Trent Fortnightly Online

Honorary degrees to go to
physicist, curator and comedian

Trent University will give honorary Doctor of Laws degrees to award-winning physicist and Trent alumnus Ian Affleck, Canadian textiles historian Dorothy Burnham and This Hour Has 22 Minutes comedian Mary Walsh at convocation May 29.

Physicist Ian Affleck
At 45, Affleck has won almost every physics award there is in Canada and prestigious honors from outside Canada for his contributions to particle physics and theoretical condensed matter physics.

Ian Affleck        He won the Steacie Prize in 1988 for outstanding scientific work in a Canadian context, the Herzberg Medal as outstanding Canadian physicist under 40 in 1990, the Rutherford Memorial Medal for his contributions to mathematical physics in 1991, and the University of British Columbia (UBC) Senior Killam Research and Jacob Bieley prizes in 1992. Last year, he won the Canadian Association of Physicists/Centre de recherches mathematiques Prize for Theoretical/Mathematical Physics.

         Affleck is recognized internationally for an ability to clarify theory and work closely with "experimentalists" in condensed matter physics. He collaborates with researchers at leading institutes and travels all over the world giving invited lectures.

        When the Royal Society of Canada awarded him the Rutherford Memorial Medal for his contributions to mathematical physics in 1991, it did so because his work has "been distinguished by penetrating insight and intuition and a rare ability to absorb details of experiments that are important to his work. He has applied ideas from quantum field theory to a wide range of topics, spanning particle and condensed matter physics and including statistical mechanics, supergravity and superconductivity. His theory of flux phases is widely quoted worldwide in the extremely competitive field of high temperature superconductivity, making him one of the best known theoretical physicists of his generation."

        In 1975, the year Affleck graduated from Trent, he won the Governor General's Silver Medal for highest undergraduate academic standing in 25 courses instead of the usual 20 taken over four years. By 1979, he had master's and PhD degrees from Harvard University. He was a junior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1979 to 1981. For the next six years, he was an assistant professor at Princeton University where he held a Sloan Foundation Fellowship from 1983 to 1987. In 1987, Affleck returned to his boyhood home of Vancouver to join UBC as professor and fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIAR) cosmology program and later as an associate of the CIAR superconductivity program. (CIAR is instrumental in encouraging outstanding Canadians to remain in or return to Canada.)

Textile historian Dorothy Burnham
Dorothy BurnhamBurnham, 86, is Canada's pioneering authority on Canadian settler and aboriginal textiles. The author, with her late husband Harold Burnham, of the seminal 'Keep Me Warm One Night': Early Handweaving in Eastern Canada, she inspired a new generation of textile historians who didn't dismiss textiles as a domestic craft.

        Subsequently, she researched, wrote and drew the illustrations for Cut My Cote, a history of garment cutting, Pieced Quilts of Ontario, Warp and Weft: A Textile Terminology still used as a key reference work, The Comfortable Arts: Traditional Spinning and Weaving in Canada about aboriginal and immigrant textile traditions, Unlike the Lilies: Doukhobor Textile Traditions in Canada, and To Please the Caribou: Painted Caribou-Skin Coats Worn by the Naskapi, Montagnais, and Cree Hunters of the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula. Most of her books were published by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), where she started her curatorial career as a draftsperson in 1929. As a research associate for the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, she continues to analyze how native garments are fashioned.

        Though Burnham has never lived in Peterborough, her mother's and her husband's families have roots here. Her mother was a Dennistoun and her husband was a Burnham of Ashburnham. Dorothy grew up a Macdonald in Brampton and Toronto, and joined the ROM staff after high school, expecting eventually to study at the Ontario College of Art. Instead, she became the first curator of the museum's first textile department 10 years later. "In those days, you could work your way up. You got an education on the job. For what I did, you'd need a doctorate now," said Burnham from her Maberly home near Ottawa. She took courses in textile chemistry, pattern drafting, weaving and spinning on her own time and studied during two summers at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. She left the ROM in 1949 and returned as associate curator of textiles in 1973, retiring in 1980.

Comedian Mary Walsh
Walsh, best known for her flying forays into the faces of politicians as the character Marg Delahunty in CBC's weekly television series This Hour Has 22 Minutes, will receive an honorary degree from Trent for her outstanding contributions to the performing arts in Canada as an actor, writer, director and political satirist.

Mary Walsh        Walsh burst into Canadian living rooms when CBC Television began broadcasting a weekly dose of CODCO comedy troupe from Newfoundland in 1987. A founding member of the award-winning company, she won many Gemini awards for her writing and performing during the six CODCO years on CBC.

         Among the characters that have become her trademark, Walsh's Marg Delahunty in This Hour has "given Canadians a unique opportunity to see their political leaders as human in a way not usually accessible to us," says her nominator. "Through outrageous characters and a cutting satirical wit, she has encouraged political awareness in a broad cross-section of the Canadian public who might otherwise have remained complacent or disinterested." She has won three Gemini Awards for excellence in comedy writing and performing on This Hour.

        Walsh's characters "have served as a voice for seniors, women, the poor and other Canadians who may feel marginalized from the decision-making process. Whenever important political issues arise, Mary Walsh is there, speaking aloud what many ordinary Canadians are thinking but do not have the nerve to say." Well known for her work on social issues, she has a long association with the Resource Centre for the Arts in St. John's and has produced theatre on juvenile delinquency (We're No Match for No One), the Innu of Labrador (Nitessan) and the problems of prostitutes in St. John's (Terras de Bacalu). She is currently endorsing Oxfam Canada's human rights campaign. In 1993, Walsh delivered the prestigious Graham Spry lecture broadcast nationally on CBC Radio. And in 1994, she addressed the United Nations Global Conference on Development in New York.

          The 40-something political satirist is also an accomplished writer, actor and director, who has directed and co-written more than a dozen plays, including the 1988 Hockey Wives, based on interviews with NHL players' spouses. She won best supporting actress award at the Atlantic Film Festival in 1992 for her performance in Mike Jones's Secret Nation. In 1993, she won acclaim for her portrayal of Josie in Eugene O'Neill's Moon for the Misbegotten directed by Martha Henry for the Grand Theatre in London, Ont.

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