Dr. John Fekete, professor emeritus in Cultural Studies and English Literature at Trent University, has been awarded the Senate Sesquicentennial Medal on behalf of the Senate of Canada. The medal commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Senate of Canada and it has been awarded to Canadians in various occupations and roles in their communities across Canada, as the official citation declares, in recognition of their “valuable service to the nation.”
Senator Anne Cools, Canada’s longest serving senator, and the first female black senator in North America, nominated Professor Fekete for the award, and presented the medal and citation to him at a ceremony in January 2018
In her presentation of the award, Senator Cools highlighted Prof. Fekete’s “daily and unstinting” work to advance cultural studies in Canada and his leadership role in defending academic freedom in universities and freedom of inquiry and expression as fundamental values in society. In particular, she noted that his book, Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising (1994), which impacted on debates about academic freedom, governance, and human rights, established him as a courageous public intellectual whose work connected with and gave hope to various underrepresented communities beyond the academy. His well-researched findings and analyses of contemporary cultural trends provided valuable service in helping to resist the rising tide of data abuse and biased authoritarian regulations fueled by political divisiveness.
“I speak for the entire Trent community in congratulating Dr. Fekete on his latest accolade,” said Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University. “Here at Trent, and around the world, his research and expertise have made an impact, especially for his role in founding and driving Trent’s renowned undergraduate and graduate Cultural Studies programs.”
In accepting the award, Prof. Fekete said he was “moved and delighted to have his work and commitments recognized in this way.” He expressed his gratitude to Senator Cools for the nomination, and said he was “proud of the values they share, and happy to have been able to lend support to some of her own distinguished efforts on behalf of children and families in Canada and on behalf of equality of access to public and legal expression.” He noted in particular that “every generation has to repeat and sustain the struggle for freedom in the face of ever-changing contingencies” and that he was “thrilled to have had the opportunity to make a robust intellectual contribution at the cutting edge of his generation’s challenges.”
The Senate of Canada 150th Anniversary medal was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first sitting of the Canadian Senate on November 6, 1867, the year of Confederation.
Prof. Fekete was chair of the Cultural Studies department at Trent University and director of the Cultural Studies Ph.D. program. He retired from Trent University in 2012, after 38 years of academic service. He received Trent’s distinguished faculty research award in 1990. The annual John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series was launched at Trent in 2013 to honour his contributions to the study of culture. In recognition of his leadership in academic freedom, governance, and collective bargaining matters, the Trent University Faculty Association established the John Fekete Award for outstanding service by faculty. Prof. Fekete was also awarded a dedicated service award by both the national and the provincial associations of university faculty, the CAUT and the OCUFA.