If there’s one thing David Black embodies, it’s organization.
The owner of Black Press – which publishes this newspaper and dozens more in B.C. and North America – wasn’t about to offer some off-the-cuff remarks to graduates and officials gathered for this morning’s convocation ceremony at the University of Victoria.
In accepting an honourary Doctor of Laws degree, the modest newspaperman will read from a prepared speech, despite the fact he’s only got five minutes to offer his pearls of wisdom. As he does with any project he’s embarked upon over the years, he takes it very seriously.
“It’s pretty special to be honoured from a university like this,” he said from his home office in Oak Bay. “They’ve had a lot of growth since I’ve been in Victoria.”
While he admitted to being a “little bit embarrassed” to receive the honour – former Royal B.C. Museum CEO Pauline Rafferty received her honourary Doctor of Laws during convocations on Monday – he feels pride at being a part of the growth at UVic.
Having based his growing newspaper group in Greater Victoria in the late 1980s, Black was among a group of leaders from the local business and academic communities who brainstormed the makeup and focus of UVic’s school of business in the mid-2000s.
“I was lucky enough to be involved from the very beginning,” he said, adding that many good ideas were tossed around in the initial stages of the program’s development.
Such aspects as mentorship, student entrepreneurship and international exposure to outside industry were brought forward as the educational strategy for the school was taking shape.
“Those are still keys to the program and have been since the beginning,” he said. “It’s been fun watching (the business program), mostly from a distance.”
The Black Press scholarship program, which awards $5,000 to one student in each of B.C.’s 37 school districts for enrolment into UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business (so named in 2010), was an effort to develop young entrepreneurs throughout B.C. as a way to strengthen the province’s economy.
“I’ve met a lot of these kids over the years. They’re terrific,” he says of the scholarship winners.
Rafferty, who guided the museum from 2001 until retiring in 2012, called the honourary doctorate a great and “very humbling” honour.
In addition to overseeing the province’s museum and archives during that time, she volunteered on various boards and committees and continues to do so. In that time, she, too, has built a relationship with UVic, through helping develop the cultural sector leadership program for the Division of Continuing Studies.
“Over the many years, the university and the RBCM had a very close partnership and I think that continues today, on many fronts,” she said. The relationships between small-town museum curators and staff who have taken the UVic courses, and staff at the larger institution, have helped broaden the knowledge base in B.C. and farther afield, she added.
She recalled that in her early days at the museum, a few years after it hosted the hugely successful Leonardo da Vinci exhibit in 1999, UVic inquired into creating a cultural tourism program that would draw on the strategies used for that undertaking.
Rafferty believes the program created through the co-operation of the two groups was among the first of its kind in Canada and showed real academic ingenuity.
The University of Victoria’s spring convocation ceremonies happen daily through this week, honouring graduates from its many programs.