Some Thoughts On The Winegard Exemplary Volunteer Awards

On Wednesday I was honoured to stand alongside Yousr El Sharawy, and Paul Mesman to accept the 2017 Faculty William Winegard Exemplary Volunteer Award. Since then I’ve had numerous people stop me in the halls to congratulate me on what they say was a well-deserved recognition. To say that it has been an extremely humbling experience is a bit of an understatement.

The Winegard awards (presented by the University of Guelph, the United Way of Guelph Wellington Dufferin, and the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington) are named after Dr. William Winegard who was, among other things, the President of the University of Guelph and the youngest member of the Royal Canadian Navy. He is a member of the Order of Canada and a former member of parliament and cabinet minister. He has a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering and taught at the University of Toronto. His list of titles and accolades is long and remarkable – a subset of which I’m sure would provide anyone with a sense of accomplishment and of a life well-lived.

With the namesake in mind, you can probably understand why I feel a little overwhelmed to receive this award, and why I might wonder how I’m going to even begin to live up to the example that Dr. Winegard has set. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to have received this award, but still, it’s all sorts of overwhelming and humbling and difficult to put into words. To be perfectly honest, this award is really a celebration of the contributions and accomplishments of so many other people who spend each day challenging each and every one of us to be better versions of ourselves, and if not for them – the community partners and the students who seem to work tirelessly to make a difference – this never would have happened.

And so I’m left with the task of saying thank you to everyone who deserved to stand with me as I received this award; a task that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to complete to any degree of personal satisfaction.

Thank you to the community partners who have trusted me and the students to build tools that we hope will somehow make your jobs easier, so that you can spend your time doing the amazing things that you do every day for our community. Thank you to the amazing people who give up their time to support the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table, the Food Access Working Group, the Poverty Task Force, the Seed Community Food Hub, Transition Guelph, the Guelph Community Health Centre, Meal Exchange, the Garden Fresh Box, the Seed POD, and all of the other groups that my students have connected with and worked with over the years. Your contributions to their education cannot be understated, but trust me when I say that you have been invaluable partners in building the next generation of civic-minded leaders. You have made my job so much more enjoyable and full, and I can’t thank you enough for trusting me and providing me with the opportunity to work with you.

Most of all, thank you to the students who continue to trust me when I challenge you to get involved with the community. The fact that you embrace the social challenges that I bring to class in place of developing a video game or some other stereotypical computer science fare, speaks more about your character than anything. The fact that you have devoted hours outside of the class to continue to build the Farm To Fork system, as well as programs for the Seed Community Food Hub, and apps for the Meal Exchange Trick or Eat campaign speaks volumes about your leadership and your desire to be more than just students. Without your time and assistance, none of these programs would exist. Without your efforts and passion, the NetZero, Feeding9Billion, and Guelph Hacks for Mental Health hackathons would never have happened. You continue to impress me and inspire me and for that, I am so grateful. You have made my job the best job in the world.

Finally, thank you to Lisa and Danny for nominating me. This award is so much more than an award to me. It’s a challenge to continue to strive to be better, to do more, and to give back whenever I can. I really can’t thank you enough for having the faith in me that you do, and I’ll do my best to continue to live up to the standard that Dr. Winegard has set (and trust that you’ll give me a swift kick if I don’t).




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