Rotary honours outstanding fellows

Hazel Braithwaite, Bob McDonald and Tania Miller will be be honoured at Thursday celebration

Hazel Braithwaite

Hazel Braithwaite

Commitment to community service, science education and music appreciation will be recognized tomorrow evening when the Rotary Club of Oak Bay names three outstanding citizens as Paul Harris Fellows.

Oak Bay councillor and avid volunteer Hazel Braithwaite, author and broadcaster Bob McDonald, host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, and Tania Miller, music director of Victoria Symphony, will each be honoured at a sold-out celebration Thursday (April 21) at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.

“The concept of awarding the Paul Harris Fellowship to individuals stems from the Rotary Foundation’s edict ‘to do good in the world in charitable, educational and other avenues of community service,’” explains Oak Bay Rotary’s Perry Bamji, past-president and public image director.

“Each year Rotarians worldwide contribute money towards the Rotary Foundation which then disburses the funds for Rotarians to do voluntary humanitarian work.”

Projects range from fighting disease in underdeveloped areas to supporting literacy to growing local economies and encouraging  entrepreneurship.

To say “thank you” to the Rotary Clubs for their donations, the Rotary Foundation authorizes Rotary Clubs to award the fellowships.

“The award of a Paul Harris Fellow is our Rotary Club’s way of expressing appreciation for a substantial contribution that a citizen makes towards social, humanitarian and other voluntary causes,” Bamji says. “The award is the highest recognition that the Rotary Club of Oak Bay confers on an individual who exemplifies Rotary’s principal motto ‘Service Above Self.’”

Oak Bay’s Braithwaite is well-recognized for her contributions to the community.

In addition to serving on council from 2005 to 2011 and since 2014, Braithwaite has served on numerous committees, including the YES awards, Oak Bay Business Improvement Association, the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission and Community Initiatives Committee.

Well-known and respected in the community, “on council she excels as a hard worker, good listener and a sound decision maker. Hazel has applied the same attributes to her extraordinary volunteer activities that have made Oak Bay a better place to live in,” Bamji says.

“A tireless volunteer, Hazel puts in over 1,000 hours a year to various organizations locally and internationally. In our community, youth through to seniors have benefited from her involvement.”

Among the organizations Braithwaite is currently involved with are United Way Greater Victoria, Kiwanis Pavilion, Oak Bay Tea Party Society, Oak Bay High School Fundraising Committee, Block Watch, Victoria Highlanders Supporters Board and Simunye Canada Board (supporting youth soccer in Zimbabwe).

“Hazel is a volunteer par excellence and the community of Oak Bay has greatly benefited through her indefatigable energy and extraordinary dedication to all that she is involved in,” Bamji says.

Through his work with the CBC, McDonald has brought awareness of science and technology to Canadian homes since 1973: “He is curious about all things scientific – why they are the way they are, and why they are not something else,” Bamji says. “This, plus his unique ability to simplify and explain the complex, has enabled him to attract listeners and viewers of educational programs all throughout Canada.”

Through programs such as Wonderstruck, the award-winning radio program Quirks & Quarks and the successful children’s series  Head’s Up on TV Ontario, McDonald has challenged and entertained more than 500,000 people of all ages each week. “School children are known to take science as their vocation after listening to Bob’s school lectures (and as) a regular reporter for CBC-TV’s  and as an author of several books, Bob is truly an ‘educator of the masses par excellence.’

Since moving to Victoria, McDonald has continued to have an impact through volunteer speaking engagements and his sponsorship of several successful fundraisers. “In spite of his busy schedule he always makes time for volunteer activities within the community.”

Among his accolades are Officer of the Order of Canada; Queen’s Jubilee Medal; the Michael Smith Award for “Science Promotion” from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; the McNeil Medal for “Public Awareness” from the Royal Society of Canada; the Sir Sanford Fleming Medal from the Royal Canadian Institute; and a Gemini Award for the best host in pre-school children’s or youth program or series.

In addition, he has received nine honourary degrees from various Canadian universities, and an honorary life membership of Sigma Xi, the prestigious, invitation-only U.S. scientific research society. He is the first Canadian journalist to receive this honour.

And. “as a sign of respect and affection to his contribution for advancement of science and technology he even has an asteroid named after him.”

In the field of music, Miller has been a dynamic leading figure in the cultural and civic life of Victoria the past 14 years, establishing herself as a community leader and an innovator in the field of music. “As music director of Victoria Symphony she has been a driving force behind new growth, innovation and quality of music and she has presided over the transformation of a modest community orchestra on Canada’s West Coast into an ensemble of distinction,” Bamji says.

Born in Foam Lake, Sask., Miller earned her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Musical Arts in Conducting from the University of Michigan. As a champion and volunteer promoting music to youth and enriching the cultural and musical scenes in Victoria, Miller has helped audiences hear familiar music in new ways and settings through exploration programs such as the Emily Carr Project and the Chinatown Project, Bamji says.

“These initiatives have also opened doors for the orchestra, raising its profile on the national orchestral scene and earning it the reputation for being an innovative, dynamic and forward-thinking orchestra. She has promoted deserving youth to get involved in music and raised children’s depth of learning music across Canada through direct contact and commitment to programming and bringing orchestra music experiences to school children.”

The impact of this work was recently recognized with an honourary diploma from the prestigious Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music and an Honourary Doctorate from Royal Roads University.

The Paul Harris Fellowship award is named for the lawyer who founded Rotary in 1905. From Rotary also grew the Rotary Foundation, established in 1917 with a view to “do good in the world in charitable, educational and other avenues of community service.”

The Rotary Club of Oak Bay meets Tuesdays at noon at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.