Presentation of the Killam Prizes
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Rideau Hall, Tuesday, December 14, 2010
My wife, Sharon, and I are pleased to welcome all of you to Rideau Hall for the presentation of the Killam Prizes.
In 1981, Dorothy Killam provided the funding for this prize in memory of her husband, Izaak Walton Killam, ensuring that his legacy of building a better Canada would live on.
I feel a very personal connection to the Killam Foundation for so many reasons—one being that I had the privilege of giving the annual Prize Lecture in 1995. During the Lecture, I remarked that “Our purpose [at Canadian universities] is to create an environment where innovation and ideas can reach out and touch and embrace one another to build an economically competitive and more civic society.”
As many of you know, I have spent most of my career in the university world. That is why I am so delighted to be surrounded by Canada’s premier educators and researchers. These men and women have looked at our social fabric, at our environment, at our health, or at a number of other issues and asked why or—equally important—why not.
The Killam Prizes directly relate to one of the pillars I have set out during my mandate as governor general, that of learning and innovation.
It is vital in today’s ever-evolving society that we support our post-secondary institutions. Our schools educate the brightest minds, ensuring that the next generation is prepared to assume the leadership of this nation. Our schools also provide us with innovations through important research.
Canada is ranked 6th in a list of 32 OECD countries in the area of research and development spending in the higher education sector. However, we rank only 16th in business expenditure on research and development.
Our country needs to be a leader in the investment of our future.
To create a smart and caring nation, we need to recognize the overriding social and economic importance of investing in knowledge, as well as in skilled and learned people. We must see the cost of education as a social investment, not as an expense. There is a great need to narrow the gap that exists between Canada’s institutions and the best institutions in the world, as well as to raise awareness of the contributions of Canadian researchers.
We need to follow the example of the Killam Prizes, which, along with the Killam Trusts and the Killam Research Fellowships, help to fund research and honour those who have changed—or have the potential to change—both Canada and the world.
Just down the street, at the National Research Laboratories, words are carved in stone that have been there since 1935, as chosen by Mackenzie King. The words speak on the search for truth. Part of the message reads: “The more thou searchest, the more thou shalt marvel.”
In very broad terms, the winners of the Killam Prizes embody these words. They have devoted their careers—their lives—to searching. And whether they have searched for an absolute truth to a nagging universal question; whether they have searched for the answers to a personal curiosity; or whether they have helped young Canadians to search for and to find their own goals—all of them have felt the “marvel” that comes with discovery and with learning.
Author and scholar George Whalley once said, “An educated person is not a past participle: education is a life-long process never finished.” All of you here know this to be true. The winners, in particular, know this to be true.
Since their inauguration, the Killam Prizes have been awarded to many Canadians, celebrating a lifetime of achievement in the fields of social studies, health sciences, engineering, natural sciences and humanities.
Those of you joining their ranks today have contributed so much to your field. You have inspired students to follow their own dreams. You have published seminal works that are now taught to others. You have changed our points of view. You have raised new challenges for others to solve. And you have earned this recognition not only on behalf of yourselves, but also on behalf of your prestigious institutions.
I remember being at the University of Waterloo and at McGill University, and being proud of those who were awarded the Killam Prize, as I am proud of all of you today. A university is like a family, and when one person is honoured, so are we all. You are wonderful ambassadors for your universities, once again proving what we already know—you are great boons to Canada’s post-secondary world.
St. Augustine once wrote: “If you must judge the quality of a society look to see what it cherishes.” I say, cherish our teachers, our researchers and our schools.
Today, we honour all three, and I thank you for joining in this celebration of learning and innovation.
I congratulate the five winners here today, as well as the five universities they represent. You astound us with your work and inspire us with your dedication.