The L.M. Montgomery Institute has a new Chair, Dr. Philip Smith, Professor of Psychology at the University of Prince Edward Island. I asked him a few questions about what he hopes to achieve and what connects him to Montgomery and her work. What becomes clear is a person who adores the popular Charlottetown productions and has great plans for the LMMI.
Here’s a little bit about him:
Dr. Philip Smith is Professor of Psychology at the University of Prince Edward Island, where he has served as Department Chair and as Dean of the Faculty of Arts. His professional passion is teaching, especially first-year students. His research interests focus on (i) promotion of positive parenting and family relationships, and (ii) promotion of healthy behaviours, particularly non-smoking, and especially among people living in poverty. He has recently completed a five-year term as Chair of the Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention, and previously served as Board Chair of the Canadian Cancer Society’s PEI Division. Philip was born and raised on PEI. He lives with his wife, Cathy Morgan—also a clinical psychologist—in Stratford, PEI. Their daughter, Alexandra, is a vocal performance major in the UPEI Music Department. Their son, Elijah, is a high school student with an interest in theatre performance, who got his start eight years ago as a “Child of Avonlea” in Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, and later played Paul Irving in Anne and Gilbert, the Musical; Philip has lots of experience with these fine shows!
Melanie: It is my understanding that you are coming back to the LMMI. What is your connection and history with the Institute?
Philip: I had a once-removed view of the founding of the Institute. A treasured colleague in the Psychology Department here at the University of Prince Edward Island, the late Dr. Elizabeth Percival, was an enthusiastic proponent, along with Fr. Francis Bolger, of Dr. Elizabeth Epperly’s work toward founding the LMMI, and its launching in 1993.
While I served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts between 1996 and 2002, I worked closely with the Institute as a member of the LMMI Committee, and attended my first conferences. I’ve followed the work of the Institute with interest since, attending several of the conferences, and becoming a Friend of the LMMI. I’m excited to now return to close connection with the people and the mission of the Institute.
Melanie: What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure as Chair of the Institute?
Philip: It’s important in my first months, especially, as Chair to do lots of listening to and learning from the remarkable people who have been carrying out the mission of the Institute. The LMMI has this special mandate to promote both “research into, and informed celebration of, the life, works, culture, and influence” of Montgomery.
This means we reach out to, and can become a home for, academic faculty and students, Montgomery enthusiasts and citizen-scholars, and curious readers not yet attuned to the potential that even fuller engagement with Montgomery can bring. It means that we have an international sphere of engagement, that we bring together efforts across Canada, and that we nurture the roots of Montgomery studies here on her Island and at the Island University.
As we build toward the 25th anniversary of the LMMI in 2018, we have exceptional people who can imagine so many opportunities to advance the mission. Yes, we need to do well what we take up as priorities, but smart and creative ideas draw both talent and resources. I’m most curious to see what we, collectively and collaboratively, come up with.
Melanie: I know our members would be interested in knowing what your favourite L.M. Montgomery novel is and why?
Philip: Rilla of Ingleside. A box-set of the first three Anne books was a present as a young child—my first chapter books other than the Bobbsey Twins, and even to a young reader, clearly in a different category! I remember reading Rilla a few years later, and especially wondering about Walter, finding it easy to imagine the fears and struggles he experiences. I came back to the book in 2014, prompted by the war commemorations, and of course then had the opportunity to read the Lefebvre and McKenzie edition.
Melanie: Bonus question: Ice cream or raspberry cordial…or both?
Philip: Ice cream. Except for the tradition of raspberry cordial during intermission of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical (which plays every summer at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown; just across the street, at The Guild, plays Anne and Gilbert: The Musical. Both are splendid productions, which you really must see, or see again, next time you come to the Island!)