"To be part of a community and volunteer… that is the greatest satisfaction. Volunteers are the real bread and butter of our community. They make it what it is."
Ken Sauer is a dedicated volunteer whose longstanding contributions to the City of Medicine Hat and the province as a whole include leadership in a range of areas from education and municipal government to sports, recreation and community development.
Kenneth Charles Sauer was born in Fox Valley, Saskatchewan on January 5, 1932 to Karl and Ida Sauer. Ken’s early years were spent helping out on the family farm, attending a one-room school with his four siblings and working hard to heed his father’s advice to “earn every cent you’re given, whatever job you do in life.” Ken was particularly hard working at school and revelled in any opportunity to learn. His father recognized that Ken and his siblings would benefit from the enhanced educational opportunities the larger town high school had to offer. He chose to give up the farming life he loved and moved the family into Fox Valley so that the children could attend high school there.
Ken soon came to see his high school principal as a possible career role model. He also began to emerge as a youth community leader and a fixture in efforts to build basketball courts for the school as well as curling and ice rinks for the community. In 1950, Ken graduated from high school and was ready to embark on his chosen career as a teacher. He completed teachers’ college in Moose Jaw in 1951 and then returned to his educational roots in a one-room school in Linacre, Saskatchewan. Over the next 17 years, Ken would move on to teach high school in the Saskatchewan communities of Eatonia, Kindersley and Saskatoon.
Throughout his early career, there were two constants in Ken’s very busy life: a steady commitment to building the breadth and quality of sports programs offered by his schools and an unyielding drive to strengthen his own education. He worked through night and summer school at the University of Saskatchewan to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Physical Education and a Bachelor of Education Degree, followed by a Master of Education Degree in Educational Administration. Along the way, Ken also found time to marry Valerie Tronstad, who served as an administrative assistant at his Saskatoon high school. They settled down and began raising a family that would grow to include two sons and two daughters. Despite his demanding schedule, Ken found time to contribute to numerous community development initiatives and served as a reserve officer with the Army Cadets program.
Ken made his way through the school ranks to the position of vice principal and was then tempted away from Saskatoon by an opening for a principal at Lethbridge Collegiate. He and Valerie were excited by the possibilities the position had to offer and moved their young family to southern Alberta in 1971. Ken’s remarkable energy, focus and organizational skills allowed him to fulfill his new duties as principal while earning a Doctor of Education Degree from the University of Montana. In 1974, the newly-minted Dr. Sauer found an opportunity to put his growing expertise to work as Superintendent of Schools for Medicine Hat Public School District #76. Ken and Valerie quickly settled into the city and established a sterling commitment to volunteerism and leadership that would eventually see them involved in virtually every aspect of the community.
In addition to his duties as Superintendent, Ken served for 24 years as city alderman, a choice that sprung from his work to help develop a master plan for recreation and culture for Medicine Hat. Throughout his eight successive terms as alderman, Ken was recognized as a highly efficient and positive team leader as well as an outstanding ambassador for the city. He also contributed to the quality of life enjoyed in other communities as president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and as a director of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Association.
While Ken Sauer has served as a volunteer and leader in a wide range of areas, sports have been a constant focus for him over the years. He was director of sports for the 1975 Canada Winter Games in Lethbridge, director of the Southern Alberta Winter and Summer Games, director of administration for the 1998 Canada Senior Games, vice-chairman and director of administration for the 2002 Alberta Winter Games and the 2008 Alberta Summer Games, and secretary-treasurer of the Medicine Hat Baseball Canada Cup Society. Through these activities, Ken has helped to boost civic pride for the people of Medicine Hat, generate economic benefits and create a significant legacy in terms of sports infrastructure and community development.
Ken’s very impressive list of community service also includes his work as a board member of the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital Board and the Palliser Health Authority Board, a longstanding member and past president of the Medicine Hat Kiwanis Club, chairman of Medicine Hat: PARTICIPACTION CANADA, chairman of the Medicine Hat Community Services Advisory Board and the Medicine Hat Hostel Society, chairman of the Southeast Region Planning Commission, a member of the Heart Fund Business Campaign, an active member and volunteer with the Unity Lutheran Church and a member and driving force behind the Medicine Hat Public School Education Foundation, which raises funds for public schools. Ken’s record of service on a provincial scale includes his duties as chairman of the Alberta Safety Codes Council and his contributions to numerous Alberta Education projects and committees charged with guiding student achievement, developing curriculum and evaluating progress.
Ken Sauer’s outstanding contributions to his community and province have been recognized with honours that include the Mel Osborne Award from the Kiwanis Club, the City of Medicine Hat Humanitarian Award, the Wild Rose Foundation Stars of the Millennium Volunteer Award, the Alberta Centennial Medal, a Canadian Forces Medal for service to Cadet programs and distinguished service awards from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and the Alberta Council of School Administration. In 2008, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and received an Honourary Applied Baccalaureate Degree from Medicine Hat College.
Ken retired from his Superintendent duties in 1988 and went on to work as an executive in the cable TV and business sectors. Although he has eased up somewhat in his volunteering commitments and now describes his community involvement largely as being a “background” advisor, his fellow Medicine Hat residents continue to turn to him as a central source of wisdom, strength and enthusiasm. When asked what he hopes his legacy to the city and province will be, he simply wishes that people will say, “Ken Sauer worked very, very hard to improve the quality of life in this community.” He has undoubtedly accomplished that goal in a way that will enhance the quality of life enjoyed by the people of Medicine Hat and all Albertans well into the future.