Pursuit is published twice a year by the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, University of Toronto.

Roy Shephard Honoured

On June 8, 2006, Professor Emeritus Roy Shephard will receive an honorary degree from the University of Toronto.

A renowned authority in the field of physical activity and health, Dr. Roy Shephard is an innovative scientist; a prolific, influential author; a leader in the development of scientific societies; and a respected advisor to government and non-governmental organizations. At the age of 76, he continues to publish important books and articles at a rate that would cripple anyone half his age.

Dr. Shephard was a pioneer at the University of Toronto, establishing Canada’s first doctoral program in exercise physiology in 1964 (now the Graduate Department in Exercise Sciences in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health), and supervising almost an entire generation of exercise scientists and faculty who went on to other universities across Canada and around the world. During his 12-year term (1979 to 1991) as Director of the School of Physical and Health Education, he significantly strengthened the undergraduate preparation of teachers, coaches, fitness leaders and other health professionals.

Born and educated in the UK, Dr. Shephard was invited to Canada in 1964 under the auspices of the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act of 1961 to spearhead the development of fitness-related research. He did just that, forging a program of research and grants and recruiting a team of outstanding graduate students that provided the very basis of exercise sciences across Canada. His studies of the physiological parameters of fitness provided the scientific basis for the Canadian government’s broad promotion of physical fitness, best known through ParticipAction Canada. In fact, it was in Dr. Shephard’s lab where the Canada Fitness Test and the related educational materials around frequency, intensity and duration of participation were primarily developed.

He has conducted influential longitudinal studies of physical activity in aboriginal people, and children in school-based physical education programs. His research has also been instrumental in informing improved practice and policy in exercise immunology, cardiac rehabilitation, the role of exercise in enhancing health and academic achievement in children, and the treatment of air pollutants, including second-hand smoke. (A complete list of his work can be found at www.members.shaw.ca/royjshep).

Today, hardly a day goes by without a statement by a public official or a media report on the importance of physical activity and the consequences to health, education and community safety of physical inactivity. The call for increased physical activity has been heard at all levels: from the Active U initiative at the Faculty and University; to the Get your Move On program of the City of Toronto; to the Ontario government’s Active 2010 program; and the United Nations declaring 2005 as the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. None of this growing awareness nor the advocacy for improved public opportunities for physical activity would have been possible without the research and publications of Dr. Roy Shephard.

His scientific and intellectual accomplishments have left an indelible mark upon science, teaching and the public policy relating to physical activity and health around the world, and brought honour and distinction to the University of Toronto. He has received honours and awards from virtually all of the scientific and professional associations in the field, and it is fitting that he is honoured this year by University of Toronto.

addressing Convocation

 Dr. Shephard addressing convocation
at the University of Toronto, June 8th, 2006.

Address to Comvocation, University of Toronto, 2006.

 Madam Chancellor, President Naylor, Dr. Kidd, Distinguished guests, graduating students, parents and friends,  when Sir Winston Churchill was invited to give the convocation address at Westminster College, a small liberal Arts School in the eastern U.S., he strode to the lectern and said in his characteristic style:
                                 “Don’t give up! Don't give up! Don’t ever give up!” 

Then he sat down. And I suppose that the graduating class never forgot that pithy speech.
Sadly, I lack Churchill's oratorical skills.  In the words of Horatrio, when I try to be brief, I become unintelligble
("Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio"  Horace, Ars Poetica 25)

My first pleasure is to congratulate the graduating classes in dentistry, pharmacy and physical & health education.  In a mere four or five years at this institution, they have accomplished something that seems to have taken me all of forty-two years.  I am truly grateful for the over-generous words of introduction from Professor Kidd, and I feel a tremendous, humbling honour in accepting a Doctorate of Laws degree from the largest and on many indices the most prestigious university in the British Commonwealth. 

My career activities have ranged quite widely, but I recognize that these varied programmes of research could never have reached fruition without the partnership of many colleagues, post-graduate fellows and doctoral students.  I acknowledge also an enormous debt to my faithful life partner, Muriel, who has generously provided the supportive environment so vital to fruitful enquiry over some fifty summers. 
Sharing this platform with a Faculty that has fostered distinguished international athletes such as Professor Kidd, I confess also a dark secret.  Although a former Director of the School of Physical and Health Education, I have never been an athlete. 

