Bill Waiser

Distinguished Graduate Supervisor Award - Fall 2013

A specialist in western and northern Canadian history, Dr. Bill Waiser is Professor of History and A.S. Morton Research Chair. Waiser and graduate studies have gone together at the University of Saskatchewan for almost four decades.

Married less than two weeks, Dr. Waiser arrived in Saskatoon in the fall of 1975 to do graduate work in Canadian History. He left with a doctorate, a job offer as Yukon Historian with the Canadian Parks Service, and three kids in tow.

Dr. Waiser returned to Saskatchewan in 1984, this time as a faculty member with the Department of History. His partner Marley, a microbial ecologist, eventually found work as a research scientist with Environment Canada.

Since 1984, Dr. Waiser has supervised thirty-five graduate students through to completion—an average of slightly more than one a year. The students have come from Canada, the United States, Germany, Japan, Sudan, and Nigeria. Their graduate research has covered a wide range of topics, including the early sex trade in Saskatchewan, the Italian homesteading experience, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during the Second World War, and the Farmers’ Siege of Ottawa in 1910. Many of Dr. Waiser’s students have gone onto careers in universities and colleges, law and government, archives, museums and other heritage agencies, and even started their own businesses.

Dr. Waiser would be the first to admit that he has greatly benefited from supervising graduate students. Their research has found its way into his undergraduate lectures and his many books, including his award-winning centennial history of the province, Saskatchewan: A New History. Whenever possible, Dr. Waiser has also tried to incorporate his students’ findings into his outreach and engagement activities. He learned from one thesis, for example, that there were more television sets than flush toilets in the province in 1966 because electricity, and not indoor plumbing, came first to rural Saskatchewan. Or that there were more horses than people in Saskatchewan in the mid-1920s because of the reliance of draught animals in agriculture. This kind of information has enlivened his public talks throughout the province and across Canada. It was also used in the history series, Looking Back, that he once hosted on CBC Saskatchewan television.

Dr. Waiser has been awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, named a distinguished university professor, and granted a D.Litt. One of the things he values most about his thirty‑year career at the University of Saskatchewan is the opportunity to work with young scholars and share the excitement that comes with their research discoveries.