Late prof named Best of St. John's in online survey


Dr. Wayne King

Feb. 18, 2013

Faculty, staff and students in the Faculty of Business Administration (FBA) say they are not surprised that a former faculty member has been named Best Prof by readers of The Scope newspaper in St. John's.

Dr. Wayne King, who passed away in November 2012, was an associate professor of entrepreneurship and small business up until the time of his death.

"It's not surprising," says Dr. Natalie Slawinski, assistant professor of strategic management at the FBA. "I think it's a testament to the fact that he touched a lot of students in a profound way."

"The thing about Wayne that made him so special is that he was always so interested in the success of others. It gave him genuine pleasure and pride to see others succeed."

The Scope's annual Best of St. John's issue is compiled using the results of an online reader survey at the end each year. Nominations are write-in and the winner is determined by the greatest number of votes. The runner up for Best Prof in the 2012 issue was Ed Loveless, who retired in 2012 from the Dept. of Mathematics at Memorial University.

Dr. King first joined the business faculty in 1991 and soon began to make an impact on his colleagues, his students and the faculty itself. A chartered accountant by trade, Dr. King completed a bachelor of commerce degree at Memorial, a master of business administration at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, and a PhD in finance and accounting from Queen's University in Belfast, Ireland.

He developed the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course at Memorial along with fellow professors Dr. Gary Gorman and Dr. Dennis Hanlon and Mr. Dave King, current president of the Genesis Centre.

At the time, most entrepreneurial studies in post-secondary schools across Canada were focused on small business management. In fact, the group had difficulty finding suitable textbooks for the new course because so few teaching materials were available.

"Most of them at the time were American based and didn't work for us," says Dr. Gorman, associate professor of entrepreneurship, new venture creation and small business management and a former dean of the Faculty of Business Administration. "So we decided then, 'Well, why don't we produce one?' So we did."

The textbook developed by the area group was used until very recently when it was abandoned in favour of online materials.

Dr. King also developed a course in social entrepreneurship and taught it until he went on sick leave last fall, and was instrumental in developing a concentration in entrepreneurship for business students.

"That was the course that he was most proud of," says Dr. Gorman of the former. "It really linked together his interest in teaching and curriculum development with his interest in case writing."

Outside of the university, Dr. King was involved in several initiatives to help develop entrepreneurship knowledge and skills in individuals and students, including the New Enterprise Store (1993), which helped under- and unemployed people to start and manage a business; Enterprise Education (1994), which saw the subject introduced into high schools across the province; and the Institute of Small Business Counsellors (1995), which aimed to improve the quality of counselling services available to small businesses throughout the Atlantic Provinces.

He was also a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland, the Canadian Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the East Coast Trial Association and the Jack Byrne Arena.

But his greatest contribution to the business faculty was his commitment to the students.

"His whole philosophy was unique. He really promoted experiential learning and his classes were designed not to be about memorization but about the application of concepts," Dr. Slawinski says.

"Wayne really motivated students to learn for the sake of learning. He believed that if he gave students the benefit of the doubt, and showed them that he cared and believed in them, that they would give it their all. He believed his role was to inspire students to be the best they could be."

Jaimie Feener was one student who counts Dr. King as a positive influence in her life.

"I look back in elementary school and I can pick out who influenced me from kindergarten to Grade 6," she says. "Then you go from Grade 7 to 12 and there's someone else. For me, from the moment I came here, it was always Wayne King."

Feener graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree in 2011. She took the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class in her first year and enjoyed it so much that she then took every elective she could that was taught by Dr. King. She later graded his introductory class for two years.

"He was very authentic. He wasn't like anyone else. He was very real," she says. "And he always brought a bit of comedy to the class.

"To this day, I think everyone in his class has watched every single James Bond movie," she says, adding that Dr. King claimed on several occasions to have been an extra in one of the films.

Feener says that Dr. King also helped her through a difficult semester and encouraged her to capitalize on her strengths, such as presentation and people skills.

"When I convocated, he saw me in the hallway and he gave me a wink and a high five and said, 'I was worried about you there for a while, worried you weren't going to get here, but I knew you'd do it.' And that's how I remember my convocation."

Friends, students and colleagues are now planning a memorial for Dr. King by raising funds for a bench inscribed with a plaque to be placed on the walking path around Long Pond.

Dr. Slawinski, who is leading the initiative, says enough money has been raised to purchase and install the bench and the remainder will be donated to the Grand Concourse Authority, which maintains the trail. Dr. King was an avid hiker and frequently jogged around the Long Pond path in the mornings.

"I just wanted to do something for Wayne because I thought he was very special and because I felt like he stood for something important in the faculty and that's the importance of students."

The memorial bench will be installed in the spring.

Susan White-MacPherson