University of Calgary

Order of Canada recognizes alumni's 'life's work'

Grad, professor and honorary degree holder earn prestigious honour

By Matthew Fox

When Reginald Bibby, MA’71, received a courier in early May from Barbara Uteck, secretary to Canada’s Governor General, the understated package gave little warning of its contents. “I am pleased to inform you,” began the letter, “that the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada has recommended to the Governor General that you be appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.”
Bibby, who holds the Board of Governors Research Chair in the University of Lethbridge’s department of sociology, was shocked at this news, unaware—as most recipients are—that he had been nominated.

“I’ve been asked to present memorial and distinguished scholar lectures, received a gold medal for research, was invited to Harvard, appointed to a university research chair, and even received an honorary degree,” he says. “But this, without question, is the most significant honour I’ve ever received. It is immensely gratifying to have my life’s work acknowledged in such a way.”

Bibby was one of three University of Calgary community members appointed to the Order of Canada in a July 24 announcement by Governor-General Michaëlle Jean. Joining him were the Faculty of Medicine’s Dr. Gregory Powell, also president and CEO of the Alberta Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS), and retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie, LLD’00.

Bibby has measured social trends in Canada, particularly relating to religion, through a series of regular national surveys over the last 25 years. He is the author of nine books, and his latest, The Boomer Factor: What Canada’s most famous generation is leaving behind, will be available later this fall.

Bibby credits these publications, a busy speaking schedule, and solid relationships with the national media in making his research accessible beyond the traditional academic community. “That effort to share the findings with Canadians, I think, was appreciated by the [selection] committee,” he says.

Powell, a professor of family/emergency medicine in the Faculty of Medicine, was also appointed Officer to the Order of Canada. He is founder, president and CEO of STARS, which provides emergency medical transportation by helicopter throughout Alberta. With a service area covering 90 percent of Alberta’s population and several communities in southeastern British Columbia, STARS has flown more than 14,000 missions, carrying critically ill or injured patients, since its launch in 1985.

Like Bibby, learning of his appointment was “surprising and humbling,” Powell says, adding it shouldn’t be seen as recognition for an individual, but a tribute to all staff, volunteers, donors and partners associated with STARS. “There’s a sense of spirit of ownership and community among Albertans for the STARS organization I find extremely rewarding and unusual,” he says.
Powell finds enough time outside of STARS to maintain a busy schedule of teaching and research initiatives at the U of C that includes clinical trials and a current focus on human patient simulation. “I’ve had strong academic support from the university for research in emergency and transport medicine,” he says.

MacKenzie, appointed a Member to the Order of Canada, was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University in 2000 for his role in nine peacekeeping tours at various ranks of command, and in particular as chief of staff of the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia in 1992. Today, he is a frequent media commentator and lecturer on leadership, Canadian unity, and global military and political developments in the post-9/11 world.

The three levels of the Order of Canada–Companion, Officer and Member–recognize various levels of achievement and merit in service to Canada or to humanity at large.

Bibby, Powell and MacKenzie are among 77 new appointees who will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony later this year in Ottawa.