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Three professors receive Canada's highest scholarly accolade

By Janet Harron

In a record-breaking achievement, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has named three Memorial University professors to the society. Out of the 12 new fellows (2008) from the English Division of Humanities within the RSC, a quarter of them are from Memorial.

No other university in Canada has this many fellows within this division in 2008 and Memorial has never had this many new fellows in one year.

Election to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) is considered the highest academic honour in Canada.

Dr. Gerald Pocius, University Research Professor and member of both the Archaeology and Folklore departments; Dr. Beverley Diamond, director of the MMaP Research Centre and the Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology; and Dr. David Bell, University Research Professor and member of the Religious Studies Department, have been named to the prestigious society.

In citing Dr. Pocius’ accomplishments, the RSC refers to him as “English Canada’s leading interpreter of ordinary objects.” By looking at how everyday things are used, the society goes on to comment, Dr. Pocius, “has produced studies both sensitive and rigorous, earning him international standing as a scholar. While trained as a folklorist, he is a true interdisciplinarian.”

Dr. Pocius, who is also the director of the Centre for Material Culture Studies, has researched and written on a variety of topics and has worked on many aspects of Newfoundland folklore and popular culture. He has published three books to date, including A Place to Belong (2001) which won the prestigious Chicago Folklore Prize and the Cumming Awards from the Vernacular Architecture Forum in the U.S. Since 2002, he has worked extensively with UNESCO, the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on intangible cultural heritage issues.

The Royal Society of Canada calls Dr. Diamond “a guiding voice in contemporary ethnomusicology in Canada” and “an inspiring mentor to more than 70 MA and PhD students” and credits her for developing cross-cultural perspectives on gendered musical practices. Dr. Diamond is the country’s only senior research chair in music.

Regarding Dr. Bell, the Royal Society comments on his “wide-ranging work” that has “significantly expanded our knowledge of medieval and early modern intellectual history, especially monastic intellectual history.” The author of 16 books, Dr. Bell is also recognized by the Society as a “pioneer and leader” in terms of his contributions to bibliographical research, manuscript studies, the history of libraries, and the learning and literacy of medieval nuns.

“This is an opportunity to be part of a nationwide community of scholars,” Dr. Bell said. "I'm sure I speak for Jerry and Bev when I say that this is an important recognition of the work we love to do and we are suitably honoured by being singled out in this way.”

The RSC elects members from all branches of learning who have achieved national and international recognition by publishing learned works or original research in the arts, humanities and sciences. Founded in 1882, the country’s oldest scholarly organization currently has about 1,800 fellows.

The RSC undertakes a wide range of activities to promote learning and research in the arts and sciences. It also organizes international exchanges and visiting scholar programs with similar national academies, and promotes Canadian participation in projects and conferences around the globe.

The three Memorial fellows will be inducted into the Royal Society’s ranks at a ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 15, in Ottawa. More information can be found at