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Education professor on his political win

Dr. Dale Kirby


By Emilie Bourque Whittle

Dr. Dale Kirby is no stranger to hard work. Growing up on a small farm, his daily routine included chores, school, more chores, then homework. The work ethic he developed in childhood has certainly served him well in adulthood.

Dr. Kirby, an associate professor of education at Memorial, was recently elected as the new St. John's North MHA. He also currently serves as the New Democratic Party's provincial president.

An elected politician may be a new role for him, though this wasn't the beginning of Dr. Kirby's experience with election campaigns. He first ran in St. John's North in 1999 as a 27-year-old grad student at Memorial.

On deciding to run again, Dr. Kirby says he's been very active in the last three years with the NDP.

"I knew this was an election year coming up and I had no real intention to run myself – party president was pretty well as far as I thought I was going to go," he said. "But, this past April and May I was working on Ryan Cleary's election campaign in St. John's South/Mount Pearl and the enthusiasm I saw from people for the New Democratic Party and our message was just incredible. I thought 'Wow, maybe I should do this too.'"

Dr. Kirby says he got a lot of encouragement from Mr. Cleary and Jack Harris, while the federal election in May really moved him to action. The late Jack Layton inspired him, as did our politicians here.

He was nominated the last week in July and canvassed for 10 weeks, handing out 7,000 candidate cards personally.

"I enjoyed the campaign so much," he said. "People were so nice to me. People want passion in politics and I think if they see that a person is passionate about what it is they're trying to do, then it's well-received."

Dr. Kirby said the feeling of winning this seat is similar to a lot of goals he's reached in his life, from earning his degrees right up to accepting his position at Memorial in 2006.

"I'd say it's probably on par with the phone call I got the day that former dean Alice Collins called me and offered me a position here in the Faculty of Education. They're pretty close – it's a major milestone met."

Next on the agenda for Dr. Kirby is sorting out how, and if, he'll try balancing being both a professor and a politician at the same time.

According to the collective agreement between the university and its faculty association, he has two options. He can either be granted leave without pay for up to six years, or he can apply for a reduction in duties with an appropriate reduction in salary.

Dr. Kirby hasn't yet decided which path is best for him, but for now he'll continue teaching three courses until the end of the semester while being a student himself in the political arena.

"I don't think you can be a teacher if you can't be a good student," he said. "You have to have a willingness to learn if you're ever going to have anything to teach. I'll never stop being a student."

Dr. Kirby's not the only one who has both a connection to Memorial and a passion for public service. In the recent election, Memorial students Kurtis Coombs and Noah Davis-Power ran as NDP candidates, while students Drew Brown and Carly Bigelow ran for the Liberals.