The history of Golden Bears football is full of great players, great team leaders and great coaches, but James Lazaruk is the rare instance of someone who managed to be all three. More remarkably, his time as a member of the Golden Bears coaching staff in the early 1980s coincided with a full-time career as a high school teacher and other coaching duties.
Lazaruk’s contributions to Golden Bears football and to athletics in Alberta will be recognized at the 2017 University of Alberta Alumni Awards on Monday, Sept. 25 when he is inducted into the Sports Wall of Fame.
Lazaruk was pursuing his BSc in geography when he joined the Golden Bears as a centre in 1970. During his time on the offensive line, he helped the Bears make two Vanier Cup Championship runs, claiming one national title in 1972.
“With Jim, it was like having a coach on the field,” said former Golden Bear teammate, fellow educator and lifelong friend Terry Cairns.
After completing his BEd in Secondary Education in 1973, Lazaruk commenced his career at Salisbury Composite High School in Sherwood Park, where he taught math, social studies and phys ed for 33 years. Throughout that time, he remained active in football as a coach with the Salisbury Composite team and Edmonton Wildcats junior team, overseeing championship seasons for both clubs.
In 1979, Lazaruk joined the Golden Bears coaching staff as offensive coordinator, helping the team to win a Vanier Cup in 1980. Following his stint with the Bears, he was head coach of the Salisbury High women’s basketball team, which earned four city championships during his tenure. But Salisbury students are just as likely to remember Lazaruk as a gifted math and social studies teacher who cultivated an atmosphere of respect, discipline and love of learning.
“If you went to Salisbury Composite you eventually got Mr. Lazaruk for math, and everybody loved him,” Cairns said. “He was so enthusiastic about being a teacher that they got enthusiastic. He didn’t have many classroom management problems.”
Attend the 2017 Alumni Awards on Monday, Sept. 25 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium by registering for free tickets at uab.ca/AlumniAwards.