Ted Harrison honoured with Honorary Doctor of Letters at Malaspina

December 17, 2006 - 4:00pm

A very special person will be among the 271 Malaspina University-College graduates during the Fall Convocation ceremony, Dec. 15.

Ted Harrison, an 80-year-old artist, author, educator and advocate for the Alzheimer’s Society, will be given an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Malaspina in recognition of his contribution to literature, art, and the education system in Canada.

Harrison is probably most famously known for his colourful and bold depictions of the Yukon, including his illustrations alongside Robert W. Service’s poems, The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew. He has also written and illustrated many of his own books including O Canada, A Northern Alphabet and The Last Horizon: Paintings and Stories of an Artist’s Life in the Yukon. Harrison loved working as a teacher, and has taught in England, Malaysia, New Zealand, and in the Yukon. His books continue to grace the shelves of school libraries across the nation and influence the creativity of students in all grades. He lived in the Yukon for 25 years before retiring to Victoria in 1993.

He has received three other honorary doctorates, one from the University of Athabasca in Alberta in 1991, one from the University of Victoria in 1998, and a Doctor of Laws from the University of Alberta in 2005. He also received the Order of Canada in 1987.

“I was very surprised,” Harrison said of his reaction when he learned of the Malaspina nomination.

Heather Pastro, an Education professor at Malaspina, was one of three people who nominated Harrison for the award. Over the years she’s had several memorable encounters with Harrison.

“I am very proud of him and his accomplishments,” said Pastro. “By giving him the Honorary Doctor of Letters, we at Malaspina are showing how much we value what he has contributed to art, art education and education in general. I’m proud that Malaspina looks at people in their later years and honours the contributions they continue to make to Canada.”

Harrison’s first interaction with Malaspina was during the annual BC Art Teachers’ Association Conference called Cross Roads 1994, which was held in Nanaimo. Harrison was one of the keynote speakers during the event and received a standing ovation after his speech.

“People still talk about that conference in Nanaimo,” said Pastro.

Pastro also uses Harrison’s art work as an example exercise during her Art Education courses at Malaspina. She has student teachers use Harrison’s style in their artwork, which gives them confidence in their own art potential as teachers. His last appearance at Malaspina was as a guest speaker at the Education Reunion, earlier this year.

“Teaching is the most important job in the world if it is done well,” said Harrison, who has been known to make guest appearances in local classrooms.

“Teachers and educators should endeavour to get to know who they are educating and bring out the best in their students’ personalities. The main thing is to keep children and adults curious. When you lose curiosity, you lose the will to learn.”

Harrison lives by his words. He continues to find inspiration in the most fundamental thing – his curiosity for life. Currently he is working on commission pieces at the Ted Harrison Studio in Oak Bay, Victoria. There he can be found amongst his work, painting and chatting to the many visitors who come by. He is also very active fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Harrison will be given the Honorary Doctor of Letters during Malaspina University-College’s Fall Convocation ceremony at the Port Theatre, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. 

Tags: In the Community

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email