MacEwan University has long prided itself on striving for excellence in teaching and providing a learning environment that encourages students to be successful.

This mission goes far back in its roots, to its community college days, when faculty members like Dr. Paul G. Otke first began inspiring students.

Dr. Otke, dean of community studies in the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, believed education was a gift. Adopted at two years old, Dr. Otke felt indebted to his adoptive parents. He witnessed the hard work they put into their farm and as he grew up, he saw education as liberation.

"My dad always said that education is the most important gift you can give to someone,” remembers son Jayson Otke. “It sets them on their path for life and nobody can take that education away." 

Dr. Otke joined the military to pursue his education and earned a PhD in psychology. He continued to work in the military until 1971, when an opportunity arose to work at a new community college in Edmonton.

"My dad thought MacEwan would give him something to leave his mark on and he found the potential for a new challenge to be really exciting," says Jayson.

Throughout his career, Dr. Otke focused on making education accessible at MacEwan. He initiated programming for Indigenous students and seniors – the latter group inspired by his passion for lifelong learning and seeing how difficult it could be for older people like his parents to access education.

"He had a passion for education, especially for the disadvantaged," says daughter Carmen McCoy. "Many students were not at the place to begin post-secondary education, so the college provided courses for students to upgrade and then they were ready to work toward a program designation. Dad was always proud about this part of the institution's history."

Before Dr. Otke retired in 1993, he was actively engaged in seeing the development of the City Centre Campus. His children remember him being a big proponent of a clock being included in part of the downtown campus's architecture.

"He was very fond of travelling to Europe and said that many cities had clock towers — a landmark bringing people together," recalls McCoy. "He thought a clock tower for the City Centre Campus would do the same for Edmonton."

When Dr. Otke, a well-respected part of MacEwan's history, sadly passed away in 2020, he left a generous gift to the university to support students in the Faculty of Health and Community Studies.

The Dr. Paul G. Otke Memorial Bursary is awarded annually to a student in financial need who may be a refugee or a newcomer to Canada, or come from a rural community. Bursaries like this one support students who may otherwise not have the opportunity to attend a university program, thus continuing Dr. Otke's legacy of ensuring accessible education.
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