2024 Honorary Doctorate Citations

Delivered by Dr. Peter O’Brien, Public Orator, May 23, 2024

Bev Greenlaw

Domina Cancellaria; praesento vobis Beuerlacensem Greenlaw, ut admittatur ad gradum Doctoris in Jure Civili (honoris causa).

While reading ancient Greek texts in the early weeks of the Foundation Year Program, students are disabused of the naïve experience of youth and taught to understand that athletics are not fun—or at least not only that. They learn that the Greeks held the highest form of excellence—the endless life of the gods—to be recognizable but unachievable. Human beings could, however, imitate divine eternity by gaining kūdos, the honour achieved in competitive victories and remembered by future generations. Such kūdos might be won in the life-and-death contests of war. But the nobler path to excellence was pursued in games, which displaced war’s deadly violence with a life-affirming emulation of the deathless Olympians. Far more than just fun then, athletics were both an exuberant celebration of common humanity and a transvaluation of it, training athletes and spectators alike to strive for individual and communal excellence.

Bev Greenlaw’s contributions to athletics have been very much in the modern world, rather than in the ancient, and, at least in the first instance, on the basketball court rather than in the lecture hall. Yet those whose lives have been guided by him speak of his mentorship, and his ideals, in terms the ancient Greeks could recognise. Team leadership and strategic vision were evident in his earliest days at King’s, when Greenlaw played point guard for the championship-winning 1970 team. Time and again, he has found personal fulfilment through group endeavour: injury may have prevented him from playing for Nova Scotia at the Canada Games in 1971, yet in 1987, he was able to coach the same team to its only ever gold medal win. In the years between these triumphs, Greenlaw developed signature programs and relationships that make him simply “Coach” to so many today. In the early ‘70s he began mentoring a community Y boy’s basketball team in North End Halifax that functioned not just as an activity for working class youth, but, as one prominent alumnus put it, “a conduit to the outside world.” Greenlaw’s basketball court was the arena for lessons in respect, academic focus, and giving back that led dozens of players to positions of authority and respect in later life, often outside the traditional expectations of their communities of origin. His instinctive commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion helped to build the confidence required to dismantle social barriers. Between 1979 and 1987, Greenlaw served King’s as Athletic Director, during which time the rebranded “Blue Devils” expanded their competitive league presence from three to twelve teams, and in which student participation in sports reached an all-time high. In 1980, he convinced the Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association (CCAA) to admit King’s and other degree-granting institutions as members, at once elevating King’s competitive status, and altering the landscape of university and college athletics across the country. In the early 2000’s, he began coaching girls and women, eventually leading the Acadia Axewomen to their first women’s basketball championship in 61 years. It comes as no surprise that in addition to the gratitude and devotion of his many former players, Greenlaw has been recognized with numerous personal honours, including his 2022 induction to the CCAA’s Hall of Fame.

Madame Chancellor, through his lifelong commitment to transformative excellence and edifying teamwork at the collegial, local, provincial, and national levels, Bev Greenlaw has earned the kūdos of lasting recognition, reward, and remembrance. I therefore ask you, in the name of King’s College, to bestow upon Bev Greenlaw our own decoration of timeless honour, the degree of Doctor of Civil Law (κύδεος ἕνεκεν; honoris causa).

Connie Walker

Domina Cancellaria; praesento vobis Constantiam Walker, ut admittatur ad gradum Doctoris in Jure Civili (honoris causa).

The Pulitzer Prize and the Peabody Award are top-echelon distinctions that mark career pinnacles for their recipients. Within a twenty-four-hour period in May 2023, Connie Walker won both of them: twin peaks in a journalism career already on the rise for two decades, and whose upward trajectory shows no sign of decline. Yet in the many interviews that followed these triumphs, she has remained consistently grounded. This is evident in a local example. When Mi’kmaw activist Pam Palmater welcomed Walker to her Warrior Life podcast, she wondered if the red carpets and flashing lights of media attention were distracting her guest. “No,” Walker replied, “I was just busy doing my recycling before we started.” Such humility and humour are familiar to any who have listened to Walker’s own podcasts; they are essential ingredients in the tone of sincerity and trust that ally journalist and audience. But the anecdote also evokes the quotidian drudgery that lies under the finished product. Connie’s household chore is a metaphor for bringing what has been discarded to new life; for shedding fresh light on what has lain hidden. Recycling and recirculation, as well as habitual hard work, are key attributes of the kind of storytelling Walker is known for.

That storytelling blends the learned skills of investigative journalism with personal experience and deep community traditions of knowing and telling. Connie Walker is a member of the Cree Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan and has spent much of her career revealing the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women. These follow heartbreakingly familiar patterns, but in Walker’s approach, stereotypes fade into narratives that offer profound social, political and cultural context, focussing on the unique differences and nuances of individual lives. The result is not just an analytical critique of systemic failures, but a poignant, personal cry for justice on behalf of one and all. In her own words, “We’re all talking about reconciliation and what it means to reconcile, but we don’t even understand the truth yet.” Walker’s journalism, especially in the form of podcasts, attempts to uncover elusive and complex truths by inviting listeners to witness multiple voices and multifaceted viewpoints. After several years as a CBC reporter, Walker co-created the Indigenous Unit in 2013. In 2016, she launched the first of her signature podcasts for the CBC, Missing and Murdered. Its first two series, Who Killed Alberta Williams and Finding Cleo, brought her subjects and her narration to international recognition. Since 2020, Walker has continued her work with US-based Gimlet Media and Spotify, launching a new series, Stolen, in 2021. The second season of this series, Surviving St. Michael’s, presented the results of over ten months of reporting. She and her team uncovered more than 200 allegations of sexual abuse against priests, nuns, and staff members at St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. Unforgettably, Walker’s own family plays a part in that tragic story. The deftness with which she negotiates the perils and advantages of subjective reporting not only helps her audience appreciate how inextricably the threads of all our lives are woven together, but also amplifies the cost and necessity of the search for truth.  Surviving St. Michael’s was the podcast that garnered the Peabody and Pulitzer, as well as several other awards and distinctions.

Madame Chancellor, King’s has a long history of telling stories and searching for complex truths in Journalism and the Humanities. Is it not fitting that we recognize a master and disciple of these callings today? For her search for justice and true reconciliation through powerful and innovative story telling, I ask you, in the name of King’s College, to bestow upon Connie Walker the degree of Doctor of Civil Law (honoris causa).


2024 encaenia main page