Mike Savage (BA’79)
Grad Year: Class of ‘79
Degree: Bachelor of Arts (History)
Known then as: Spike Dutch, Doc (And a few other “unmentionable” nicknames…)
Current role: Halifax mayoral candidate
Previous roles: Member of Parliament Dartmouth – Cole Harbour, VP Business Development with M5 Marketing
Dal Gazette: Where could you be found most often on campus while you were at Dalhousie?
Mike Savage: I could be found the SUB (Student Union Building), particularly the pool hall, and at the A&A building.
DG: What was your biggest distraction while you were at Dal?
MS: Like many of my peers, my social life was a distraction—dances, parties and other such social events.
DG: What was your favourite cafeteria food on campus?
MS: I made a point of having a very healthy balanced menu when I was at Dal: grilled cheese in the morning, fish and chips at lunch and donairs for dinner. Twice a month I would eat an orange.
DG: What is your favourite Dal memory?
MS: I met my wife while I was at Dal. We have been married for 25 years. Also, Professor P.B. Waite, who was in the History department, used to teach to a large first year class and he was the quintessential old-style lecturer. He would walk back and forth at the front of class, swishing his robes and talking about the history of Canada, telling us about what books we should be reading with a glass of sherry over the holiday season.
DG: How did your Dal experience prepare you for your current role?
MS: Having a BA from Dal was a very valuable tool because it provided me a great general understanding of people and life. The breadth of it was useful for the work I have done in management and business and as a politician. My time at Dal also taught me about how to interact with people—both the educational and life experiences the university provided were very valuable..
DG: What inspired you to get involved in public service?
MS: A combination of factors made me interested in public service. My parents were heavily involved in the community, which had a large impact on me. As I too got involved in issues, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, literacy issues and the food bank, I realized that I wanted to continue to increase my impact, which I felt I could do in elected office.
DG: What aspects of your career to date have you enjoyed the most or found the most rewarding?
MS: I spent 20 years in business, which I really enjoyed, including working at Nova Scotia Power and for Irving, and I also really enjoyed working with Robertson Surrette—a small business with great people. In terms of public life, I was honoured to have been the critic for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada under two leaders, Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, where I spent a lot of time working on issues such as post-secondary education. My last few years as a MP were spent working on issues including poverty reduction and disability which had a significant impact on me, particularly seeing the need to address lack of access to opportunities.
DG: Do you have any words of wisdom for current Dal students—for example, something you wish you had known when you were a student?
MS: First, you never know where your university buddies may end up. One might end up being Premier of Nova Scotia (I was at Dal with Darrell Dexter!).
It’s great being able to go back to campus and see all the amazing people and things that are going on. I recently was involved in the Telus World Skins golf game and got to play golf with two equally charismatic people, Tom Traves and Kevin Costner. I was also recently at the Kenneth C. Rowe School of Management and was so impressed to see how the university has combined history with modern progressive approaches to education.