People often ask "What's the point of studying history?" Yet I've found that my BA in History and Political Studies, 1972, has been invaluable in my career – in fact it is the only degree I have.
For the past several years I have been building and managing a charitable foundation, financed by a mineral exploration company, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since taking over the foundation in 2007, we have completed 50 projects in education, health care, social infrastructure development and humanitarian relief. These include construction of eight new schools and two renovated schools, serving a total of 3600 students. We have also built a large medical clinic and begun work on a multipurpose women's health unit in the city of Bukavu; built a potable water system for 18,000 people; rehabilitated over 100 kilometres of community roads and bridges and much more. One of my favourite projects is a women's resource centre we recently built and now fund in a remote area of the DRC where women who never attended a day of school in their lives are learning to read and write and learning marketable skills such as sewing. I've also had an opportunity to travel all over Africa as part of my job and have been invited to speak at venues on three continents, including at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Before this adventure began, and after a short stint as a journalist, I spent most of my career as a consultant in financial and corporate communications and crisis management.
My African adventure has brought back many happy memories of studying African history under Dr. Arthur Keppel-Jones in 1971-72. This was a fourth year course, focusing on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, all countries, with the exception of Zimbabwe, in which I have been fortunate to spend considerable time during the past seven years. Prior to taking Dr. Keppel-Jones' course, I really had no interest at all in Africa – the course just happened to fit my schedule. However, I quickly became enthralled with its strange, brutal but intriguing history. At the time, South Africa struck me as one of the most fascinating countries on earth. My recent visits have only confirmed that opinion. I look back at my time at Queen's as a wonderful experience – and I am more addicted to reading history than ever. One of the very best books I read in the past few years isSurpassing Wonder by Queen's Professor Donald Akenson