I’m Ashamed of Myself

Letter to Southampton:

                                                                  I’M ASHAMED OF MYSELF

When I first started working with the Museum years ago, it dawned on me that there was something special there, something that I could sense more than know. Of course, there was the historical part where things like the General Store and Archives captured ‘the way it was’. Everyone could see that, but there was more.

The museum and John Weichel worked together to get a Marine Gallery started, but again there was more. Experts were drawn to the task like historians Patrick Folkes and marine expert Stan McClellan of Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory.

This effort was financed in part by the County and along the way by those working on the project. Weichel’s books are still a source of revenue for the Museum.

Next came the First Nations part of the Museum where Dr. Bill Fitzgerald an archeologist and anthropologist did wonderful work. He included the geology of the area too. He is a professional and has to be paid for what he does.

During the Chantry Island restoration project a small group was formed to highlight the project by starting the Chantry Island institute. It was a lecture series given by experts. We included the art school and eventually had an artist in residence who focused on the Island. Jane Champagne of the Art school understood the concept when I talked to her about it. Bringing in the Art School and Gallery as part of a Campus was on my mind.

The effort of the Chantry Island institute was headed by two teaching PhDs and was a great success. It even went a long way in paying for itself. Some classes on a weekend were $100/student.

So, it became clearer to me that we just needed to focus and grow all this. Grow a Campus. Think Campus with all its formal and informal ties. I thought about it carefully. Here is what I felt we needed to do:

  1. Highlight and create research areas that would relate to our natural strengths.
  2. Create endowed chairs for the selected key areas. These experts would receive endowments and grants to further the areas. The chairs would be paid and have budgets that would be supported by target individuals.

Above all, I thought that we needed to think about the area that includes the Museum, the Art School and the G.C. Huston School as a mini campus with areas of interest, staff and endowment attracting world-wide attention and experts. Graduate Students would be welcomed … even post-doctorial students. We could include music too. Our Campus would be a destination for visitors and students from other areas.

The HMS General Hunter discovery brought Ken Cassavoy to the area to manage the archeology of the wreck. He was a world expert and did a wonderful job. He would be a natural to head the on-going marine heritage studies. He had managed one of the most famous organizations in Marine archaeology funded by rich endowments and supported by world class experts. He knew how to structure such an organization. But now he has moved away. Maybe the Campus was just a dream.

So, in my thinking I foresaw a Campus that needed one more ingredient. It needed a chair of energy and technology that would include both modern science and technology and power generation science like wind, water, solar and nuclear research. Artificial Intelligence and robots would be a natural. This would fill out a spectrum and attract world class people and greatly enhance the draw of highly educated people and new jobs for the area. In my mind it was a campus where people could work on projects, lectures could be given and jobs created.

I saw this and talked to people a bit about it. It seemed so natural, that I did not worry about it. But, then, Ken Cassavoy left. He must have felt that an endowed chair was not something that was possible and he moved on to other projects. I talked to him about it, but I’m ashamed to say I did not push the issue.

At the Museum, I saw so much progress. I did not worry long term. There was always a great staff and wonderful volunteers. They work so hard and overcame so much. It was fun to be there every day.

Work space for tools and volunteer activity is limited. Lots of work is taken home by talented people. They can make anything and do it all the time. They not only donate their time, but they also buy things out of their personal funds. We all love to work there. Many get frustrated at the work areas, but carry on because they love the work and the facility.

So, I had this Campus vision. but I worked on projects and gave lectures on Music, Science and Mathematics. I did not focus on the Campus. I’m ashamed of that.

I should have followed my own advice. I had written a book on volunteerism and project management. It is called Working with Creative People in 12 Steps. The most important of the 12 is the first. Get the Vision and when you think everyone understands it, say it 12 times again. Nobody will accept your vision unless you pound away at it. I did not follow my own advice. People did not understand or care about a Campus.

I’m ashamed to say I knew better. People know that I can focus. That’s the only skill I have. They know that I can help to get ideas across, but I didn’t. I had experience and knew how to promote the Campus, but I did not. I’m ashamed of that.

I received awards for what I had done in the past. It was all about FOCUS and nothing more. Queen Elizabeth Medal, Governor General’s Medal, the Canadian National award for Museums and the Ontario award for volunteerism. I had the credentials, but I’m ashamed to say that I did not use them. Part of the idea behind these awards is to stand up for ideas. I was asked by the Governor General’s Office to wear the medals when I spoke out for Volunteerism. I did not, except for the talk I gave on the Geometry of Music, but it was in a whisper.

