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Artist, scientist honoured by VIU

Piper Wade Calder leads the procession of graduation candidates from Vancouver Island University science, music in jazz studies, interior design, art and education programs to their convocation ceremony at the Port Theatre Monday. A second convocation was held for students graduating from VIU business administration, sustainable leisure management, tourism management and hospitality management programs Tuesday. - Chris Bush photo
Piper Wade Calder leads the procession of graduation candidates from Vancouver Island University science, music in jazz studies, interior design, art and education programs to their convocation ceremony at the Port Theatre Monday. A second convocation was held for students graduating from VIU business administration, sustainable leisure management, tourism management and hospitality management programs Tuesday.
— image credit: Chris Bush photo

Vancouver Island University confered degrees on more than 200 students while recognizing the contributions of an artist and a scientist.

Graduates in arts, education, music, science, business and tourism received their degrees at two convocation ceremonies Monday and Tuesday at the Port Theatre. A total of 218 students received degrees.

Gordon Appelbe Smith, one of the most prominent and prolific artists working in Canada today, received an honorary doctor of letters degree at Monday’s ceremony.

“Throughout his career, Smith has maintained an active presence in the Canadian and international art world,” said Ralph Nilson, VIU president, in a press release.

“His achievements, accomplishments and contributions have been many, and his own standard for excellence and innovation are exemplary to everyone that has the privilege to meet or work with him. It is an extreme honour to recognize this Canadian legend, as he is so deserving of this award.”

Smith received the Order of Canada for his significant contribution to Canadian culture and the Order of British Columbia, as well as many other awards over his lengthy career.

VIU Art Education professor Heather Pastro, who has known Smith for more than 35 years, first met him when she was in art school at the University of British Columbia in 1978.

Born in England, Smith moved to Canada in 1933. During the Second World War, he served overseas as an army intelligence officer. He moved to Vancouver and joined his wife after he was wounded, and completed his studies at the Vancouver School of Art.

Smith taught at VSA from 1946 to 1956, and in the Faculty of Education at UBC as a professor of fine arts from 1956 until his retirement in 1982.

During his career, Smith exhibited from Victoria to New York, capturing first prize in the First Biennial of Canadian Painting show at the National Gallery of Canada for his abstract painting Structure with Red Sun.

Pastro said Smith was always relevant and current in his teaching and research.

“Students knew, then, that we were in the midst of greatness. It was an amazing experience to be in classes with Gordon because the students would lap up every ounce of knowledge and inspiration that Gordon would give. We knew that he was an exemplary role model and we wanted to form our teaching style from his mold.”

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In high school, Lynne Burns never thought about pursuing a career in science. Today, the VIU graduate is one of Canada’s leading experts in bat ecology and conservation.

Burns received the alumni horizon award, which recognizes the outstanding achievements of alumni within 10 years of receiving a credential from VIU, during Tuesday’s convocation ceremony.

Originally from Nanoose Bay, Burns graduated from Ballenas Secondary in Parksville in 1997.

Burns completed a bachelor of science degree (major in biology) at VIU in 2004. Participating in VIU’s tropical field school to Belize in 2003 was “a pivotal moment” in her education and future career.

During the field study, Burns collected data for a fourth-year project which gave her the unique opportunity to conduct research in the tropics on bats.

Burns investigated bat diversity and temporal variation in bat activity in Belize under the supervision of VIU’s biology technician Wendy Simms.

Burns’ pursuit of wildlife research, particularly on bats, continued when in 2007 she completed a Master of Science in Applied Science at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

Her thesis research investigated the effects of forest fragmentation on a forest-dependent bat species on Prince Edward Island.

Burns is currently a doctoral candidate at Dalhousie University. Her research seeks to explore some of the many unknowns surrounding the autumn bat mating and migration period (called swarming).

Burns says the early exposure to hands-on research at VIU shaped her academic journey.

“Conducting your own project fosters the independence and critical thinking that one needs in pursuing science as a career. It sets up students perfectly for graduate school or to enter the scientific work force,” she said.

For more information on the university, please visit www.viu.ca.

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