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University gathering

Memorial University to hold spring convocation ceremonies

Student Life

By Mandy Cook

Some 2,500 degrees will be awarded to graduating Memorial University students during 12 sessions of convocation at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre on May 12 and at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre from May 31-June 3.

Along with the newest cohort of spring graduates crossing the stage, Memorial University is presenting three exceptional people with degrees honoris causa at spring ceremonies.

Honorary degrees will be awarded to Lieut.-Gen. (ret.) William Carr, who served nearly 40 years in the Canadian Armed Forces; Dr. Christopher Barnes, professor emeritus at the University of Victoria and former head of Earth Sciences at Memorial; and wheelchair athlete and community activist Joanne MacDonald. Biographies follow below.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen from nominations submitted by the public to the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, after a careful examination of the grounds for their nomination. The honorary doctorate degree is designed to recognize extraordinary contribution to society or the university or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.

Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Memorial’s president and vice-chancellor, will address all sessions of convocation and will be joined by other members of Memorial’s senior administration who will speak at various ceremonies.

For further information about convocation, please visit here. Ceremonies will be broadcast live online at www.mun.ca during each session of convocation. The recorded broadcasts will be archived on Memorial’s convocation website for future viewing.


Lieut.-Gen. (ret.) William Carr

William Carr
William Carr
Photo: Submitted

Regarded today as the “father of the modern Canadian air force,” William Carr was born in 1923 in Grand Bank, on the Burin Peninsula.

After completing his early education at the United Church Academy at age 15, Mr. Carr received a bachelor of commerce degree from Mount Allison University in 1941 and a master of science degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1949.

Upon graduation from Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., in 1941, Mr. Carr joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and flew 142 unarmed photo reconnaissance missions out of England, Malta, Sicily and Italy. For this he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to Canada in 1945 and for the next 33 years served in the Canadian Forces at home and abroad.

Mr. Carr was a member of the team of RCAF airmen involved in the mapping of Canada’s North and the Arctic on float- and ski-equipped aircraft; it was during this period that a newly discovered lake in the Northwest Territories was named Carr Lake in his honour.

In 1960 Mr. Carr, at the invitation of the United Nations, established the Opération des Nations Unies au Congo Air Transport Force, the first multinational air unit of its kind, and was appointed its first commander when it was deployed to the Congo.

Rising steadily through the ranks, in 1974 he was made deputy chief of the Defence staff; he was also made lieutenant-general in that year. During that same period, he was successful in convincing the Defence Council and the government of the day that all Canadian military air force resources should be consolidated as the Armed Forces Branch for Air. For this achievement, he was named commander of the branch and held the position until retirement in 1978.

Upon leaving the Forces, Mr. Carr became a marketing executive and consultant with Canadair/Bombardier and was credited as being the spur that stimulated much of the future successes of Bombardier Aerospace.

In 1976 Mr. Carr was named the recipient of the C.D. Howe award by the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and in 1977 he was made Commander of the Order of Military Merit. In 2001 he was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame and in 2004 he was inducted into the Veterans Hall of Honour.

For his achievements in both military and civil aviation, along with his proven leadership and organizational abilities and their outstanding benefit to Canada, William Carr will be awarded in absentia an honorary doctor of laws degree on Tuesday, May 31, during the 10 a.m. session of convocation in St. John’s.

Dr. Christopher Barnes

Dr. Christopher Barnes
Dr. Christopher Barnes
Photo: Submitted

Currently professor emeritus at the University of Victoria, Dr. Christopher Barnes is arguably Canada’s finest academic leader and visionary in the field of geoscience today.

Following his bachelor of science degree from the University of Birmingham, U.K., in 1961, a doctoral degree from the University of Ottawa in 1964 and a NATO Research Fellowship at the University of Wales, Dr. Barnes began his academic career at the University of Waterloo in 1965 and arrived at Memorial University as professor and head of Earth Sciences in 1981.

While his research focuses on understanding early Paleozoic oceans, climate and life, with nearly 200 publications and 250 conference abstracts on his curriculum vitae, Dr. Barnes is better known for his leadership of academic departments and schools and of national and international bodies and realizing his vision of new ways of observing the Earth as a system.

The creation of Memorial’s Department of Earth Sciences―and its resulting reputation as the best in Canada, if not North America―is credited to him; the construction of the Alexander Murray building on Memorial’s St. John’s campus in the mid-1980s was largely spearheaded and secured by Dr. Barnes, thanks to his successful pursuit of funds from the Atlantic Accord’s Offshore Development Fund.

Dr. Barnes led the charge in Canada of earth sciences as an academic discipline primarily focused on the subsurface Earth and its mineral resources, to a systems approach, in which the solid Earth is considered as just a part of the bigger whole, resulting in a paradigm shift of geoscience theories.

He has revolutionized marine science in developing and directing the NorthEast Pacific Time-Series Undersea Networked Experiments (NEPTUNE Canada), which enables continuous underwater observations off the coast of British Columbia―a $140-million megaproject and the first in the world to cover a tectonic plate.

Dr. Barnes was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and given its Bancroft Award in 1982, given the Geological Association of Canada’s J. Willis Ambrose Medal in 1991, its Elkanah Billings Medal in 2005 and the association’s highest award, the Logan Medal, in 2010. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1996.

For his inspiring leadership in the field of earth sciences, his globally recognized research in micropalaeontology and his broad vision, and its implementation, of how we should enhance our knowledge and understanding of Earth, Dr. Christopher Barnes will be awarded an honorary doctor of science degree on Wednesday, June 1, at the 10 a.m. session of convocation in St. John’s.

Joanne MacDonald

Joanne MacDonald
Joanne MacDonald
Photo: Submitted

Born in St. John’s in 1952 and raised in St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Bay, Joanne MacDonald is one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s leading citizens. By her example and her advocacy, Ms. MacDonald has made a significant impact on the recognition and inclusion of persons with disabilities.

A determined and accomplished wheelchair athlete, Ms. MacDonald received major recognition from the time she entered competition in 1973. During her sports career, she was an elite athlete, a builder and a coach. From basketball to table tennis and from slalom to track and field, Ms. MacDonald brought home 61 medals as well as numerous national and world records while competing at events and Olympiads in Canada, Europe and South America.

She has continued her athletic career by becoming the founder and first skip of Team MacDonald, the inaugural wheelchair curling team in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in 2014 was an alternate on the national wheelchair curling team in the Sochi, Russia, Paralympic Games.

All the while, Ms. MacDonald worked tirelessly to develop wheelchair sports. She held a variety of positions in sports organizations, such as the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and the Wheelchair Sports Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

After her athletic retirement in 1984, Ms. MacDonald threw herself into community activism, promoting equality and dispelling the myths and stereotypes surrounding persons with disabilities. She has been an active force on numerous community and government groups, such as the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres, the Provincial Advisory Council on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador.

She furthered these efforts through her choice of employment: first working in the field of rehabilitation, then community organizations and subsequently with the federal government in social and policy development, work that led her to be awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 1992.

More accolades include the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association’s Athlete of the Year Award in 1976 and the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Federation’s Athlete of the Decade (1970s). She was named an Outstanding Young Canadian and given the Vanier Award by Canada Awards in 1979 and was awarded the International Achievement Award by the Sports Federation of Canada in 1980. Ms. MacDonald was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, made a member of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2004 and made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2007.

For her national and international achievements as an athlete and for her achievements as an advocate for persons with disabilities, Joanne MacDonald will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree on Thursday, June 2, during the 10 a.m. session of convocation in St. John’s.

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