Winders: Starting my year in humble appreciation

Paul Mayne // Western News

Just like the university itself, Western News continues to evolve under editor Jason Winders to the point where it now distributes campus news on eight different platforms, including the familiar print edition available in boxes on campus, free of charge in London public libraries, and distributed to larger, outside news organizations which use it as a generator of story ideas.

Before my father died in January 2015, before his mind started to fail him, and matters like this were no longer of consequence to his rapidly condensing world, he asked me, “If you had it to do all over again, would you make the same choices?” I never offered him a very good answer. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in my pathway; I simply wasn’t any good at defending it.

Today, I can say of this particular leg of the journey, “Yes, I would do this all over again.”

This summer, I completed work on my PhD. I’ll admit to a certain amount of pride in saying that.

The last four years have been one of the most exciting adventures I have ever undertaken, a journey of the mind unlike anything I expected. I have become a better researcher, a better thinker, a better writer and, I say this with no irony, a better person thanks to those I have encountered in this quest.

I owe thanks to a cast of hundreds, but indulge me in starting the new year off in humble appreciation of some who assisted along the way.

Thank you to Helen Connell, Keith Marnoch, Terry Rice, and all of my Communications and Public Affairs colleagues, all of whom were amazingly supportive of my efforts from Day One. Not a single one of them asked me “Why the heck are you doing this?” Special thanks to my Editorial Services teammates, Paul Mayne, Adela Talbot, Frank Neufeld, Angie Wiseman and Crystal Lamb, for their patience, understanding and willingness to ask me to repeat myself when my mind was wandering back to my dissertation.

Thank you to former Health Sciences Dean Jim Weese, the Kinesiology faculty and staff, and especially the socio-cultural group for having faith in a 39-year-old PhD student starting their program four years ago. It was the best decision I have ever made in my academic life.

Thanks to my internal committee, Don Morrow, Darwin Semotiuk and Kevin Wamsley, for their guidance and humour. Even though two of them retired and one sought new employment and moved away once exposed to my dissertation, I choose to believe the events are unconnected.

Thank you to my final dissertation committee, Donald Abelson, Nancy Bouchier, Michael Heine and Don Morrow, for a rigorous defense. They not only made my final product a stronger work of history, but offered me the greatest intellectual spar of my life. I think I earned a draw from them – at best.

I consider it one of the greatest honours of my professional life to have worked with Robert Barney for the last four years. He is the reason I am here; he is the reason I have come this far; he is the reason I will continue to pursue this path of research. His guidance and friendship will continue to mean the world to me.

Thanks to my family, my wife, Amy, and our kids, Athena, Peter and Alexander, for not only supporting and encouraging me, but making everything more fun along the way. A special thanks goes out to Johnny Cash Winders, the best man’s best friend a man could ask for, who watched over his master (or begged for his popcorn) as he worked into the night.

Finally, a thanks to my Mom and Dad, Shelia and Charles Winders, who have always been supportive during my educational meanderings. Once a source of frustration to them, my academic career, unexpectedly to all, became one of great pride, as their son, once an admittedly immature and adrift undergraduate of little academic note, worked toward his PhD 25 years after his first run through university. One of my regrets about this otherwise glorious journey of graduate education is Dad won’t be here to see it end.

To all, I say thank you.