Peter Watts Memorial Grant
Preserving a legacy while financially helping students
Two weeks ago U Sports (formerly CIS), the national brand of university sports, announced the launch of the Peter Watts Memorial Grant (PWMG) to honour the well-known and incredibly skilled sports journalist and broadcaster Peter Watts, who died last year at the age of sixty-eight. Valued at $3,000, this new grant will not only provide significant financial help for the lucky university student recipient, entering the field of journalism, media studies or communications, but will also be an excellent way to honour Peter Watts and the impact he had within Canadian sports journalism.
Peter Watts’ involvement in sports journalism and broadcasting began while he was still a student attending Queen’s University. In 1971, he played a leading role in the establishment of CFRC, a student-led radio station for Queen’s University which still exists, almost fifty years later. In 1977, shortly after graduating, he joined CBC Sports in Edmonton. During his time there, he had the privilege of covering major news sports stories, such as the Edmonton Eskimos Grey Cup wins (1978-1982), Wayne Gretzky’s arrival to the Edmonton Oilers, as well as that team’s Stanley Cup wins. He also reported on major sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games in 1978 and again in Brisbane, four years later. In 1984, Watts became one of the original anchors of TSN Sports Desk, in its very first year. During his time with TSN, he covered many exciting stories and sporting events, including the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 games in Calgary.
Watts was also involved with “various [other] media outlets, [including] CKLC, CKWS . . . and Chorus Radio Calgary.” According to TSN and Global articles about his death. Near the end of his career he also became a regular host of the Alberta Morning News, broadcasted on 770 CHR, as well as 630 CHED. While there he reported on a variety of topics, such as sports, national disasters and politics.
In addition to having a successful work career, Watts was also a strong advocate and supporter of university level sports and student-athletes. This is demonstrated by the coverage he provided to amateur sporting events over the course of his time at TSN. Watts not only reported on, but also hosted live coverage for numerous inter-university Athletic Union (known now as U Sports), games.” For Watts, it was important to not only tell, but also give attention to the sporting events which were often ignored within mainstream media. According to Mark Milliere, senior vice-president and general manager of TSN, Watts “was especially passionate about amateur athletes and [was always eager for] the opportunity to tell their stories” (according to an online TSN article). Watts was also a member of the organizing committee for the BLG awards, which honoured the talent and performance of university student athletes in various university sporting events and competitions.
When asked how this memorial grant came to be, Watt’s sister, Linda, stated that it grew out of a desire to preserve Peter’s legacy. “It was Peter’s nature to help/teach others.” Throughout the course of Watts’ successful forty-year career, as indicated by many individuals who knew and worked with him, Watts always demonstrated a sincere willingness to help individuals new to the field of journalism and broadcasting. “By establishing this grant, we are hopefully preserving his legacy . . . [and helping] as many students as we can both now and in the coming years.”
Beginning this upcoming fall, September 2020, the PWMG will be awarded to a first-year student entering a Canadian university in the subject of journalism, media studies or communications. According to Linda, first-year students were chosen as the recipient group because the idea was to give individuals “a boost start to their career in a field that Peter loved.”
As emphasized on the promotional flyer published by U SPORTS, the intention with this memorial grant is for it to be awarded annually for the next six years.
When asked about the process involved with setting up this grant, John Bowers, the U Sports director of marketing and communications explained that it was not quick, or easy. “U Sports was approached about this grant by . . . Linda and Paul, [as well as] past colleagues and friends of Peter’s.” From there, multiple “discussions and conference calls have taken place to ensure [that] this grant is set up and communicated as per each parties’ expectations.”
Despite the role U SPORTS has had in promoting the grant, it was the Peter Watts Memorial Media Foundation who originally thought of and made the grant possible. This foundation was created by Peter’s brother Paul, sister Linda, as well as “Lisa Bowers, a TSN coworker and Don Metzi, Peter’s camera man [of] many years,” according to John Bowers.
The $18,000 involved in the six-year commitment of the PWMG “was raised from [a] crowd funding campaign upon Peter’s passing with significant contributions from TSN and Calgary Sports and Entertainment.”
Applications for the PWMG are currently being accepted from now until March 31 and can be emailed to PWmemorialgrant@usports.ca.
Within their application, students must include all of the following: a copy of their resume, a short (1000-word max) essay explaining why this subject field is important for them to pursue and an example of their writing. After the deadline, all of the applications will be reviewed by a “selection panel . . . comprised of veteran industry professionals who worked with Peter over the last forty years,” with the award recipient being contacted at a later date.
Watts is remembered as a genuine individual with a strong work ethic, “revered for his professionalism, journalistic integrity and passion for his craft” (as indicated on an online Global News article). He became a well-respected individual, not only by coworkers, “many of whom’, as Linda stated, “considered him their mentor,” but also by people all over Canada. By bringing media attention to university levels sports, he significantly and positively influenced both the present and future of university sports. Although Peter Watts will surely be missed, this memorial grant excellently ensures that his legacy will live on and never be forgotten.