Bob’s OSA acceptance speech from 2008

I want to thank the Academy for this award. [LAUGHTER]

I always wanted to say that.

And thank you to the Board of Governors, the president, those who nominated me, and especially to my son, the dean. [when I got to “my son, the dean” I was swept by emotion; recovered]

I came to Malaspina in 1969 with my wife, Karen and our three children. We were planning on staying for two years. Thirty years later I retired from a much different institution. And now thirty-nine years later I am lucky to stand in front of this graduating class. I am lucky to be with the same wife. [APPLAUSE] And lucky to be able to celebrate the accomplishments of our three healthy and happy children and our four grandsons. I feel deeply about the fact that there are friends in the audience who were in my classes in those early years, students who became and remain friends.

In my allotted minutes I want to talk about evolution. Evolution applies not only to biology, not only to families, but also to cultural institutions. When I came to Malaspina we were housed in an old hospital on Kennedy Street in the center of a town of about 30,000. I have fond memories of those first days and months. On my way to my very first English class I stopped at an as yet unmarked restroom, pushed open the door to a stall and saw a young woman sitting on the throne. Backing away quickly I left to find another location. When I arrived in class there in the front row was the young woman I had interrupted. We looked at each other and both blushed and grinned. I told the class the story and we all laughed. It was a good start to a new class in a new institution.

Now Malaspina is VIU and looks out from its many buildings on top of the hill over a city of about 80,000. We started with a faculty of about forty; now there are 400.

Universities are only about 2,500 years old. As most of you know, Plato was the founder of the first university, the Academy, the Platonic Academy, where Aristotle came to study. Plato was, above all, a teacher. This, in turn, spawned other philosophical schools throughout the Greek world and later, the Roman world. With the demise of Rome these philosophical academies were absorbed into the medieval monasteries. These, in turn, became the basis of the first European universities in places like Bologna, Paris, and Oxford.

These were, in turn, later transplanted to the New World and established in towns like Cambridge, New Haven, Fredericton, and Toronto. We can say today that Vancouver Island University is a direct ancestor of Plato’s Academy. I deeply feel that connection.

And on a day like today we can try to look into the future and plan for the shape of our academy in the next decades of its short life. We here must work to keep a connection between the Malaspina of the past and the VIU of the future. Malaspina emerged from the planning, the needs, and the desires of a mid-Island community of citizens who worked tirelessly to urge politicians and educational leaders to found a community college in their midst. Malaspina emerged. And it has evolved. And it will continue to evolve. And as it does let us never forget that it came from the community, from the citizens of our area.

Let me quote here from another old-timer, my colleague Ian Johnston, who wrote “there was a time, corny or not, when what some people most cared about was Malaspina College itself (rather than their own little corner of it) and when they were prepared to work to make the whole place as fine as it could possibly be” – that spirit is the heritage that must never be lost.

And to you (turning toward the graduating class), the graduating classes, I say, remember the academy, help it to evolve intelligently, and whatever you choose to do as you go into the future, do it to the best of your ability.

(The speech given upon receipt of the VIU Outstanding Service Award. Also available here as a scratchy video. And a VIU report.)

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