It’s been a couple of months since the news was announced, and I’ve been remiss in not blogging it earlier. But one of my friends, colleagues, mentors, and general inspirations in life, Professor Rachel Thibeault was finally honoured earlier this year with an appointment to the Order of Canada.
Rachel is one of those very special academics who actually places value, meaning, and truth above the politics of personal success. And she’s paid the price many times over, with traditional power-brokers attempting to silence her important voice. Her work is with the most marginalized of marginalized people, worldwide. She first came to my attention as someone who was attempting to empower the disabled of the world’s poorest countries, among them Nicaragua, to have productive, sustainable lives. Here’s a video of one of her lectures:
On a personal note, Rachel was personally responsible for starting me on my career of teaching global health. The class that serves as the vanguard of my present teaching activities –one for which I am presently developing a textbook, and one that the university is trying to turn into a mainstream, online offering– was given to me by Rachel before I was hired as a full-time professor. Her faith in me allowed me to make it my own, and to carve out a career as (I hope) an innovative global health teacher.
As a champion of the downtrodden, Rachel has collected some enemies among the ranks of the powerful. It has hurt me watching some of those enemies be constantly rewarded by society. So I took it on as a mission to nominate Rachel for the Order of Canada.
For my non-Canadian readers, the Order is this country’s highest civilian honour. It is, in some ways, the equivalent of a knighthood, in that it is awarded by the Governor General, who is this country’s Viceroy. It allows the recipient to add a very special few letters after her name: O.C.
Anyway, my early attempts to engineer the award for her failed. I just wasn’t good at this sort of thing. So I was immensely pleased –and surprised!– to learn that another team had been working on her nomination in parallel. And they succeeded! Kudos to them!
Thus, I am very proud indeed to celebrate the acknowledgement of my friend Rachel Thibeault as one of the great Canadians who has toiled to make this world a better place.