This past Nov. 13, two elite members of the international academic community received honorary degrees from UVic. The recipients, Patrick Lane and Dr. George Whitesides, are recognized for achievements in different fields. While the former is honoured for monumental contributions to the abstract world of poetry, the latter is responsible for making significant strides in various scientific disciplines.
One of Canada’s most illustrious poets, Lane is a master wordsmith who, on a consistent basis throughout his distinguished career, has made a habit of bringing together the most intimate and complex features of the human experience with a refined poetic vernacular. Completing no formal education beyond high school, he has become a prolific and respected writer in Canadian and international poetic circles.
While taking jobs such as driving a dump truck in his early youth, Lane convinced himself that his calling in life—writing—would eventually comprise the bulk of his professional and personal livelihoods. To his own delight, his dreams became reality. Now author of over 25 works, including early collections Letters from the Savage Mind (1966) and Separations (1969), and later works such as the novel Red Dog, Red Dog (2008), he has fulfilled his ambition. Lane’s work has been described as incisive, bold, and honest observations on the human condition and natural world.
A recovered user of alcohol and cocaine, addiction has been another strong influence for Lane’s work. From 1986 to 1990, Lane taught at the University of Saskatchewan in creative writing and Canadian literature and then at the University of Victoria from 1991 to 2004. The renowned writer is a long-time Saanich resident and currently remains an adjunct professor here at UVic.
American scientist Dr. George Whitesides also receives an honorary degree from UVic this year. Whitesides has exercised his cognitive muscles in numerous disciplines, including physical and organic chemistry, materials science, biophysics, complexity, surface science, microfluidics, self-assembly, micro- and nanotechnology, science for developing economies, origin of life, and cell-surface biochemistry. According to the h-index, an index that attempts to measure both the productivity and impact of published work written by a scientist or scholar, Whitesides is the highest ranking living chemist in the world.
Juxtaposing the unique route taken by Patrick Lane in forging his own achievements, the distinguished scientist took a more conventional path toward establishing an academic career, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1957 and his Ph.D from the California Institute of Technology in 1964. For the past 30 years, his laboratory has been located at Harvard, where he is a tenured professor, still maintaining active research.
Meanwhile, a dignified George Whitesides was introduced by a brief description of the many contributions he’s made to the scientific world, and in particular, that of medicine. In a witty, self-deprecatingaddress, he reflected on his experiences as an educator and commended the nation of Canada.
Both honorees were greeted with thunderous applause by an incredibly proud and fulfilled collective.