“Everything he was he pulled upwards”
– Lorna Crozier from the Poem ‘How Do You Measure a Life” dedicated to Dave Turpin
Last night, artists, poets, the governor-general, business leaders and scientists honoured Dave Turpin, the affable, dedicated, and out-going (two meanings) president of the University of Victoria. Social Science Dean Peter Keller told a story about the young biologist Dave who was submitting an academic paper to an average scientific journal. Dave bumped into a senior Biology colleague who asked him what he was doing. Dave said, “Oh I’m going over this manuscript to submit to Journal B” The colleague said, “Why not make it better and submit it to an A Journal?” Dave did just that.
A lesson we all can learn from Dave in his thirteen years of leadership is: Why settle for average when we can achieve excellence? The University of Victoria has been setting the standard in areas such as indigenous health, climate change, ageing and fostering world class arts. Under Dave’s presidency, The University of Victoria recently awarded Vandana Shiva an honorary degree. The University is doing so many things right. The evening, titled ‘Celebrating Discovery’ had themed candle lights celebrating various discoveries made in a dozen or so fields. I shared a table with several accomplished and interesting folks, including Ian McDougall trombonist, Kate Moran and John Evans. Here are the table lights celebrating music, exploration and who-knows-what. The gentleman to my left, a Computer Scientist didn’t know what it was either…. (Feel free to comment)
At the podium to recite “How Do You Measure a Life”, Lorna Crozier quipped that she felt like Marilyn Monroe. Suromitra, Dave’s wife humorously put Lorna in her place. Those two exchanged hugs afterwards so it was all unscripted fun. Or wasn’t it? (I jest – it was all fun). Here is Suromitra after giving a warm and moving speech:
I got to meet Ian MacPherson, author of ‘Reaching Outward and Upward” He signed my book which I can’t wait to open with some “calma.” I like the title, reminding me of my alma mater’s motto, “Onwards and Upwards.”
Pianist and singer Dr Louise Rose received an honorary Doctorate from UVic in 2001. We had a hilarious conversation. I told her my name was Deepa. She said, “That’s a lovely name. You know, we must embrace the names given to us by our parents.” Louise told me that she hated her name until someone called her Weezie. After that she loved her name Louise. Opening a can of worms (why can’t I just bite my tongue), I explained to Weezie that actually, my given name is Gurdeep. Her eyes went crazy wide. She told me I should use Gurdeep, not Deepa. I told her I did use Gurdeep. But I also use Deepa. Louise insisted I use Gurdeep since my parents gave me that name. I laughed and said that Deepa was the name that they actually used when I was a kid. She left me brandishing an admonition to use my name. Perhaps this conversation should be a post in and of itself – I’ve condensed it for brevity’s sake. Anyway, Dr Louise Rose played beautifully. Here she is singing some blues and swinging with Joey Smith on the Upright bass.
An Italian friend told me once that he’d never gotten anything easily. Nothing, at least, that was worth having. In order to get things worth having, we must strive for what we think is impossible. We must continuously improve upon our efforts, like young Dr Turpin and his Journal submission. Celebrating discovery last night, I celebrate Dave Turpin for encouraging and striving for excellence.