Walter KaasaAs an actor, director, and narrator, Walter Kaasa, 1951 BEd, 1993 DLitt (Honorary), has enriched the lives of Edmontonians, Albertans, and Canadians. He has also had a profound influence on arts and culture in Alberta through his contributions as a high-ranking arts and culture administrator.
Kaasa received his BEd from the University of Alberta in 1951 and studied music and speech at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, England. In 1956, Kaasa was appointed coordinator of cultural activities for Alberta's Department of Economic Affairs — at the time, one of just three staff members in the branch.
He began acting at the University of Alberta's Studio Theatre in the 1950s and continued to act with both amateur and professional theatre companies in the evenings and weekends while working for the Alberta government. Kaasa performed a variety of roles, including Caliban from The Tempest, and Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman.
He was later named Alberta's Director of Recreation and Cultural Development, a post he held until 1973. At that time, both areas achieved departmental status and he was named Assistant Deputy Minister of Cultural Development. When he retired from that position in 1982, the Department of Culture had a staff of more than 300.
After retiring from government work, Kaasa continued to act and opened a speech academy where he trained students in the arts of clear enunciation and expressive delivery. He has received many honours, including an honorary degree from the University of Alberta, the Banff Centre of Fine Arts National Award, and appointment to the Order of Canada. The Kaasa Theatre in Edmonton's Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium is named in his honour.