Rick Hansen to receive honorary doctorate from VIU

May 12, 2009 - 4:25am

Rick Hansen has  been a tireless advocate for social change and has devoted himself to making a difference in the lives of others throughout his life. On June 2, 2009, his years of dedication and service will be recognized with an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Vancouver Island University.

“It’s a privilege to be recognized by Vancouver Island University with this Honorary Doctor of Laws degree,” said Hansen. “I feel it’s a reflection of the work my team and I have accomplished over the years in our efforts towards creating a more accessible and inclusive Canada and finding a cure for spinal cord injury.  Being honored with this degree inspires me to keep going in pursuit of our goals.  This recognition also allows me the chance to encourage the potential of new graduates and support the impact they can have on our world through hard work, determination and the commitment to making a difference.”

“It is our great honor to recognize Rick Hansen with an Honorary Doctor of Laws,” said VIU President, Dr. Ralph Nilson. “There are few individuals who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of a cause and to the development of others to the extent that Rick has. His story is an inspiration to millions of people around the world and we are proud to acknowledge him with this award.”

Rick Hansen’s inspiring story started in 1973, when he incurred a spinal cord injury and was told he would never walk again. Since then, Hansen has excelled as an international wheelchair athlete, winning many awards including ‘Athlete of the Century’ by British Columbia Wheelchair Sports and being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.  

While Hansen put great effort towards his athletic endeavors, he was also committed to making a difference in the lives of others. In 1985, he set out on the Man in Motion World Tour, with goals to raise funds for spinal cord injury research and to make communities more accessible and inclusive. Every day, Rick completed the equivalent of three marathons - through all kinds of terrain, in all kinds of weather.

The journey took Hansen and his team through 34 countries -- they crossed the United States, wheeled through Britain and Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, Australia, and the Far East before returning to North America.

On May 22, 1987, thousands of people lined the streets of Vancouver to welcome Hansen home. The Tour raised $26 million for spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation and sport. It was a catalyst for enormous change in the way people with a disability were perceived, in the realization that public buildings, streets and playgrounds could be more accessible, and in the belief of the potential that lies in the human spirit.

Upon completion of the Man In Motion World Tour, Rick realized that his work had just begun. In 1988, He established the Rick Hansen Foundation, which has raised more than $200 million for spinal cord injury related programs and initiatives.

Through all those challenges, Hansen overcame all obstacles to reach his goals.

“Throughout my life I have been fortunate to have had the privilege of knowing some incredible individuals, whom I looked up to as teachers and mentors,” he said.  “With their support and encouragement I was able to face challenges with confidence and determination, which enriched my life and provided me with some incredible experiences.  Today, I want to return that generosity by encouraging others to reach for their goals and realize their full potential. “

Hansen says he finds great inspiration these days in our youth – their motivation, their energy and determination. As the leaders of tomorrow, he believes they have the potential to create significant, positive change in our world. When he accepts his award and speaks to the VIU graduates at the June convocation, that is the message he will be sharing with them.

“Graduation is a time to not only reflect on the past, but to begin setting goals, looking to the future, and planning for things you want to achieve in life,” said Hansen. “The University environment allows students to start looking beyond themselves, into the community; to begin seeing how we can each make a difference in the world around us, and in the lives of others.  

Education is a lifelong journey. If you believe in a dream and have the courage to try, great things can be accomplished.  Never give up on your dreams.”


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