Joyce Forster | A sense of belonging

“I failed retirement,” says Joyce Forster with a giggle. “But I didn’t come back because I failed. I came back because this is where I’m meant to be.” 

Author

Melanie Tibbetts, Cumming School of Medicine

“I failed retirement,” says Joyce Forster with a giggle. “But I didn’t come back because I failed. I came back because this is where I’m meant to be.” 

Joyce started working at the University of Calgary in 1989 as a specialist advisor in Educational Psychology where she helped co-ordinate departmental training programs. Just a short year later, she relocated to the university’s medical school. For the past 27 years, she has held various administrative roles for the school’s leadership team. The majority of that time was spent working alongside the associate dean of clinical affairs. Currently, Joyce is the administrative assistant to the vice dean. 

“In the early ‘70s, I worked at the Holy Cross Hospital in the department of psychiatry,” says Joyce. “I attended a meeting at the Health Sciences Centre when it was just starting to be built and can remember thinking to myself, ‘This is the beginning of something amazing.’ I had always admired the university, but that’s when I started dreaming that I’d end up here one day.” 

In 2012, Joyce stopped working to care for her husband Bob, who had cancer. After Bob passed away in 2013, Joyce took some time for herself. She volunteered at the New Canadian Friendship Centre, an organization that provides new immigrants with the support they need for successful integration into Canadian life, and at her church. In 2014, she knew it was time to come back. 

“As humans, we all want to belong somewhere,” says Joyce. “I like it so much here because I belong; I have family here. When Charlene Wronaphoned to tell me about a four-month contract that had opened up, I thought it was the perfect opportunity. Since three years have passed, you can probably figure out that I decided to stick around.” 

Raised on a farm in Beiseker, Alta., Joyce explains that she sees her work the same way she sees her childhood. “On a farm, you work hard and watch things grow; you reap what you sow.” 

“There are so many awesome people here who work so hard,” says Joyce. “I’m so grateful to have worked here for as long as I have. I’ve seen so much change, growth and advancement throughout the years. I relate it to the first computer I worked on — the guts of the thing were the size of a small deep freeze and now look at the computers we use. The progress is so immense. And in our school, that progress benefits patients. It’s so incredible.” 

In her spare time, Joyce enjoys spending time with her family. She has three sisters, two brothers, three children, six grandchildren and a great-grandson. 

“My great-grandson is three going on 30,” she laughs. “And he’s not allowed to call me his great-grandmother. I’m only to be called ‘GG Mama,’ which sounds a whole lot cooler.” 

When Joyce does decide to retire — for good this time — her one wish is that she leaves behind a bit of kindness, happiness, joy and wisdom. Without a doubt, her wish will come true.

Tidbits from Joyce:  

Hidden talent: “I trained as an opera singer under the incredibly talented Norma Piper-Pocaterra. I haven’t sang in years, but am hoping to again one day.” 

Like as a child: “I was always a very curious child. My mom would say, ‘Don’t do that,’ and I would say, ‘Why?’ She’d respond with, ‘Because I said so.’ That wasn’t good enough for me; I needed to know why. If you simply told me not to do something, I was darn well going to go do it.” 

Inspired by: “My dad. He was such an amazing man who taught me a lot. He always said, ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth. Remember to listen twice as much and speak only once.’ These are words that I live by every day.” 

Motto: “Carpe diem — seize the day.” 

Gets great style from: “The thrift stores! I watch people and pick out what I like. Then I go searching. I like trying new things and combining different pieces until I find what works.” 

On the Cumming School’s 50th anniversary: “I’ve been here for a lot of those 50 years and I look at it as such an accomplishment. We’re on the world stage now. To be a part of that is such a blessing.” 

What the Cumming School should do in the next 50 years: “Stay true to who we are as a medical school. My biggest fear is that we get so big we forget about who we are. And always remember to work together. When we work together, we advance together.”