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Vol 37  No 15
June 9, 2005


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Address to convocation

Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper

 

Distinguished representatives of Memorial University, dear graduates, ladies and gentlemen.

When I received the message from President Meisen of Memorial University that I would be awarded with an honorary doctorate I was more than surprised. This message left me speechless! What a great honour ­ and I wish to thank you for your appreciation of my contribution to international cooperation and understanding, in particular in my area of interest, which is sport, physical education and sport science. Although this honorary doctorate is given to me as an individual, it is clearly awarded to a team of players, of which I am one, and I am sharing this honour with all of the colleagues and students who have worked with me.

The year 2005 is for many of us a very special year: for you the graduates of Memorial University it marks the year of graduation and the start into a new phase of your professional life. You have already met many challenges to complete your studies and many more important decisions lie ahead for you. I want to encourage you to accept new challenges and to continue to follow your dreams and visions. As professionals we aim to pursue a successful career. However, it is also important ­ from my perspective ­ to make a contribution to society, at the local community level or at the national or international levels, as part of our social responsibility, which goes beyond our area of expertise.

There are graduates from a number of different degrees here today ­ some from my discipline of physical education, recreation and sport/kinesiology, and others from the Faculty of Arts ­ in fact, this may be the first time that you have sat in the same room with people from these other disciplines since first-year mathematics or psychology. I hope it is not the last time you sit together. Modern problems are complex, and require the skills and knowledge of many different disciplines to find real-world solutions. Currently we are facing many health-related problems, e.g. the dramatic increase of obesity. Solutions can only be found based on scientific research coming from different disciplines and the implementation of specifically tailored action plans taking social economical, environmental and cultural aspects into consideration. Good research needs the contributions of experts from different scientific backgrounds, such as sociology, political sciences, history to name but a few.

When I started my life at university as a student in physical education and sport science in Berlin, Germany, I volunteered to work with children with a disability. Some 30 years ago, this was quite unusual and many people were surprised that I would make such a choice. Over time my interest kept growing and growing and today I hear comments like “you made the right decision,” but it was definitely not part of a strategic plan at that time. It is very difficult, if not impossible to plan one’s career and I have learned that most successful careers come from a very solid education and from seizing the many, sometimes small opportunities that life presents. Being involved in professional and volunteer activities exposes you to those opportunities!

I was involved in a specialization area with a small knowledge base so it was inevitable that I needed to look out for developments in other parts of the world, to learn from colleagues worldwide and to link this specific area into a broader context. This has now led me to a most exciting opportunity to be both a professor at a university and president of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE), my current volunteer position, an organisation of more than 250 different organizations and institutions world-wide dedicated to sharing knowledge, particularly between the developed and developing countries of the world. The International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education offers a global forum for the exchange of scientific knowledge coming from different disciplines and provides an opportunity to access information of examples of good practice from all regions of the world. An important part of the mission is to advocate for the benefits related to an active lifestyle and the ethical values inherent in physical education and sport. It is a unique global network and serves as an adviser to many international organisations, such as the IOC, UNESCO and WHO.

It is a very special honour to receive the honorary doctorate in 2005, the year that has been proclaimed by the United Nations to be the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. This year offers a unique opportunity to highlight the role of sport and physical education in four key areas: education, health, development and peace. It also emphasises the potential of physical education and sport to contribute to global development plans such as the Millennium Development Goals.

We all have a social responsibility, regardless of our professional training and position, to make a contribution to an improved quality of life for all people and to practise an inclusive approach that empowers and encourages everyone.

Thank you for an inspiring experience here at Memorial University of Newfoundland and I wish you all the best, both professionally and personally.

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