In the third of four spotlights on the 2012 Alumni Tribute Award winners we feature Lieutenant-Governor John Crosbie, the 2012 winner of the J.D. Eaton Alumni award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to Memorial and Newfoundland and Labrador. He is one of Canada's most prominent public figures and a steadfast ambassador of the university and the province. During his time as chancellor of Memorial, he was an incredible advocate for the advancement of the university and for the importance of education. In this interview with Gazette contributor Jennifer Batten, he recounts his experiences in the public eye and the importance of Memorial to the prosperity of Newfoundland and Labrador.
JB: You have received many awards over the course of your distinguished career. What sets this award apart from the others?
JC: This award comes from Memorial, our own local university, the only university in Newfoundland and Labrador. That's what makes it unique and valuable to me. I am very appreciative of recognition from the institution where I served as chancellor for more than 13 years.
JB: You have made significant contributions to the prosperity of our province and to the success of the university. What are some of the highlights of your career?
JC: In my 28 years in politics I was always very involved and I often stood out for taking positions that mightn't have always been popular. That's probably what I'm most pleased about – that over the course of my career with the provincial and federal governments, I stood my ground and wasn't afraid to speak my mind. One of the most interesting and important things I was involved in was my struggle with Mr. Smallwood and my decision to leave the Liberal party at the time. When Mr. Smallwood was at his peak, behaving, in my opinion, very autocratically, I decided I couldn't take any more, which was probably one of the greatest challenges I had in my career, but definitely a highlight as well. Later, when I moved on to the federal government, one of the most important events I was involved in was the conflict with Mr. Trudeau's government over who was going to control Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil and gas resources. Eventually we arrived at an arrangement whereby we would jointly administer the resources and jointly share the revenues, which has been very beneficial for the province. That was a very important issue for the province at the time and I was definitely proud of the outcome. Those two events involved going against the tide and standing up for what I believed in. In my opinion, if you're not prepared to take risks you're not doing your job. I think it's very important to be involved in public affairs. When I finish my term as lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, I fully intend to exercise my rights as a citizen of this province, and express my views on public issues. I'm going to follow the advice of Martin Luther King Jr. who said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
JB: What would you like to see in Memorial's future?
JC: I want to see Memorial continue to be independent. I've always agreed with Mr. Smallwood's policy that we should concentrate on having one university in Newfoundland and Labrador so we can lavish all our attention and assets on that university to ensure it is the best institution it can be. I believe we've done that. Memorial is a very important asset for this province and I'm proud of its impact.
JB: In your opinion, what role does Memorial play in the future prosperity of the province?
JC: I would say that Memorial is critically important to the province. The university must continue along its current path, continually improving teaching and facilities, as is being done right now. As I said earlier, I also think the independence of a university is paramount to its success, no matter where in the world it is located.