Today is a special day in Memorial University’s Chemistry Department – a special day that comes along just once every four years – and we’re not talking about Leap Day. Around here, Feb. 29 is better known as Be Nice to Ray Day.
The “Ray” in question is Dr. Ray Poirier, a theoretical chemist who joined the Faculty of Science in 1984. Although that happened to be a Leap Year, the first official Be Nice to Ray Day is thought to have started in 1988.
“I tend to like to tease, and of course that means I get teased back,” explained Dr. Poirier on the last Be Nice to Ray Day in 2008. “One day I happened to be getting more than my share and one of my colleagues, Dr. Michael Mackey, decided that they should institute a Be Nice to Ray Day to make up for it. He chose Feb. 29 because he said he didn’t want to be nice to me too often.”
What started as a jest quickly caught on and 20 years later the faculty is celebrating the sixth Be Nice to Ray Day. Over the years, Dr. Poirier has received calls and emails from friends and colleagues all over the world. He has numerous special memories from past days, including the time his colleague, Dr. Bob Helleur brought a wok to work and cooked him lunch and last year when he was treated to a surprise party that included his wife and many friends from both inside and outside of the university. Throughout his special day he is frequently interrupted by faculty and staff members stopping by to say hello or offer coffee and other treats.
“It’s a good thing I have a sense of humour,” said Dr. Poirier. “I guess you get what you deserve really. But it gives people a lot of pleasure and enjoyment. They like to have fun and this is a good way to do it.
“I have to say I enjoy it,” he laughs. “I can’t deny it, but once every four years is probably enough.”