Barney: Strive hard to unfold the gifts given to you

Paul Mayne // Western News

Graduates must celebrate their roots and capitalize on all they can from their heritage, Robert Barney, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Olympic Games, told graduates at the Tuesday, June 17 afternoon session of Western’s 303rd Convocation.

“Be mindful of those who played steadfast roles in ushering (you) through life’s pathways,” Barney said. “Celebrate your roots and capitalize on all you can from them; my view of history portrays each of us in a life cycle-like contest. We pass on, but we do not entirely disappear; we continue to leave our mark (through our children).”

Barney spoke to graduates from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Huron University College and the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Tuesday, June 17 afternoon session of Western’s 303rd Convocation. Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.), upon Barney in recognition of his distinguished academic career in the area of the Olympic Games.

Barney told graduates part of their present and future success is owed to their parents and grandparents; they must remember that face and honour their legacy, striving to reach their full potential as a living memorial to their ancestry.

“There were no geniuses in history,” Barney said, not Mozart, or Einstein, or Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr. What they had was passion and a willingness to stick it out, hard work, persistence and dedication.

“But one has to have the tools with which to begin the journey,” Barney added.

This is where one’s ancestors come in.

“In your DNA are your tools to run fast, be good with words, numbers, artistic endeavours and abstract thinking,” he said.

“These tools were given to you by your parents, your grandparents, each generation receiving from the previous, building and refining. You are the benefactors of that progress. It is your obligation to strive hard to unfold the gifts given to you.”

Originally from New England, Barney served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, returning to the University of New Mexico in 1955 to obtain his BS (1959), MS (1963) and PhD (1968). As a student-athlete, Barney played football, baseball and swam for intercollegiate teams. He was admitted into the University of New Mexico Lobo Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Today, Barney is professor emeritus of Kinesiology at Western as well as the founding director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies here. He came to Western in 1972 and served as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics from 1972-79. In 1985, he was awarded the Pleva Gold Medal for Excellence in Teaching, Western’s highest teaching recognition honor.

The originator of Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Barney has produced more than 200 publications, chapters, articles and reviews related to the Olympics.

He is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) Book of the Year Award in 2003, the NASSH Lifetime Achievement Award for “contributions to the discipline of sport history,” the Olympic Order and the Pierre de Coubertin Award in 2010, which is conferred by the International Society of Olympic Historians “for lifelong and dedicated historical work on behalf of the Olympic Movement.”

Barney is honorary lifetime professor at Capital University in Beijing, China, and an international fellow at the European Academy of Sport History and the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education. He is an elected lifetime honorary member of the Canadian Olympic Association.

In his citation, Kinesiology professor Kevin Wamsley said Barney’s work and legacy has left not only ripples, but waves across the world in the study of the Olympic Games.

“He has provided outstanding service to his school, his faculty, his university and to his profession,” Wamsley said, noting Barney, at 82, continues his dedicated service to the university, today overseeing eight graduate students.

“Without question, there is no other individual in the world who has had more influence on the scholarly examination of the Olympic Games than our professor, our mentor, our friend.”

Barney asked the graduating class to always aim high, reaping and sustaining the fruits of their roots.

“Strive with great purpose for a happy ending and balance that with like purposes for your family, your community, your country, and the earth. Doing that, you will bring smiles of satisfaction to the memory of your ancestors,” Barney said.

Also during the ceremony, the Huron University College Faculty of Arts and Social Science Award for Excellence in Teaching was given to Teresa Hubel. The status of professor emeritus was also conferred upon Peter Hyland, Douglas Leighton, Darwin Semotiuk and Donald Patterson.