2011 Winners

Thunder Bay | Public Sector

Dr. Nancy Lukai

Dr. Nancy Lukai

She has a quote from Socrates taped to the top of her computer monitor that reads, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is a habit."

Even though Nancy Luckai, associate professor at Lakehead University, thinks she might be able do things better, she does spend a lot of time networking, and according to her peers, she is excellent at it.

"I wouldn't be where I am now if it weren't for the awesome group of people that decided to come and work with me. All I managed to do was get the right people in the right places at the right time—it wasn't that I did anything spectacular."

Luckai moved from southern Ontario to Thunder Bay to attend Lakehead in 1973 and she has called it home ever since. She soon discovered a passion for crosscountry skiing.

"Even though it is an individual sport, with one person at the start line, you have to know that for them to get there, there is a whole team—coaches, parents, fundraisers, equipment managers. There is a real sense of community."

Having held both the roles of president and vice-president of the local National Team Development Centre for crosscountry skiing, Luckai's dedication to the sport is undeniable. She has volunteered at countless races, including the Sleeping Giant Loppet, a 20-kilometre ski race that she only missed when she was pregnant.

"Work is a lot of my week, as chair of a program in addition to teaching, and research, and running the soils lab. It's a lot of hours. I don't count them and I hope my family doesn't either."

She attempts to maintain balance by staying active with her family, and she leaves her car at home as much as possible.

"I'm busy, but I can still have an active lifestyle like riding my bike to work."

Luckai obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees in forestry from Lakehead, and then commuted to Guelph for her PhD.

"I couldn't have done it had I not had the support of my husband. He's always been there for the kids and me—I'm very fortunate."

She also credits John Naysmith, the founding dean of her faculty, because he helped her believe that anything was possible.

During her PhD work, she recognized an opportunity for the community which, through networking and hard work, is now the Forest Resources and Soil Testing Laboratory.

"Achieving provincial accreditation was like a coming of age for us, proving we could make the external standard. FoReST Lab has been self-sustaining for 10 years and a lot of good data and information has come out of it."

Luckai has also brought in more than a million dollars in funding, including an NSERC strategic partnership grant of $500,000, ensuring the continuity of the lab, and providing employment or training and research opportunities for students.

A member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry for over a quarter of a century, Luckai is passionate about her work and wants to spread the word.

"I want people to understand the positive scope of natural resources management including mitigating climate change, maintaining habitats and ensuring biodiversity through forestry."