Dr. Shephard addressing
at the University of Toronto, June 8th, 2006.
Address to Comvocation, University of Toronto, 2006.
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
“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
esse laboro, obscurus fio" Horace, Ars
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
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
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