‘Queen’s Is My Community, My Family, My Life,’ Says Padre Laverty Award Recipient

[John Meisel]

Professor Emeritus John Meisel is known as one of Canada’s top political scientists, head of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) from 1980-83, president of the Royal Society of Canada (1992-95), and was made an Officer (1989) and Companion (1999) to the Order of Canada.

He retired from Queen’s several decades ago but his love for the university is as strong as ever. He still attends Queen’s events and occasional goes back to campus for a speaking engagement.

“Queen’s is my community, my family, my life,” says Dr. Meisel, who has received nine honorary degrees. “I still feel my universe is Queen’s.”

Time to add one more honour to his resume – his impressive academic career and love of Queen’s are the reasons he is receiving the Padre Laverty Award on May 26. The award is given annually by the Kingston Branch of the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) for outstanding service to Queen's or jointly to the Queen’s and Kingston communities. Past recipients include former Kingston Mayor Harvey Rosen, Law’75, Tragically Hip guitarist Rob Baker, BFA’86, and former Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken, Arts’68.

Dr. Meisel took time to talk about his impressive career, his love of Queen’s, and teaching.

 

Question: How does it feel to be Padre Laverty Award recipient this year?

Answer: I am delighted and honoured but I must confess that my first response was “why now?” [Laughing.] I have not been teaching for a long time but I am still involved and attend events. For me, Queen’s is my community, my family, my life. I still feel my universe is Queen’s.

Question: Did you know Padre Laverty?

Answer: Yes, he was a great man. This is a story about him. He was at his cottage in Manitoulin Island over the summer when he heard a student’s brother had passed away. He hopped in his car and drove eight hours to Queen’s to be with the student. That’s the kind of man he was. He was very helpful.

Question: What did you like about teaching?

Answer: I found it very exciting to help expand the horizons of young people. It was not just about teaching them political studies or sociology, it was about enabling them to develop their potential talents to the fullest. The role of an educational institute is to help students grow. So it was a wonderful opportunity to see people grow.”

Question: You came to Queen’s in 1949 and taught for more than four decades. Do you still run into your students?

Answer: I taught a lot of huge introductory courses so I have a lot of former students. I run into old students all the time – whether it is walking down Princess Street or at an airport in France. People come up to me and say “you taught me.” It is quite nice. Many of my students went on to careers in government which was very helpful to me. When I was chairman of the CRTC I had to work with the government. I’d run into former students of mine so I was always able to find a friend.

Question: You took a leave from Queen’s to become the head of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission from 1980-83. What are you most proud of when running the CRTC?

Answer: There are two things I am proud of. We did manage to help stop the overrun of American TV programs. It was much cheaper for Canadian broadcasters to buy TV shows from the U.S. but we made them produce Canadian programs and enabled Canadian producers to find a market. I was also proud when we also turned down an application from a religious U.S. broadcaster to start a channel in Canada. The CRTC always insisted that no program should be about one particular ideology. So we denied the application from the religious broadcaster and invited applications for a non-denominational channel focusing addressing spiritual issues. The result of that was Vision TV and I think the channel has been quite good.

 

Online registration for the Padre Laverty/Jim Bennett Achievement Award Dinner is available on the Queen’s Alumni website.