his work ethic and left him with a lasting network of friends.

“If I was going to be a good medical student I had to retain everything so that I could keep up my academics while balancing being an athlete – that was a valuable life lesson,” Spafford says. “Coach Dave King was very inspiring to me because he instilled that my pursuit of medicine was just as important as hockey.”

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Alumni appointed to the Order of Canada

Dr. Kay Nasser  (Photo: Liam Richards)

Two U of S alumni have received one of the country’s highest civilian honours by being appointed to the Order of Canada.

Karim (Kay) Nasser and Harold Orr were recently appointed to the Order, which recognizes Canadians for their outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

Nasser, who earned his PhD and taught civil engineering at the U of S for 33 years, is a passionate long-time supporter of the university. His appointment to the Order is in honor of his contributions to civil engineering and community development, and for his philanthropy in support of education, health care and the arts.

Nasser and his family have donated more than $13.5 million to the U of S, and continue to support students annually through The Nasser Family Emergency Student Trust and the Nasser Scholarship Fund, which has helped hundreds of students over the years.

In addition to his support of the U of S, Nasser has been a pillar in supporting various community institutions from the Remai Modern Art Gallery, Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and all four city hospitals, including the new Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

Alumnus Harold Orr received both a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, and a Master of Science from the U of S, and is known as a pioneer of energy-efficient home building in Canada. His research led to the concept of passive solar design, which allows homes to retain heat from the sun through structural design. Orr’s appointment to the Order is in recognition of his contributions as a housing engineer who promotes energy efficiency and conservation in Canadian homes.

Making a donation before year’s end?

To be eligible for a 2017 tax receipt, the University of Saskatchewan must receive your donation on or before December 31, 2017.

Although the university will be closed between December 25 and January 1, 2018, there are three ways you can still make your donation this holiday season:

  1. Call us at (306) 966-5186 or 1-800-699-1907 (Toll Free) and leave a phone number to which a member of our staff can call you back within 24 hours. Please do not leave credit card information on voice mail or in an email. We request you use our secure online site instead. If you would like to make a donation of securities, please contact us.
  2. Give online with a credit card
  3. Print out our  donation form and mail it to University Relations. Please note that your envelope must be postmarked on or before December 31st to qualify for a tax-deductible receipt for 2017.

Thank you for your support. Happy holidays!

Paying it forward

After a day of classes on campus and working at his father’s company, Aaron Loraas (BA’01) would often lace up his skates and join friends for a game of hockey at Rutherford Rink. Now, more than a decade later, Aaron has traded in ice time to attend his daughters’ dance classes. “I’d love to still play, but it’s just too late in the evening!” Aaron says with a laugh.

His role as vice-president of Loraas keeps Aaron busy too, as the disposal service has evolved over the years. Established in 1965, the company started out as a small waste service in Saskatoon. It has since expanded to become one of the most advanced recycling and waste management services in Canada.

Aaron believes that the success of the company is due to the community.

Loraas disposal on site at Merlis Belsher Place. David Stobbe /

“Loraas is customer-driven. As customers require different services from us, we had to adapt and meet those needs,” says Aaron. “It’s as straightforward as sitting down with someone, listening to their needs, and coming up with a solution.”

So, when the opportunity was presented to get involved with his alma mater’s Home Ice Campaign, Aaron was listening. The project aligns with Loraas’ two giving principles: grassroots and children.

“We like to be able to see results in Saskatoon,” says Aaron. Loraas takes pride in knowing that the multi-sport facility will provide 1500 hours of ice time annually to the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association. Children will benefit from the opportunity to enjoy the sport and sportsmanship with their fellow teammates and fans right here in Saskatoon.

In addition, Loraas is excited for Huskies athletes to be able to showcase their talents in a facility that matches their performance level. The pairing of the two groups is a powerful combination, providing mentorship for youth from hard-working U of S student athletes.

“The combination of the two parties being there will motivate young children to go to university and play for Huskies one day,” Aaron says. “I like that tie-in.”

New donor-funded dentistry clinic open for business

Drs. Steve Arcand and Marina Jones at Clinic 120.

The campus community has a new reason to smile, as Clinic 120—the College of Dentistry’s new general practice residency clinic—is officially open.

The clinic, which began taking patients in September, has three treatment rooms and is loaded with some of the newest and most modern dental technology available.

While the clinic is part of the College of Dentistry, it’s not to be confused with the Dental Education Clinic where U of S students practice under supervision.

“It’s not a student clinic. They’re licensed dentists who are skilled just like anybody else in the community,” said Dr. Mohan Teekasingh, who is the director of the graduate program. He said the clinic is a valuable resource for the campus community, and is eager to see more people take advantage of it. Continue reading

A&W Canada invests in U of S research centre

President Peter Stoicheff and Deans Doug Freeman (veterinary medicine) and Mary Buhr (agriculture and bioresources), alongside A&W representatives Susan Senecal (incoming president and CEO), Jefferson Mooney (chairman emeritus) and Trish Sahlstrom (senior vice-president and chief commercial officer).

A&W Canada has made a substantial investment in the Canadian beef industry with a $5-million donation toward the University of Saskatchewan’s Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE).

The LFCE will be a multisite, multi-disciplinary research centre that focuses on the livestock production chain including forage, cow-calf, beef cattle production and environmental research.

“A&W is deeply committed to the Canadian beef and forage industry,” said Jefferson Mooney, chairman emeritus, A&W. “Our investment is an investment in the future of Canadian food and best practices to make that food.”

The donation will be used to fund the construction of the Livestock and Food Building at the LFCE site near Clavet, Sask., create a community outreach and engagement program, and to establish a visiting fellowship in One Health research. Continue reading

Support for Home Ice extends to Calgary

Our Home Ice community extends well beyond the U of S campus! We had a great time in Calgary getting together and saying thank you to more than 70 alumni, donors and volunteers who supported the Home Ice Campaign! Thank you again for your tireless work in helping make Merlis Belsher Place a reality.