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Bernard S. Jackson

Biographical information

Bernard S. Jackson has been involved in the agriculture business since the young age of 16 when he worked as a trainee on farms in Britain. He worked for a short time with the Hudson Bay Company before joining the Government of Newfoundland in 1958 where he worked for 10 years, first with the wildlife division and later as a naturalist with the provincial parks. He joined the Memorial University Botanical Garden in 1971 where he created and managed the gardens until 1993.

Mr. Jackson holds a certificate in public administration from Memorial University (1971) and a diploma in horticulture from Guelph University (1977). Throughout his professional career he has remained a naturalist and conservationist publishing more than 35 articles in nature magazines and writing and contributing to numerous booklets, book chapters and various publications.

Among his many awards and accolades, Mr. Jackson is a fellow of the Linneaen Society of London, a Life Fellow of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, an Honorary Associate of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (2003), and has been the recipient of the Professional Citation from the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (1990). He received the Conservation Award from the Canadian Wildflower Society (1991); the Tuck/Walters Conservation Award (1993); Honorary Life Memberships in the Newfoundland Horticultural Society (1993) and the Friends of the Memorial University Botanical Garden; and the Meritorious Service Award from the Memorial University Pensioners Association (1999).

Oration honouring Bernard Jackson
Given by Shane O'Dea, Public orator

It was often wondered whether Bernard Jackson fled England in the wake of the controversy over the republication of D.H. Lawrence's novel, Lady
Chatterley's Lover, in its time a byword for sexual athletics. What is the connection? Well, the central male character is a gamekeeper, Jackson's original calling. It has been said that the unfortunate publicity afforded gamekeeping's extra-curricular skill effected a remarkable decline in the profession. Perhaps this is why we were lucky to get Bernard Jackson on our side of the water in 1957. And he certainly was able to put his job as gamekeeper to use at Oxen Pond. Once when patrolling the park he encountered a couple in the bushes enjoying more than the flowers. While observing that they were more (or less, depending on your notions of propriety) than naturally clad, he was appalled to note that the male member of the party was very quick to whip the blanket out from beneath the lady in order to protect his dignity, little concerned about hers. Jackson was more appalled by the gentleman's lack of chivalry than by the couple's questionable conduct. But that sort of attitude, and his tweeds and a dog at his heel, is the reason why the volunteers regularly addressed him as The Squire.

They also admired and were much encouraged by his palpable enthusiasm for all things he dealt with. He would, during one of the Garden's fund-raising plant sales, often became so eloquent about the virtues of a particular item that he would not only convince the enquiring customer but also all the volunteers within earshot so that the item disappeared off the sale table at that moment. One can only hope the plant purchased was not one of those few weeds that Bernard Jackson was unable to recognize. Once when he was weeding the rockery, he came across a strange new specimen. The younger members of the crew collapsed in laughter when it was shown to them and they were immediately able to identify it as marijuana.

However, Vice-Chancellor, do not fear that the park is a grow-op. You are spared that embarrassment but do note that embarrassment may have been its mother. The Oxen Pond Botanical Park was brought into being because the university had been judged less than environmentally conscious when it improperly destroyed a biologist's bird collection. The creation of the garden was an attempt to assert that the university was concerned about such matters. It has since become one of this university's great prides and Bernard Jackson has been a principal in its development. It was he who developed the volunteer base which made the garden such a remarkable community effort and kept it running through times when declining budgets might well have seen it disappear. When he needed an office building he asked the university but when the price came in at $750,000 the answer was, "No." So Bernard offered to do the building for $100,000 but had to be given a free hand in the contracting. To that the university said, "Yes," and it was built for $90,000 with Bernard returning the extra $10,000 to an amazed Mose Morgan, a credit he was ever after able to draw on.

Great at improvisation, he was also very good at interpretation, producing 10 pamphlets for the park on birds, butterflies, nature photography and gardening. One important project he undertook was to record and collect "Heritage Plants," plants that had been commonly grown here and that had demonstrated a capacity to survive this climate. He also encouraged people to look at cultivating in their own gardens plants that could work for Newfoundland and, in so doing, gave a new impetus to the local horticultural industry and to the now general interest in gardening. Fellow of the Linnaean Society and life member the Newfoundland Horticultural Society and the Friends of the Garden, winner of an award for nature photography at the New York World's Fair and the Aldridge Science Public Awareness Award, Bernard Jackson, through his work at the Botanical Garden has created a remarkable facility for the better understanding of nature. Chancellor I present to you for the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, he who cultivated our own small Eden, Bernard Jackson.

Address to convocation

I would like to thank the Senate for this great honour. It is particularly important to me because of the high esteem in which I hold Memorial University and the affection I have for this beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Thanks also to those kind individuals who sponsored me. And last but by no means least I would like to thank, most sincerely, all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for giving me the opportunity to work for 35 years with the things I love.

There have been many experiences and adventures along the way. Some for instance being caught out on the sea ice above Nain at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit when a strong wind blew up I could quite gladly have done without. But others were really quite exciting such as when a good friend and colleague and I accidentally release two large, very large, rattlesnakes and a water moccasin onto the floor of the deputy minister's office. Fortunately the DM's background was in wildlife management and so he, I believe, found the experience quite exhilarating!

And now, as a conservationist, I would like to make a few comments on two different aspects of conservation. The first concerns the conservation of our natural world. I am not going to regale you with a batch of depressing figures for we have all heard of the depletion of the rain forests, climate change, or the melting of the polar icecap and, here in Newfoundland, the destruction of our fishery and the pollution of our offshore waters with the illegal dumping of bunker oil.

Many well informed and knowledgeable scientists now believe that you are the last generation that can ensure the preservation of this world as we know it. It is up to your generation to rectify the mistakes of mine. Remember, however, what Albert Einstein said: "The kind of thinking that has gotten us into this situation is not the kind of thinking that will get us out of it."

I also like to remember the 1855 words of Chief Seattle in his impassioned plea to the president of the United States to protect the Indian way of life. In it he said, "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth, if men spit upon the ground they spit upon themselves." Looking back one wonders how anybody had the temerity to label him an "ignorant savage!"

The second aspect of conservation I'd like to mention is the conservation of your heritage, your characteristics, and your way of life. Apart from the many successful individuals that have passed through this university over the years this province is known for its authors, its poets, its artists, its musicians and its friendliness to outsiders. This reputation is worth safeguarding.

You must also remember your military history. I am able to stand here today, in front of you, because many young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, along with many other young men and women, died to make such things possible. Remember how Sir Winston Churchill described your fishermen and small boatmen as "Better than the Best."

In a world that seems forever changing, not always for the better, these things are well worth preserving. It is up to you young people to make it so.

In finishing, my wish for you is that you have as happy, as fulfilling and as rewarding a life as I have had.

Thank you.