Henry Regier receives Order of Canada: Luncheon honours Professor Emeritus and former IES Director

Friday, December 4, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Academic News


Henry Regier receives Order of Canada: Luncheon honours Professor Emeritus and former IES Director

By Tim Welsh and Ingrid Leman Stefanovic

Professor Emeritus Henry Regier is presented with a gift from CFE Director Ingrid Stefanovic on behalf of CFE and Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology  Henry Regier asks friend Ursula Franklin, Professor Emeritus and Companion of the Order, to help attach his Member snowflake lapel pin.

PHOTOS: LEFT: At a May 2009 luncheon in honour of his appointment to the Order of Canada, Professor Emeritus Henry Regier is presented with a gift from CFE Director Ingrid Stefanovic on behalf of CFE and Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. 
RIGHT: Henry Regier asks friend Ursula Franklin, Professor Emeritus and Companion of the Order, to help attach his Member snowflake lapel pin.

Dr. Henry Regier was a Director of the former Institute for Environmental Studies (1989-94) and Professor in the former Department of Zoology (1966-1995) at the University of Toronto.  Those of us who have the honour to think of Dr. Regier as a friend also know him to be one of the most prolific and original thinkers emerging from U of T.  It is always a thrill to receive to this day an email from him, because you know that your inbox suddenly has a new status: instead of simply sharing information, there are genuine insights to ponder! His reflections on topics ranging from ecology and ekistics, to ethics and ecogenics cause one to pause and he reminds us that we must always make time in our day to think!

So it was a special thrill for us when Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean announced the appointment of Professor Emeritus Henry Regier to Membership in the Order of Canada on December 30 2008, the country's highest civilian honour.  His appointment commemorates his "leadership in national and international organizations concerned with environmental conservation," and marks over 40 years of academic and community leadership in environmental issues, particularly those affecting the Great Lakes.  His previous commendations include the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the Conservation Award of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, the American Fisheries Society Award of Excellence, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Great Lakes Research.

The Centre for Environment and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology commemorated Dr. Regier's appointment to the Order of Canada with a special luncheon held at the Faculty Club on May 4, 2009.  In attendance were those who were influenced, mentored or otherwise inspired by Dr. Regier.  He spoke warmly of his long friendship with Professor Emeritus Ursula Franklin, Companion of the Order of Canada, whom he asked to help attach his snowflake lapel pin signifying his Membership in the Order.  We were pleased to commemorate the event with a special gift donation of $1,000 to the Grand River Conservation Authority, so that a park bench inscribed with his name and Order of Canada appointment will be placed on GRCA property near his home in Elmira. 

Dr. Regier joined U of T in 1966 as an Assistant Professor in the former Department of Zoology. (Its reorganization with the Dept. of Botany formed the current Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.)  His graduate and post-doctoral work at Cornell University had focused on fish and fisheries in upstate New York.  He also conducted research for the Ontario provincial government on the Lake Erie aquatic ecosystem.  These concerns formed the basis of a career dedicated to education and advocacy around the human use of aquatic systems.  Throughout his career, he maintained an expert role in policy discussions for international organizations such as the United Nations Environmental Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was a Canadian delegation member at various international conferences such as two United Nations  conferences on human population.

Dr. Regier has exemplified this leadership at home as well as abroad.  In his role as Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at U of T, he helped shape the Institute into a university-wide, interdisciplinary academic unit that would eventually become the graduate arm of the present Centre for Environment.  Since his retirement in 1995, he has continued to mentor students and faculty in an Emeritus role, and as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Waterloo and Michigan State University. 

Dr. Regier's research has aimed to balance both conceptual and practical concerns in what he calls an "ecogenic" focus, incorporating the work of scientists, philosophers, policy-makers and others into an interdisciplinary family of perspectives on emerging environmental phenomena.  To this end, he has served as an advisor on environmental issues to senior politicians at all ends of the ideological spectrum, including former Liberal MP Charles Caccia, former Mayor of Toronto and Conservative MP David Crombie, and NDP leader Jack Layton.  He sat on the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission of Canada and the U.S. (1987-90) and was the Canadian Commissioner of the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board (1980-89).  

We are honoured to celebrate the career of our friend and colleague Dr. Henry Regier.  His interdisciplinary approach is a model for all students and researchers, and his appointment to the Order of Canada is merely an official confirmation of what we have witnessed over the past 40 years: a generous, dedicated teacher, with a commitment to ecological responsibility and progressive advocacy, whose impact is felt on both an individual level as well as in the larger sphere of policy-making that affects us all.

Tim Welsh is Research Coordinator and Ingrid Leman Stefanovic is Director, respectively, at the Centre for Environment.