Adair: Embrace arts as a way of understanding the world

Paul Mayne // Western News

A solid background in the arts can prepare a person for success in life, Supreme Court judge Madam Justice Elaine Adair, BMus’73, MMus’78, told graduates at the Monday, June 16, morning session of Western’s 303rd Convocation.

Her studies in music and philosophy at Western taught her to “think about, analyze and say something meaningful,” about a variety of subjects, Adair said.

The skills and work habits she developed proved to be invaluable, especially in a career as a lawyer and judge, she continued. “Listening is an absolutely critical skill.”

Adair spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, Don Wright Faculty of Music and School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the Monday, June 16, morning session of Western’s 303rd Convocation. Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa (D.C.L.), upon Adair for her recognized expertise in civil litigation law.

Adair told graduates recognizing opportunities, and being ready to embrace them, will ensure they will be met with success.

“Stay positive, be prepared to work hard. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your talents and skills and take on responsibility, focusing on where you want to go. And seek out a mentor,” she continued.

“Model the traits you have observed in your best and favourite teachers.”

Adair was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2008. Before joining the court, she practiced law in Vancouver for more than 25 years. Her practice focused on commercial litigation, in particular class action defence, corporate-commercial disputes, products liability and other torts, insurance coverage disputes and professional negligence.

Adair is a member of several professional associations, including the Canadian Bar Association, Advocates’ Society, Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice and Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association. She is also a participant in the Inns of Court Program, sponsored by the Vancouver Bar Association.

From Western, Adair received a Bachelor of Music (Music History) in 1973 and a Master of Arts in Music in 1978 and then received a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Toronto in 1981.

Outside of the courtroom, Adair has remained passionate about music. Working with Leila Getz, the founder and artistic director of the Vancouver Recital Society, she has sponsored a number of recitals. She is also a long-time supporter of Early Music Vancouver and particularly, in recent years, its summer Mediaeval Programme.

Adair has also been actively involved with Western’s Don Wright Faculty of Music, creating the Philip Downs Scholarship in Music History to honour her mentor at Western and sponsoring a masterclass at the Tune In to Western V Piano Conference.

In her citation, Music dean Betty Anne Younker said Adair’s career represents the expansion of the traditional notion of education – that is, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) – to what is now known as the essential education, that is STEAM (arts included to provide thinking and experiences acquired in science, technology, engineering and math).

“A talented musician, scholar, lawyer and Supreme Court justice, Elaine Adair is a wonderful example of utilizing the creative- and critical-thinking skills acquired through the arts to expand and forge new career paths,” Younker said.

Adair added graduates should remember to show their gratitude for the opportunities and successes life hands them.

“Giving thanks is the classic win-win,” she said, encouraging graduates to engage in their community and volunteer as a way of showing gratitude.

Also during the ceremony, the Hellmuth Prize for Excellence in Research was awarded to Philosophy professor Charles Weijer, while the Angela Armitt Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Faculty was awarded to English and Writing Studies professor Lawrence Garber. The inaugural President’s Medal for Distinguished Service was presented to former university secretariat Jan Van Fleet.