Leonard, Shoemaker named to top professor honour

Two professors are the latest recipients of Distinguished University Professorships (DUP) awards, joining a select group of faculty members recognized for exceptional scholarly careers. Honoured this year are John Leonard, English and Writing Studies, Arts & Humanities, and Kevin Shoemaker, Kinesiology, Health Sciences.

The Distinguished University Professorship Award acknowledges sustained excellence in scholarship over a substantial career at Western. The award includes a citation, the right to use the title, an opportunity for a public lecture and a $10,000 prize to be used for scholarly activity at any time.

Both honorees will present Public Talks – Leonard on Milton and the Power of Poetry, Shoemaker on Neuroprotection and the Integrative Physiology of Exercise – during a ceremony at 4 p.m. Monday, April 25, in The Great Hall, Somerville House.

Western also selected 12 Faculty Scholars to recognize their significant achievements in teaching or research. The recipients are considered all-around scholars and will hold the title of Faculty Scholar for two years and receive $7,000 each year for scholarly activities.

This year’s Faculty Scholars are:

  • Bipasha Baruah, Women’s Studies and Feminist Research;
  • Carolyn McLeod, Philosophy;
  • Jason Gerhard, Engineering;
  • Elizabeth Gillies, Engineering;
  • Edward Comor, Information and Media Studies;
  • Lorie Donelle, Nursing;
  • Kersi Antia, Ivey Business School;
  • Alison Konrad, Ivey Business School;
  • Stefan Everling, Physiology and Pharmacology;
  • Grace Parraga, Medical Biophysics;
  • Sarah Gallagher, Physics and Astronomy;
  • Viktor Staroverov, Chemistry;
  • Liana Zanette, Biology;
  • Jessica Grahn, Psychology; and
  • Chantelle Richmond, Geography.



John Leonard
English and Writing Studies

Throughout his 29 years at Western, John Leonard’s contributions to scholarship have primarily focused on Renaissance English literature, especially the poetry and prose of John Milton. In 2014, the English and Writing Studies professor became only the seventh Canadian named Honored Scholar of the Milton Society of America since this international lifetime achievement award was established almost seven decades ago.

Leonard’s professional career as a Miltonist began in 1984 when he was elected to a Junior Research Fellowship at Trinity College in Cambridge. He established himself in the field with his first book, Naming in Paradise, which won a James Holly Hanford Award.

A winner of Western’s Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching, Leonard was recently inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada thanks to his outstanding international reputation for his intellectual authority, his exacting scholarship and encyclopedic knowledge of 17th-century English literature.

“When Leonard speaks, everyone listens,” said Paul Stevens, Department of English professor at the University of Toronto. “When it comes to Milton, he stands head and shoulders above almost all of his contemporaries anywhere in the world. Leonard is both a great scholar and a man of enormous integrity: He is a credit to his university and to Canadian intellectual life as a whole.

“We have entered a golden age of world-class Milton scholarship in Canada. At the centre of this movement are a number of scholars who have brought great renown to Canada. John Leonard stands very much at the forefront of this group.”

Gordon Campbell, Fellow in Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester (U.K.), said Leonard is a scholar of global standing and vast accomplishments.

“There are about 1,000 Milton scholars in the world; everyone would place John Leonard in the top half-dozen, and some, including me, regard him as the world’s most distinguished student of Milton,” he said. “What takes him to the top of the heap, in my view, is his brilliance both as an analytical critic and as a scholar. A few can equal him in one of those fields, but no one can equal him in both.”


Kevin Shoemaker

Clearly establishing himself as a world leader and an internationally acclaimed researcher in the area of exercise and cardiovascular/brain health, Kevin Shoemaker has made key contributions toward a better understanding of the communications between the brain and cardiovascular system. More precisely, Shoemaker became the first investigator to describe mechanisms by which the healthy brain recruits neural signals to communicate with blood vessels during conditions of high stress.

The impact of vascular disease on brain structure, as well as the integrity of the neural circuitry associated with the reflexive control of the autonomic nervous system, receives special emphasis in his research.

A Canadian Research Chair Tier 1 in Integrative Physiology of Exercise and Health, Shoemaker continues to find time for students, having mentored and offered training opportunities to 36 undergraduate students, 32 graduate students and14 postdoctoral during his time at Western.

“As a researcher, a colleague and an academic, he represents the best of what academia has to offer to society. His personal integrity, commitment and intellectual honesty are highly commendable,” said Helene Berman, Western Health Sciences professor. “His sense of inclusion, especially in recognizing the work of other scholars and graduate students is highly laudable and deserves much credit. Despite his extensive knowledge and accomplishments, he retains a sense of humility that is both exemplary and refreshing.”

With regard to research, Shoemaker only completed his doctorate in 1996, yet he has published 170 refereed manuscripts, two book chapters, nine invited reviews, three invited editorials, 10 peer-reviewed conference proceedings and 10 additional non-peer-reviewed articles. This represents a publication rate of slightly less than nine refereed manuscripts per year, not including invited reviews, refereed conference proceedings and book chapters.

“Knowledge is acquired in pieces, but it is understood in patterns. Some of the important answers in science and medicine lie between fields,” said Vladimir Hachinski, Clinical Neurological Sciences professor at Western. “Professor Shoemaker is an outstanding example of bridging disciplines to gain new insights in how the brain and the heart interact in health and disease. He has both national and international collaborations and the fact that he has maintained successfully so many diverse relationships speaks to his qualities as a scientist, educator and human being.”