White asks grads to ‘share knowledge’

In September 1971, White hit the books as a 17-year old science student. After finding a connection to students with interests akin to her own, White knew she had made the right choice.

“By the end of the first week at Western, I knew that I had found my place in life… I had met ‘my people’ and being back at Western always brings back that excitement,” she says.

White spoke to about 475 graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences (Nursing), Brescia University College, Huron University College and the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the June 13 afternoon session of Western’s 297th Convocation.

White entered the field of chemistry at a time when few women saw the male-dominated arena as a viable area of study. Ever since she has been a role model for women in science, with a strong commitment to increasing public awareness for and appreciation of science in young people. For her contributions, Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Science upon White.

The world needs the talents, expertise and doggedness characteristic of Western graduates, says White.

“As an educated person, you do have an obligation to share your knowledge with the world,” she says.

The London-born White obtained her BSc in Chemistry from Western in 1975 and her PhD from McMaster University in 1980. She began her career as an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo in 1981 after two years of Postdoctoral Fellowship at Oxford University. She moved to Dalhousie University in 1983 and became a Full Professor in both Chemistry and Physics in 1992.

White held the prestigious Killman Research Professorship from 1996-2004 and served Dalhousie, the Maritime Provinces and Canada selflessly in many capacities. Most notably, she was Director of the Institute for Research in Materials at Dalhousie (an organization which she helped found), a Member of the Premier’s Council of Innovation, and President of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science.

She encouraged graduates to “keep your eyes and ears open to the world around you” and to “move outside your comfort zone.”

“Each of you is so special and you will have an individual path,” she continues. “Go forth, work hard, have fun (and) write your own life stories.”

In his citation, Chemistry professor Tsun-Kong Sham says White is an international leader and talented scientist in the field of Materials Science.

“Her unquenchable thirst for understanding how things work in the physical world, has motivated her to become one of Canada’s leading advocates for public awareness of science,” says Sham. “The prediction of her peers in the early days that she was a bright rising star was right on the mark.”

As part of the ceremony, the Brescia University College Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to professor Leslie Janes.

The Huron University College Faculty of Arts and Social Science Award for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to professor Nina Reid-Maroney.

The status of professor emerita was conferred upon Huron University College acting principal Trish Fulton.