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Outstanding contributions

Researcher and honorary degree recipient named to Order of Canada

Campus and Community

By Jeff Green

Two members of the Memorial community are among 125 new appointments to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.

The announcement was made by Governor General Julie Payette.

The Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Close to 7,000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order.

Dr. Barbara Neis

Dr. Barbara Neis
Dr. Barbara Neis

Dr. Barbara Neis, one of Memorial’s most distinguished social scientists, was named a member of the Order of Canada “for her innovative research on the interactions between work, environment and health in the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond.”

Dr. Neis says the recognition is humbling.

“Canada has more than 30 million people and I know personally many who struggle every day to make it a better place,” she said.

“Most of these people have access to fewer resources and lack the job security and thus the freedom to tackle public issues that come with my position. I am privileged. A big part of that privilege has been the opportunity to work with so many committed community leaders, excellent, established and emerging scholars, and skilled staff and public servants over the past three decades.”

University Professorship

The Order of Canada comes on the heels of another prestigious honour for Dr. Neis. In December, she was named recipient of the John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professorship during the President’s Awards ceremony.

Named for the first president of Memorial University College, the award recognizes faculty who embody the university’s mission by demonstrating exceptional teaching, undertaking world-class research and sharing their knowledge and expertise widely. The award is comprised of a lifetime designation, Distinguished University Professor, and a one-time unrestricted grant ($20,000) to support future research, teaching and/or public engagement activities at Memorial University.

Throughout her career, Dr. Neis has examined critical socio-economic issues, including the collapse of Atlantic cod stocks and its impact on communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Combining rigorous scientific research with a strong concern for the welfare of local populations and the environment, Dr. Neis has distinguished herself in her field. Her interdisciplinary, community-engaged and problem-solving approach to research has often been inspired by issues arising from conversations and observations in the field in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

The pioneering study of workplace allergy and asthma to snow crab she co-designed and co-led has contributed to a better understanding of cumulative exposures, their health and social impacts and barriers to prevention. She is co-founder and co-director of Memorial’s SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research.

She is currently project director for the On the Move Partnership, a pan-Canadian research initiative studying patterns and effects of extended work-related geographical mobility on Canadian workers, families, businesses and communities.

Dr. Calvin White

Dr. Calvin White
Dr. Calvin White
Photo: Lori Lee Hollett

Mi’kmaw elder Dr. Calvin White, who received an honorary degree at Memorial’s convocation ceremony at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook in May 2017, has also been named to the Order of Canada.

Dr. White helped organize families in Conne River and Labrador in the 1960s into a group that became the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI).

He was recognized for his “vital role in the preservation and revival of Indigenous culture in Newfoundland and Labrador” and for his sustained leadership and mentorship within the Mi’kmaw Nation.

“Certainly it is an honour, there’s no question about that, it’s an awesome feeling,” Dr. White said during a conversation with the Gazette.

A former chief of the Flat Bay band and president of the FNI, Dr. White has also served on many national boards, including the Native Council of Canada, the National Indian Brotherhood, the Aboriginal Liberal Commission and the National Council of Welfare.

In the province, he has served on the boards of the Newfoundland and Labrador Friendship Centre, the Rural Secretariat, the Regional Economic Development Board, the Community Business Development Corporation and the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association.

Connections to Memorial

Dr. White has also served the Memorial University community through his collaborations at Grenfell Campus.

For nearly a decade, he has assisted in research projects and community engagement initiatives pursued by Grenfell faculty and staff. He has facilitated a number of Aboriginal talking circles on campus, has worked with faculty on research and participated in the successful 2013 symposium, Maroon and Mi’kmaq: An International Indigenous Exchange, held at Grenfell Campus.

Dr. White received the Commemorative Medal for the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada in 1993 and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015.

He said he hopes being named a recipient of the Order of Canada will inspire young people.

“If you have a vision or dream, all you need is determination,” he said. “The support you need is out there.”

Recipients of the Order of Canada will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.

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