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Vancouver Island University gives Dr. Bonnie Henry honorary doctorate

Convocation ceremonies were held June 12-14 at VIU gym on Nanaimo campus
VIU chancellor Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers, left, presents an honorary doctor of laws degree to B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Wednesday, June 12, at convocation at the Vancouver Island University gym.

B.C.'s top doctor has another doctorate to her name.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was honoured with an honorary doctor of laws from Vancouver Island University this week. Henry was presented with her degree at a convocation ceremony held Wednesday, June 12, at the VIU gym.

The doctor, in her speech at the ceremony, noted that the 2024 graduating class included students who had high school grad festivities cancelled in 2020, and whose "entire university experience was in the shadow of this global pandemic," bringing related challenges and uncertainty.

"Being here today at this celebration, this transition, shows how you overcame these changes, these hurdles and succeeded despite the challenges," Henry said. "Maybe for some it seemed like climbing those 400 steps [at VIU campus] every day, at least metaphorically."

The doctor said she sees more than ever how transformational university can be, not only as a place of learning, but a place to make "vital, life-changing connection" with others, including people who come from different places and have different ways of thinking.

Henry repeated her pandemic catchphrase of "be kind, be calm, be safe," and talked about how that message still matters. She suggested that human connection and compassion can pull divided communities back together.

"While the COVID-19 pandemic defined the past few years, our collective emergence from this storm will define the years and the start of your careers to come…" she told the graduating class. "There is uncertainty in our future, yes, but we have the knowledge, the tools and a new understanding, I believe, of the connections, the strong bonds between us now to face it, to respond to the relentless uncertainty with unrelenting kindness."

VIU, in a press release, indicated that Henry was honoured for leading British Columbia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the drug-poisoning crisis, for other disease prevention and control and health protection in her role as provincial health officer, and for her career experience in public health, preventive medicine and global pandemics.

Other honorary degrees issued this week went to artist Guud Sans Glans (Robert Davidson), author Joan Mayo, business leader Matt Vickers, and Penelakut elder Thiyuas, Florence James.

About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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