They are the University of Windsor’s volunteer dream team—the dynamic duo of doing.
With a combined 122 years as members of the University of Windsor community, Drs. Audrey and Roger Thibert have pretty much seen it all, done it all, and made time for it all.
The couple’s life together has gone hand in hand with the development of the University, from their first meeting at a New Year’s Eve party in 1951, to the present, with an observation suite in the Medical Education Building named for them, funded in part by proceeds from a 2009 party celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary. The Thiberts also sponsor a scholarship for clinical research in the Faculty of Science.
Roger, a professor emeritus who taught in various areas of chemistry, biochemistry and clinical chemistry, has been a fixture on the UWindsor campus since his days at Assumption College High School in 1945. He is among the original six lay faculty members who joined the University in its earliest days and stayed for their entire careers.
Audrey was a member of the first co-ed class at Assumption University in 1950-51 and was the first faculty spouse to graduate from Assumption University of Windsor. She is also a graduate of the Detroit Memorial Hospital School of Radiologic Technology, and studied as a postgraduate in x-ray, cobalt and isotope therapy.
An ice storm in 1951 brought the couple together. Each was scheduled to attend different New Year’s Eve parties but bad weather and concerned parents convinced each of them to accompany their folks to the party where they met. Roger, a jazz guitarist, and Audrey, a piano player, entertained the crowd at the party, attended mass together the next morning, went on a date the following week and have been accompanying each other ever since.
They were married in 1954. They have two sons, Dr. Mark Thibert, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and Dr. Robert Thibert, an internist and cardiologist.
As the chemistry department’s first chemist, Roger developed the majority of undergraduate and graduate programs that still exist today. In addition, he taught chemistry to Grace Hospital nursing students from 1954 to 1973, and served as the associate dean of arts and science from 1964 to 1970. Upon completion of a sabbatical in 1972 in the Department of Pathology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, where Roger studied clinical chemistry, he took his clinical chemistry board exams in both Canada and the United States to become the first person certified in both countries. Roger went on to become director of clinical chemistry at UWindsor and was appointed full professor of pathology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, and directed the emergency labs at Detroit Receiving Hospital until 1994.
He says his career and volunteer commitment to the university goes far beyond his time in the lab and the classroom.
“I officially retired in 1994 by government mandate but I’ve never really left,” Roger says. “I was still supervising graduate students gratis for five years after that. We teach students of course, but mentoring is also very important—caring about the student as a whole person while they are at the University and beyond. That’s what we’re all about here. Our motto is ‘Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge,’ that is our mandate, to care not only about yourself but also about your community and others.”
During these years, Audrey was busy making her own volunteer impact in the community while raising her sons. She served on dozens of committees and boards during their growing up years and beyond, including co-founding the Windsor Separate School’s elementary school music program; serving for 25 years as executive director of the Assumption College School’s alumni association; serving for several years on the board of the University of Windsor Alumni Association where she was its first female president; and the University’s Board of Governors.
She was a founding member of the Faculty Wives Club, later re-named the Faculty Women’s Club, and recalls Convocation ceremonies and other parties where members of the club stepped in as hostesses, serving punch, tea and cookies.
“We were hosting a tea party at one point and everyone was very anxious that we make it a very formal, fancy event,” Audrey recalls, smiling at the memory. “Well, where were we going to get all the cups and saucers and silver service for something like this? Then I remembered that Assumption (University) had all of these tea things in their vault. Everyone said, ‘Are you sure? I don’t remember that,’ but I knew they were there so I got the key and went down there with one of the Basilian Fathers and rummaged around and sure enough everything was there.”
This willingness to do whatever needs doing has endeared the Thiberts to generations of the UWindsor community. Though they have both received a number of awards and accolades, the couple agrees that among their most memorable are the Charles Clark Award for Outstanding Voluntary Service to the University of Windsor which Audrey received in 2003 and Roger received in 2010; the honorary Doctor of Laws degree Audrey received from UWindsor in 2004 and the honorary Doctor of Science degree that Roger received at the same Convocation; as well as the Alumna and Alumnus of the Century award they received jointly during an Assumption University alumni recognition celebration in September 2012. This past February, Audrey was also honoured with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
The Thiberts say they are thrilled with the progress the University is making and are happy to see that the core values of service and social responsibility remain intact.
“I see us growing—the buildings are growing of course, but we will not lose our sense of identity,” Roger said. “That bridge we see outside our window is a bridge to knowledge and understanding. Everyone at this university has the same mandate—to give something to this community and the world which is useful and productive.”
Rev. Eugene Carlisle LeBel, the University’s first president, speaks with Roger and Audrey Thibert and their sons Robert and Mark in this 1966 photo.
For more information on the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations, visit www.uwindsor.ca/anniversary.