A Mentor to Many

13.02.12-kaz.headshot.smallby Ralph Tromp

Over 44 years of service and commitment in any industry, let alone the turfgrass industry, is a remarkable feat. What is even more remarkable is to maintain the same enthusiasm, passion and energy over a 44 year span as when one has first began their career. Such a person is Stan Kazymerchyck who was the recent recipient of the 2014 Industry Recognition Award.

15.08.06-Kaz.awardStan Kazymerchyk (left) receives the BCGSA 2014 Industry Recognition Award from Quilchena GC Superintendent Jason Hooper. Image courtesy BCGSA.

The enthusiasm, passion and charisma that Stan exudes to those he encounters speaks volumes to his career in turfgrass as well as the impact that he has had on the industry itself.

Stan got his start in the turfgrass industry as he was finishing high school in 1971. His neighbour, who was a golf course superintendent in the Ottawa area, offered him a summer job. Stan continued over the next few summers working as a groundsman until he was awarded the position of Irrigation Technician at Prince George Golf Club. From there, Stan briefly took on the position of greens superintendent at Cowichan Golf & Country Club on Vancouver Island and then afterwards, moving back to the Ottawa area, he became the superintendent at Amberwood Village Golf Course.

While at Amberwood Village, Stan made plans to improve on his ability for golf course maintenance. Looking back on his work in the industry thus far, Stan comments, “I recognized the need for education so I began a six year pursuit of a degree while juggling a wife and two young kids.”  Stan enrolled himself in Oregon State University and began his work for a degree in Turfgrass Management.

During his time at Oregon State, Stan was also actively engaged in working at O.S.U. Turf Research Farm. Upon completion of the degree turf management program Stan graduated with honours.

After his time at Oregon State, Stan went to work at Beach Grove Golf Club as the Assistant Superintendent and, later as the Head Superintendent at Vancouver Golf Club during the 1990’s.

Before coming to Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2000, Stan had a brief stint in sales with Quality Seeds as well as a season at Redwoods as a groundsman.

For the past fifteen years, Stan has been Instrucional Associate and Instructor with the Kwantlen Turf Maintenance diploma Program. Through those fifteen years he has been mentoring students who have gone through the program; sharing with them his vast experience and knowledge.

Stan comments on what is at the heart of his student’s ability to succeed in the turf industry. “It is so important for the students to recognize that their attitude, work ethic, passion and character are their most key assets.”   He has expressed the importance of and challenged them as a group and as individuals, whether it be in their professional community or their community at large, to get involved and to give where there is a need.

“The most satisfying part of my job is to be part of the development and guidance of turf students and grads as true professionals and good people.” Stan adds, “Hearing of continued successes down the road really makes my day.”

Through Stan’s leadership, the Kwantlen students have been active in fundraising for research, volunteering at conferences as well as getting involved in the community.

One of the ways in which they have given to the community is through a 'Home Reno Makeover Program' which Stan initiated. For a number of years, the Kwantlen Class sought out a family who were in need financially as well in much need of home / yard repairs or renovations. Through the generous support of suppliers, Stan and the students have done some incredibly wonderful make-overs for families in the community

Stan notes, “Channeling students and industry into charitable projects and knowing that you have affected people’s lives in a positive way is a pretty special feeling.”

Through these measures, Stan has instilled in his students the same passion for the turf / horticulture profession that he has; to be the best that you can be and to give it your all.

As Mark Stoklosa, one of Stan’s former students puts it, "Stan was more like a mentor to his students than a professor. He really wanted us to succeed with our future goals and it was his passion that inspired the students to reach them."

“He would go beyond his duty as a teacher to help us with our studies by offering us advice and support, especially if someone did not have a summer job lined up, he would make sure they got one.” 

Mark went on to say, “Stan never showed up to class in a grumpy mood, always smiling and cheerful; it created a great learning environment."  Many of Stan’s former students have shared the same sentiments characterizing him in the same way. 

In looking back upon his tenure in the turf industry and to the people who had the greatest influence on his career, Stan notes Tom Cook, Professor Emeritus, of Oregon State University. “He instilled in me the importance of treating people right and being down to earth while focusing on the end user’s needs.”

Stan also cites his turf students through his years of teaching, “I have learned a little bit from every turf professional and grad I have connected with, as their attributes and successes become the role models for my students.”

Reflecting upon some of the achievements that Stan cherishes most in his illustrious career thus far, Stan notes the capital projects during his tenure of superintendent at the Vancouver Golf Club in the ‘90’s, his volunteer experiences at national golfing events as well as being an advocate for the turf industry in public forums.

Considering some of the challenges facing the industry, Stan feels that one of the more prevalent is the allure of apparently easier professions that is pulling students away from pursuing a career in golf. Another, in preparing students for a career in turfgrass, is to get them to step out of their comfort zone and realize their full potential as aspiring turfgrass professionals.

In assessing Kwantlen’s Turf Management Program and how it has evolved over the years, Stan comments, “Teaching the basics of turf science and turf care are still essential but the level of detail is more intense in response to product expectations, notably to angles of environmental management, innovative new products and sustainability.” He adds, “Our recent modifications to the program reflect these needs. We have involved more local turf professionals in student classes, lab sessions and other related activities.”

Putting it all into perspective Stan elaborates, “I like to see our program as ‘Growing Good People’, giving students every opportunity to serve their community by integrating lab projects with local needs.”

Among the aforementioned volunteer service to both the industry and community, Stan has his students taking on new initiatives such as introducing local high school students to the profession, working with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome kids and the renovation of a local inner-city kid’s resource.

When looking ahead, Stan has a very positive outlook as to what the future holds for the turf industry. “I am still awed by the incredible variety of a turf manager’s daily life and the complexity of the duties that we juggle. I am very optimistic about the future of the industry due to our resilience and resourcefulness.”

In reflection Stan adds, “When discussing industry camaraderie with people outside of the industry, there is absolutely nothing that comes close to that of the people of the turfgrass industry; always open, always helpful and always sharing."

In looking back at the history of the many good people who have been a part of and contributed to the turf industry; Stan Kazymerchyk is a rarity!

He is a seasoned professional who has experienced almost every aspect of the turf industry, all the while, always giving, always sharing with others; thus enabling others to achieve their goals and successes in the industry.

Stan has given so much and taken so little. He personifies what is at the heart of being professionally and community minded.  Well done Stan!

reprinted with the permission of the BCGSA

Editor's note:  Stan is currently in his fourth year as a WCTA Director and heads the Goose Management Committee.  He has also been integral in bringing the First Green program to Canada and is currently working to help train FASD teens for potential employment on golf courses.