And then a miracle happened. The County bought the property on the corner of High Street and Victoria to expand the Museum and put in a Nuclear Innovation Institute supported by Bruce Power and of course the County. My dream of a Campus was in good hands. Everyone understood! No, not at all. I was wrong and I’m ashamed to say I sat back. Everyone did not understand. I was lazy.

I went to the first two transparency information meetings. They went ok, or so I thought. Then I got wind of rumors that showed me that the first commandment of getting things done was not there yet. Narrow-minded people did not have the Vision at all.

People were talking about things like eight-story buildings looming over High Street. That was NEVER intended. They talked of radioactive material too. All wrong again!

They brought up parking like it was a show stopper. I had followed the traffic and parking issues closely in the past. The traffic worry people should look to the corner of High Street and Albert and not Victoria.

Where were these people when Wal-Mart was planned? I can say with certainty, I may be the only non-official to read the Wal-Mart traffic study carefully. I met with the professional engineer that Wal-Mart hired. He asked to talk to me, not the reverse. The study was flawed, but passed regulations.

I also read other traffic studies. I’m ashamed to say, I did not talk to the Town about them. I have experience in this area. I worked for the famous Bob Herman who predicted the Big-Bang would have a microwave signature left that scientists could detect, which was later proved to be true. Along the way he also invented ‘traffic science’ basing it on the equations underlying hydro-dynamics. I turned down his offer to move into that area. I was interested in something else.

I could have helped point out the way for parking and flow in the area of the Museum. Adding 40 employees and some seminar traffic could be studied easily. I’m ashamed to say I did not raise my voice to help sell the idea of the Campus. I’m at the Museum every day for six months per year. I love to work there. I come on all days and hours to work with my friends.

I’d rather work than sell, but sometimes you will not be able to work unless you sell.

Since I’m at the Museum so much I know what the parking is like on a daily basis and at night. It’s a popular place. One person was worried about child protection because men might be a free to roam around children. I knew that both the extensive programs of the school at the museum and the museum itself are monitored closely. I see the staff and volunteers working with children daily.

Let me ask the reader this question. Suppose the Offshore Bakery in Southampton bought the property next door to the west to expand. Everyone knows that the lineup for their great bakery products stretches out the door and up High Street. Nobody complains. It’s part of the story of success.

Suppose the resultant Bakery added an area for snacks and increased the area for customers to accommodate twice the number of people per day. Would we worry about the number of people coming into a prospering business from High Street? Would they come out and protest a Bakery expansion? I remember reading the traffic study on Tim Hortons. I talked to the developer about some changes. They made them and Tim’s is going strong.

I must say, I’m old enough to remember that High Street was ‘totally dead’ east of Albert. The hardware, Armens, the Bakery and the Art School and Museum changed all that. I’m sure the people who own a business on High like to see people on High Street. Parking is available around the Boat House too.

Cathy McGirr the Director of the Museum was so happy when she told me about the Innovation Institute. She, Bruce Power and the Town and County had worked hard on several studies and there was much to do.

The Mayor and Council, for the most part, seemed to be for the idea.

She knew that selling the idea was very important. I offered my help. I thought I had until next year. I’m ashamed to say I sat back and worked on other things. I did not want to be in the way. Cathy had things sorted out. She knew that transparency was important because facts were important.


The Campus hoped to help. If the Innovation Centre is located elsewhere, the Campus idea is dead and we are diminished. The Museum will have a more difficult time. It will succeed, but nothing like the Campus.

You may think that the idea of a Museum is obvious. It’s not. I had a man ask me a strange question. “Mike, is that Museum making money yet?” He is not for the Museum unless it makes money and he’s told me that before.

Next time I see him, I’m going to ask him if he is for toll roads in Saugeen Shores? After all the roads just sit there and do their job and he and I have to pay for them somehow. I’m sure he’d be against the Campus idea. I’m not sure he thinks Museums have any value.

One of my friends who is in Business in Saugeen Shores gives this sage comment about seemingly constant protests.

He says that those folks want us to lock the town with a big key and open it on Victoria Day the following year. They forget the people have to have a life, earn a living, raise children and have a cultural foundation.

Mike Sterling.