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Three Memorial alumni named to the Order of Canada

By Emilie Bourque Whittle

The newest 66 recipients of the Order of Canada were announced by the governor general's office on Dec. 30. Three of them are very important to Memorial's past, present and future.

Perhaps the most familiar name of the three is that of Rick Hillier, who served as chief of the defence staff, the highest-ranking position in the Canadian Forces, from 2005-08. Canada's former top soldier is also well-known in this province as Memorial's chancellor.

He is receiving the award of officer of the Order of Canada. Mr. Hillier attended Memorial University from 1972-75, where he earned a bachelor of science degree. During those years, he also began his military career when he enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1973.

Born in Campbellton, Notre Dame Bay, Mr. Hillier said he was eager to face new challenges after reaching the pinnacle of his military career.

"It is a chance to put our shoulder behind what's good about the university and what's good about the university's part in our province and our province's part in Canada and Canada's part in the world," he said in 2008.

Another Newfoundlander on the list who has made a tremendous impact is Dr. Nigel Rusted, Memorial's oldest living alumni at the age of 104. He is receiving the award of member of the Order of Canada.

Dr. Rusted was a member of the inaugural class of Memorial University College in 1925 and received his diploma in arts and sciences in 1927. He went on to attend Dalhousie medical school in Halifax.

As reported in the Globe and Mail, most of his career was spent in the operating rooms of St. John's, where he pioneered a number of surgeries and was the first to perform more than half a dozen procedures.

"I did about 560 cleft lips and palates, and that made a real difference in a lot of people's lives," he said. On receiving the Order of Canada, he said: "It's about the last honour I can get so I appreciate that very much."

Last but not least, Newfoundlander Thomas Dawe is also receiving the award of member of the Order of Canada.

Mr. Dawe, who hails from Long Pond, Conception Bay South, earned two bachelor's degrees at Memorial, one in arts and the other in education, and obtained his M.A. in 1976. Before joining Memorial's team in 1969, he taught for six years at a school in Lewisporte.

Known not only for his poetry and children's literature, Mr. Dawe is also a visual artist. His work often draws on folklore, mythology, autobiography and Newfoundland culture, particularly the experience of growing up in a Newfoundland outport community. He is heralded for his unique writing style, once called "Newfoundland's Dr. Seuss" in a Telegram review.

Though these recipients were announced in late December, no date has been set for the Order of Canada ceremony as of yet.