While a student at the University of Guelph (M.Sc. program) and the University of Manitoba (Ph.D. program), I took graduate courses in several areas of physiology, often in medical faculties. As interesting as these courses were, research would arouse my curiosity and excite my imagination even more and become the heart of my academic vision for the future. A number of important lessons were learned as I made the transition from undergraduate to graduate student; lessons such as the meaning of teamwork when working with large animals and in a relatively small laboratory, and how to develop a prescribed experiment and go to the next logical step. I also came to value the time spent being mentored by professors, an essential part of graduate training.
~ Research ~
My experiences in Health Sciences during my postdoctoral years and professorships in Animal Science gave depth to my research program. While at the University of Manitoba, I was associated with the Department of Oral Biology. Stimulating discussions with professors in this and other Health Sciences departments gave me a healthier perspective on my research and helped clarify future research directions. The congenial environment and spirit of cooperation among my colleagues, combined with my being able to focus on developing research ideas rather than new technologies, resulted in these being some of the most productive and enjoyable years of my career. I am particularly indebted to Dr. Borden Howland, Dr. K.W. Cheng and Dr. Wilhelm Guenter (Animal Science) for their help and encouragement.
Not long after my arrival at McGill University, I was asked by a group of professors in Health Sciences to join them in forming the multidisciplinary McGill Centre for the Study of Reproduction. My affiliation with the Centre and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology was truly gratifying. This particular "band of imaginative scholars" did indeed stimulate my thinking about several matters pertaining to academia. Within the McGill community, research interactions with Dr. Bernard Robaire and Dr. M. Ram Sairam were especially valuable, both to myself and my graduate students. Their expertise came at a time when we were exploring ways of manipulating estrogen action and assessing testicular LH and FSH receptors in rams.
~ Teaching ~
Teaching, and all that it encompasses, has been an integral part of my academic program. Nothing is more rewarding in a university setting than knowing your lectures are well given and well received. I enjoyed teaching the most when, within the boundaries of course objectives, I was able to structure my course and lecture in a way that I knew was inspiring students to learn. Even at the undergraduate level, I found it was important to keep lecture material fresh by "seasoning" the basics with current research results. I honored students by giving them my best effort in the classroom...and by not compromising this principle. Most students, in turn, honored me. A few memorable moments in and out of the classroom best illustrate this point.
I was honored when:
- dental hygiene students would "grin and bear" my lectures on hormone biochemistry because they believed they might just learn something about themselves
- a group of diploma students in agriculture stopped me in the corridor to tell me that they had formed a study group because they wanted to get the most out of my lectures
- in a moment of light heartedness, two of my graduate students each gave me a rubber boot to wear when I worked with the sheep
- on graduation day, students wanted me to come and meet their parents
- undergraduate students would come and ask if they could do graduate studies with me
- graduate students studying with other professors would come and tell me that I had inspired them to pursue a graduate degree
- undergraduate students felt free to come to my office and, in their words, "ask dumb questions" about the lecture material
- undergraduate students would come and talk with me about what was not in my lectures
- undergraduate students would occasionally "tie up" lecture time with a flurry of excellent questions
- one of my graduate students thanked me in his thesis for having given him "the freedom to complete [imaginatively expand] this work"
One final reflection. Nearly 30 years of my life have been spent on a university campus. I cannot envision it having been any other way! The initial years of university experience not only prepared me for my profession, but helped form much of my outlook on life and the world. As I was completing a less than stellar freshman year at the University of Massachusetts, I knew that I would have to focus more on the tasks at hand if my dreams and aspirations were to be realized. Since that time, my unwavering resolve has been to run the prescribed course with hope and patience and in faith, fully expecting to finish the race a victor.
Photos: (left) Animal Science/Entomology Building, University of Manitoba; (right) Macdonald-Stewart Building, McGill University. Photographs courtesy of the University of Manitoba and HCR Photo.