January 29, 2013 - 4:47am


NANAIMO, BC: Canadian artist Gordon Appelbe Smith feels “humbled” to receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Vancouver Island University.

Smith, 94, received the special honor at VIU’s convocation ceremony at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo on Monday, January 28.

“This is truly wonderful,” Smith said. In an address to graduates at the convocation ceremony, Smith said, “Be passionate. Do your very best, whatever you choose to do.”

Smith, one of the most prominent and prolific artists working today, has maintained an active presence in the Canadian and international art world throughout his career. He received the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia for his significant contribution to Canadian culture, as well as many other awards.

VIU Art Education professor Heather Pastro first met Smith 35 years ago when she was in his art class at the University of British Columbia (UBC). “Gordon was a legend even then,” said Pastro.

Smith taught in the Faculty of Education at UBC as a professor of fine arts from 1956 until his retirement in 1982. During his career, he exhibited his work from Victoria to New York, capturing first prize in the First Biennial of Canadian Painting show at the National Gallery of Canada for his abstract painting Structure with Red Sun.

Smith’s greatest legacy is the work he has done with young artists, supporting, inspiring and encouraging them to pursue their goals. In October 2012, the first public art gallery for young audiences opened in Vancouver: the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art.

A total of 131 VIU graduates received degrees during Monday’s ceremony. A second ceremony will be held Tuesday, January 29 at which 87 more graduates will earn credentials.


ABOUT VIU: Vancouver Island University is Canada’s west coast university. Known as a centre of excellence for teaching, learning and applied research, VIU offers a diverse range of certificate, diploma and undergraduate and master degree programs to more than 18,000 students on campuses in Nanaimo, Powell River and Cowichan, and at the Parksville-Qualicum Centre. For more information visit


Janina Stajic, Manager, Vancouver Island University

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