Je revive l'époche quand j'assistais au lycée.  Je peut voir encore vingt trois garcons assemblés sur le terrain de football.  Deux costauds
étaient en train de choisir leurs équipes.  Enfin, je peux encore entendre le voix du professeur, un peux faux.  Quelle chance, Roy! Par ce que tu n'étais pas selectionné comme mebre de l' équipe, tu pourras toujours nous servir comme arbitre.

On the other hand, I have always enjoyed being active, whether in personal transportation, gardening, or recreational swimming.  In my younger days, there were 40 km treks on the moors of Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Lllewellyn, and 1000 km cycle trips over the steep mountain passes of the English Lake District.  So, if you are athletically gifted, spare a charitable thought for the health of those who perform poorly on the sports field but enjoy physical activity.  I accept this award as a physically active person rather than as an athlete, and I welcome the emphasis that this places upon exercise as a viable alternative to sport.
When I was Director of the School of Physical and Health Education, Professor Rosalind Stone taught a course entitled "Movement as a means of knowing."  She focussed particularly on interactions between physical activity and Zen Buddhism, and her course content probably appealed more to students of University College than to those in the Health Sciences.  I could add many facets to her underlying theme: from the endorphin highs generated by endurance exercise and the neuronal representation of athletic skills in the cerebellum to the intense sensory stimulation of all-out effort.  However, there is a danger that movement is so emphasized that it becomes the only mode of knowing.  I still see the faces of a few unfortunate students who were so singular in their devotion to sport that they repeatedly failed the early hurdles of the Health Sciences, particularly Biology 101 and Psychology 101.
I have recently been reading the book  "Memory Hold the Door."  It is the autobiography of John Buchan, one-time administrator of what the Boers undoubtedly saw as the ijselijk Conzentrations-lagern in South Africa.  He was also a partner in the giant publishing house of Thomas Nelson, a formidable barrister, a guru of military intelligence, a prolific author, and ultimately Lord Tweedsmuir, an outstanding Governor General of Canada.  Unlike his better known novel "The Thirty-nine Steps," "Memory Holds the Door" is not a brisk romp through the Scottish heather.  The latter is a text will challenge most health professionals, even with frequent help from the Internet.  John Buchan anticipates an English and Scottish vocabulary of perhaps 100,000 words, a broad knowledge of history and philosophy, and an ability to understand and situate many untranslated passages from Greek, Latin, French and German authors.  I see a stark contrast between the attainments of this Oxford scholar, and the narrower backgrounds of many who now graduate from professional schools in Canada.  Given current pupil-teacher ratios, we are unlikely to match the classical education of Victorian and Edwardian Oxford.  Many of us even have difficulty with our University motto.   We could neither attribute the phrase

                                                      "crescit occulto velut arbor aevo"

 to Horatius Flaccus, nor place it in his first collection of Odes (1 12).  But reading a book such as Buchan's autobiography can certainly raise the bar of our expectations.

What of Buchan's athletic achievements?  He chose to enrol at Brasenose College, where a place on the rowing eight was the norm.  But like myself, Buchan had little interest in competitive sport.   He experienced movement as a means of knowing. He writes lyrically of his experiences when climbing the craggy peaks of Skye, and he thought little of taking the train from London to Brighton so that he could walk the 100 km return journey.  What a contrast with current expectations!  Today, the Canadian Association of Sports Sciences and the American College of Sports Medicine plead with us to engage in moderate walking exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.  And they face an uphill battle as they urge Canadians to take even this modest amount of physical activity.   As health-care providers, all of you will be on the front lines of the battle to promote a more active lifestyle. 

Should you advocate vigorous competitive sport?  A small proportion of your clients will respond favourably to the challenge of competition.  But many will be discouraged by a selection process that is based on body build and innate skills, by the apparent greed of top professionals, and by the repeated scandals of Olympic doping.  For such individuals, the pathway to health will lie with the activity preferences of a John Buchan, helped by governmental policies that integrate an active lifestyle into the ordinary activities of daily living. 

Advocacy of a healthy lifestyle can be discouraging.  Some wellness programmes have a 50% drop-out rate over the first six months. But our mandate remains to enhance national health, whether we reach many or few.  Adherence may improve if new public policies make an active lifestyle the norm for Canadian communities.  But much will depend on the persistence of our advocacy.

    εν σταδιω τρεχοντες παντες μεν τρεχουσιν εις δε λαμβανει το βραβειον 
    "many run in the stadium, but only one gets the prize; thus run so that you may win." 
Cor. 1: 9:24
  "Don't give up!  Don't ever give up!"

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