Dr. Roberta Bondar likens graduating from university to her experience of sitting on the launch pad waiting to be rocketed into space in 1992.
During a Brock University Spring convocation address Friday morning, Canada’s first woman in space told a crowd of graduating students that a world of adventure awaits them.
“You’re right on the edge of that launch platform and I know how that feels,” she said.
Bondar was the world’s first neurologist in space aboard NASA Space Shuttle Discovery for nine days in 1992. During 10 years at NASA, she led an international research team that worked to find links between astronauts recovering from the microgravity of space and neurological illnesses on Earth such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease.
A celebrated landscape photographer, Bondar authored four photo essay books and is co-founder and president of The Roberta Bondar Foundation, which encourages the use of photography to celebrate the natural environment.
Friday morning, she was presented with an honorary doctorate by Brock University President Jack Lightstone.
In her address to a packed house at Ian Beddis Gymnasium, Bondar encouraged the graduands to make the world a better place.
“We have a great opportunity here to interact with the world. Make sure that your legacy is one that is a commitment to society,” she said. “Each and every person in this room has the ability to make change for the better in a positive direction in someone else’s life. What greater gift do we have on this planet than the ability to reach out and help someone else in this journey of life?”
People often tell Bondar she was lucky to be the first Canadian woman in space, but she said luck is something that can be created.
“The idea of luck is being prepared for what that luck is … I knew if I wanted to go space, I had to show people I had the right qualifications.”
Aside from her two dozen honorary doctorates, Bondar has four university degrees from 18 years of post-secondary education. She has been named to the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, and received the NASA Space Medal. There are also numerous schools, parks and buildings in her name across Canada.
With two faculties sharing the convocation stage Friday, it was a busy day for awarding both student and faculty excellence.
Receiving the Governor General’s Gold Medal Award for being the graduate student with the highest academic standing was Welland’s Kyle Harrison, who completed his Master of Science in Computer Science.
Spirit of Brock Medals were awarded to undergraduates Rachel Isedowo in Mathematics and Science and Saumik Biswas in Applied Health Sciences. Drew Marquardt and Sarah Kennedy were the grad student winners in Mathematics and Science and Applied Health Sciences, respectively.
Dean’s Medals for Applied Health Sciences went to Jonathan Vaantaja (Honours) and Colin Maslink (Pass). Dean’s Medals for Mathematics and Science were awarded to Jakub Subczynski (Honours) and Michael Boekestyn (Pass).
There were also two Faculty Awards for Excellence in Teaching handed out. Department of Physics Assistant Professor Santo D’Agostino was the recipient for the Faculty of Math and Science while Department of Health Sciences Associate Professor Madelyn Law was the recipient for the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.
Brock University’s Spring Convocation wraps up Saturday with the Faculty of Humanities ceremony at 10 a.m.