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Oration honouring David Allan Vardy

Fall convocation Friday, Oct. 21

The patron saint of civil servants is Sir Thomas More, the Tudor public servant whose integrity, dedication, passionate commitment to his country and extraordinary capacity for working every hour that God gave for the good of others, and not the adulation of the crowd, set the standard for excellence in the civil service that few have met. This choice of patron saint is a profoundly ironic, even cautionary, one as civil servants know all too well what happened when Sir Thomas said "No" to his master. He was beheaded. Nevertheless, four centuries later, and for four decades, David Allan Vardy has not only met Sir Thomas More's exacting standards, but surpassed them -- and has always spoken truthfully to his masters. Even though throughout Dave Vardy's career he has been close to the potency and the panic of power, he has diligently and impartially served the interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador through the premierships of Frank Moores, Brian Peckford, Clyde Wells, Brian Tobin and Danny Williams. Through times of dramatic changes in our economy, resource management and governance, this Newfoundland born and bred civil servant was no Sir Humphrey Appleby -- the cynical manipulator of ineffectual and foolish politicians in the popular TV series Yes Minister. By contrast, without fear or favour, Dave Vardy fulfilled the exacting duties that lie behind his all-encompassing titles of deputy minister of Planning and Priorities and clerk of the Executive Council and secretary to the Cabinet, president and CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Institute of Fisheries and Marine Technology, deputy minister of Fisheries, chair and CEO of the Public Utilities Board, Channing Fellow in Public Policy and associate director of the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development at Memorial University. Dave was never one to seek the limelight, nevertheless, his vision inspired others to strive for excellence and search for solutions to seemingly intractable problems, because Dave was a man they trusted and respected. His large expectations that a great province is built on just management and sound policy decisions countered the negativity and small-mindedness that threatened development. Mr. Chancellor, not only does Dave Vardy have the big ideas that inspire others, but he is that rare individual who can turn these ideas into reality. Anyone working with Dave Vardy knew they could expect a call from him day or night if he needed information and action on the urgent issues of the day, and they were happy to respond because they respected his passionate commitment to the province. His pattern of direct and civil engagement with everyone involved in the causes and issues of the day meant great ideas were given life in our vibrant democracy. Educated at this university and at Toronto and Princeton universities, Dave Vardy designed the structures that led to success. He led by example, building teams of people with the brightest and most independent minds in the province, preparing rigorous, lengthy documents to guide ministers through the complex issues in resource management in forestry, fisheries, oceans and education. Through many hours of negotiations with the federal and provincial governments and the United Nations, he contributed to ensuring the viability of the mill in Corner Brook, to establishing the offshore energy agreement and royalty rights in the Atlantic Accord and he transformed the small college on Parade Street into a world-class international institution for fisheries and marine resources on Ridge Road. He brought the same energy to his volunteer work with the Autism Society and Rotary. Mr. Chancellor, Sir Thomas More established the high principles for public service, and Dave Vardy has more than fulfilled More's legacy, as well as the legacy of his mentors, the great presidents of Memorial University, Moses Morgan and Leslie Harris, and he has done this without losing his head, either metaphorically or literally, to the powerful. Having transformed the image of the civil servant, perhaps it is time for David Allan to take up a new appointment— as special adviser to that other Allan, Allan Hawco, to write a new TV series — this one set in the corridors of power in Confederation Building, provisionally titled No Minister, Not on my Watch. Mr. Chancellor, Dave Vardy has shared our passion and dreams and through his exemplary career has proved that dreams don't have to be unrequited and that we can build a prosperous society in our world here in Newfoundland and Labrador, not elsewhere. For his constant service, commitment to the province and legacy of excellence, I ask you to confer on David Allan Vardy the degree of doctor of laws (honoris causa).

Dr. Annette Staveley
Public deputy orator
To read David Vardy's convocation address,
please visit