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Honouring one of Laurier’s unsung heroes

Laurier pays tribute to Gary Lambert (BBA '67), a quiet leader in Laurier's development as an institution

Story by Justin Fauteux

Finance and administration people rarely get headlines. And that’s just how Gary Lambert liked it.

Gary, a Laurier alumnus and longtime employee of the university, passed away Jan. 10 at the age of 70. He has been remembered as one of the true unsung heroes who helped Laurier become the institution it is today.

“He was never one to self-promote, he was not a headline grabber or an empire builder, he just wanted to do what was right,” said Jim Butler, Laurier vice-president: Finance and Administration.

“He’s going to be tremendously missed. He was just such a great person to work with.”

Following his graduation from Waterloo Lutheran University, Gary (BBA ’67) went on to earn his CA and CMA designations, before starting his career at Coopers & Lybrand. In 1973, he took a job at his alma mater, which by that point was renamed Wilfrid Laurier University and what followed was a successful 40-year career in Laurier’s finance department.

Gary Lambert at his retirement party in 2013.

Known for his quiet leadership and non-stop work ethic, Gary played a key role in Laurier’s development from a small, primarily undergraduate university to the comprehensive multi-campus university it is today. He retired as the university’s assistant vice-president: Finance in 2013.

“When Gary started here it was such a small school,” said Butler, who worked closely with Gary from 2002-13. “He was part of some periods of extraordinary growth. And with that growth comes huge demands on the administrative side that I think most people wouldn’t normally appreciate and Gary would’ve been a big part of that development.”

Butler added that Gary was not only a vital source of institutional memory, but also someone who he could always count on to be honest and direct. “If I took a position he disagreed with, he was never shy about telling me why and I always appreciated that,” said Butler.

Gary grew up in Waterloo Region and he and his wife Marion stayed in the area to raise their two sons, Kevin and Kyle, who also remained in the area. Gary was also a grandfather of three. A love of his job and the university, and the family roots he put down in the region were large parts of why Gary remained such a loyal member of the Laurier community.

“Once he set down roots, it was hard to move him,” said Butler. “He always loved his job and loved Laurier and I think he just really liked the community here for him and his family.”

Though Gary officially retired in December 2013, he continued to work in a part-time capacity, applying his deep knowledge of finance and Laurier to special projects, until shortly before his passing. Shortly after his retirement, Gary received Laurier’s 40-year service award in 2014.

Upon presenting Gary with the award, Pam Cant, assistant vice-president of Human Resources, spoke of his extraordinary contributions to the university. “Gary's service to Laurier has been exemplary,” said Cant. “His work has been quietly and not so quietly appreciated by all who have had the pleasure of working for and with him over a span of four decades. His dedication to Laurier is unmatched. His contributions have been unparalleled.”