The following year I was in one of the program’s foundation courses,
and Dr. Jenkins was my academic supervisor. The course was continentally
based and I was in the Africa group. My interest and passion for human
rights started there; with his encouragement, I did research on the devastating impact of medical apartheid in South Africa. My growing interest
in the connection between health and human rights led me to later apply
to medical school. I can trace my decision to do humanitarian work in war
zones to the ideas we debated and explored in those classrooms and to the
personal encouragement that professors like Dr. Jenkins gave me.
President and CEO of Desire2Learn, a learning management systems
company based in Waterloo, Ontario
one of the many great teachers who inspired me was a professor at
the University of Waterloo, where I graduated with a degree in systems
design. Ed Jernigan taught me signals and systems. It was a class where you
needed to work hard to stay on track. Some of the key concepts around feedback loops and predictive feedback provided the initial spark of inspiration
for Desire2Learn learning analytics. Dr. Jernigan and I have stayed in touch
over the years. He invites me back to talk with students supported by SHAD
[a Canadian charity that offers enrichment to gifted high school students]
and to learn from knowledge integration, a new cross-disciplinary program
at the university. It’s relationships with teachers and professors like Ed that
have helped me attain my successes in life. I thank them all!
Broadcast journalist and novelist
i had the good fortune to study English literature under the late
The essence of journalism is in the gathering of information, and you
don’t need a lot of writing talent to tell a story about something you’ve just
listened to or witnessed.
Over time, I reported on many human crises and conflict situations.
I eventually realized that I was only making use of a fraction of the information and hardly any of the insight I was acquiring as a journalist.
Then I remembered something else I took away from Father MacSween’s
English class: the quality of literature is to a great extent based upon the
truth we find in the stories and poetry that originate in experience and
survive as part of our cultural memory. I decided to try to process some of
Professor of oceanography, Université Laval, and scientific director
i must have met Bill [William C.] Leggett around 1975, when aquatic
sciences – and environmental sciences in general – were in their
infancy in Quebec. I was an undergraduate working for the summer on
the floating wrecks chartered by GIROQ (now Québec-Océan) to conduct
marine research in the St. Lawrence estuary.
Bill was a dynamic young professor of biology at McGill University.
His talent to plan, cut through red tape, simplify situations, do a lot with
little, build enduring relationships based on friendship, make tough calls
and, in general, to get things going, was impressive – not to mention his
ability to fix the carburetor of the old truck we used for fieldwork. His organizational skills soon earned him the nickname Business Bill and propelled
him up the academic ladder (eventually to principal of Queen’s University
in 1994), but his increasing administrative responsibilities did not thwart
his passion for discovery, publication and training hordes of students.
In 1979, Bill accepted me as a PhD candidate. While most scientific
knowledge must be acquired through your own reading, study, experimentation, and data collection and analysis, there are some things you
can only learn from a mentor like Bill: entrepreneurial spirit, pragmatic
leadership and the drive to use the system strategically to build ever-larger
research capacity in the field. By his example, Bill inculcated in his students the notion that the sky is the limit and that big collaborative science
can be achieved – and at times can even be fun and rewarding. In this new
Anthropocene era, where the challenges we face as scientists are daunting and command large integrated research efforts, that is a precious and
Medical doctor and founder and executive director of War Child Canada
i was extremely fortunate to have spent my undergraduate years in
McMaster University’s special arts and science program. Many of the
program’s inspiring professors had such a formative impact on my life and
career that we remain friends to this day. That the program exists at all, however, is a credit to its creator and program director, Herbert M. Jenkins (now
In my last year of high school, I popped into the program office during
a tour of the university. I had been offered a scholarship to study drama and
19th century Romantic English literature in the U.K. I was also applying to
McMaster’s arts and science program but was worried about my chances of
being accepted. He said: “If you accept this scholarship program, I will tell
you right now, it will only enhance your application. And if you are applying this year and you get in, I will hold your position. Take the opportunity
– it is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.” He was
right. I matured so much in that one year that by the time I came back to
university, I was really ready to start working and apply myself.