Marlene MacLeish told University of Western Ontario graduates that each one of them has the power to make a difference in the world, during her convocation address on Friday morning, Oct. 29.
A professor of Medical Education at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. MacLeish, also Senior Education Fellow & Team Leader for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) Education and Public Outreach Program, received an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.) for her dedication to the improvement of science education.
During Western’s 296th convocation, she spoke to graduates from the faculties of Arts and Humanities, Science, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry (BMSc), the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Brescia University College, Huron University College and King’s University College.
“I am here to affirm to you that as a Western graduate you can make a difference,” says MacLeish, who studied at Brescia University College and earned her psychology degree from The University of Western Ontario. “I know this because some of my accomplishments seemed improbable when I first graduated, but they have grown out of the foundation of my Western education.”
Earning a master’s degree in education and a Doctor of Education in medical education from Harvard University, MacLeish has served as dean and vice-president for students at the Harvard School of Public Health, the City University of New York Medical School, and the City College of New York. She taught undergraduate and graduate medical sociology and public health courses, mentored students, and has written articles on race and science education.
MacLeish says she is deeply humbled and says there is something about recognition that comes unexpectedly from a place you consider home. It was at Western she met her husband Peter – an Engineering grad – during frosh week.
“You are lifelong learners and this is a great day to celebrate with friends and family,” she says. “We, Western graduates, are a global academic force to be reckoned with. As you take leave of this amazing institution, you will learn to appreciate how well Western has equipped you for success.”
MacLeish was inducted into the International Academy of Astronautics in Paris in 2007; directed Education and Public Outreach for NASA’s Neurolab Mission; led the NSBRI education team in Abuja, Africa in 2010; chaired the education section of the 14th & 15th International Humans in Space symposia in 2003 and 2009 in France and Korea; and represented NSBRI-NASA on a six-city tour of Scotland in 2004, Moscow in 2008, and China in 2007.
A Fellow of the Council of Science Writers, MacLeish published The Brain in Space: a Teacher’s Guide with Activities for Neuroscience, is executive producer of a six-part radio series, Biomedical Science for Space Travelers, Sleep in Space, and a documentary film, Exploring Two Frontiers: The Brain in Space.
“If I have achieved any success it was because I learned from Western that winning is just plain hard work,” says MacLeish, who was one of 12 women recognized as an Alumna Trailblazer in celebration of Brescia’s 90th anniversary in 2009. “Failure is a necessary part of success, but I am one who likes a good fight. Be sure to keep your adventurous spirit alive.”
In her citation, Brescia Principal Colleen Hanycz says MacLeish has had an amazing impact on the landscape of higher education in North America and beyond as an educator, a space researcher, public servant and pioneer.
“Before you stands an incredibly humble woman who has made a significant contribution in the public service field of higher education, but who does not speak easily about her many accomplishments,” says Hanycz. “Actually, I’ve always wondered if Dr. MacLeish might secretly also be an astronaut, but if she is, she’d be the last one to mention that. As Brescia completes the celebration of its 90th anniversary in women’s education, we could not be more proud of Marlene’s accomplishments in science education and women’s leadership.”