ANTIGONISH: For their exemplary and distinguished service, StFX University will award two individuals with honorary degrees during their upcoming Spring Convocation on May 7.

Former Coady Institute Director and international development leader, John Gaventa, and Irving Rootman, internationally recognized for his four decades of outstanding leadership in health promotion, will be presented with the honorary degrees.

Gaventa has made significant contributions to grassroots adult education, academic scholarship, and international development over a distinguished career of nearly 50 years.

“Throughout his work, he has sought to use his research and leadership to support community driven efforts,” a spokesperson from StFX said. “For social change and social justice.”

A former director of the Coady Institute and vice-president, international at StFX, Gaventa is currently a professorial fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, a leading global institution for development research, based at the University of Sussex.

He was born in the United States, but was raised in Nigeria, where his parents were medical missionaries. He returned to the U.S. to attend Vanderbilt University, and later received his DPhil in Politics from Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar.

After graduation, Gaventa returned to the U.S. and helped lead a grassroots adult educational program at the Highlander Research and Education Centre in Tennessee, where he later served as director.

Serving as a professor and fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, he became team leader of the IDS Participation Group, and later Director of Research.

“While at IDS, he has led several large scale collaborative international research programs on themes of citizen participation, local governance and accountability, working with local partners around the world,” StFX said. “Internationally respected in his field, he has written widely on issues of citizen-led development and action.”

His first book, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, broke new ground in the study of social power and won several major academic prizes.

Dr. Irving Rootman

Internationally, Rootman is recognized for his outstanding leadership in health promotion.

“Over his four decade career in public service and academia, he has been dedicated to effecting positive change in health policy and practice,” StFX said. “With a commitment to addressing health equity and social justice.”

Rootman has worked as a researcher research manager, and educator in the federal government, the World Health Organization (WHO), the University of Toronto, and the University of Victoria. He holds a BA (Hons) in Sociology/Psychology from the University of Alberta and a MPhil and a PhD in Sociology from Yale University.

Starting his career at the University of Calgary, he researched alcohol and drug use, he later accepted a post-doctoral award in England, which resulted in 18 research papers on drug use, mental health and suicide.

He was hired as chief of epidemiology and social research by the Directorate on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, upon his return to Canada.

“He went on to serve as chief of health promotion studies in the Health Promotion Directorate of Health and Welfare Canada; led the landmark Canadian Health Promotion Survey,” StFX said. “And served as a professor [at] University of Toronto, where he helped establish the Centre for Health Promotion, becoming its first director.”

Serving as executive director of the Health and Learning Knowledge Centre, at the University of Victoria, he was named a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Distinguished Scholar.

“Rootman has served on many task forces and panels, and is recognized for his scholarly accomplishments,” StFX said. “His leadership prompted webinars in collaboration with the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health at StFX.”

Despite being retired, he remains active as a member of the Executive Committee of Health Promotion Canada, as well as Chair of the Academic Committee; a member of the Professional Development Working Group; and a member of the Capacity-Building Committee for the Public Health Association of BC.

In addition to the two honorary degrees StFX is set to hand out; approximately 1,000 students are scheduled to graduate during morning and afternoon ceremonies.

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Drake Lowthers has been a community journalist for The Reporter since July, 2018. His coverage of the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard garnered him a 2018 Atlantic Journalism Award and a 2019 Better Newspaper Competition Award; while his extensive coverage of the Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry received a second place finish nationally in the 2020 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Best Feature Series. A Nova Scotia native, who has called Antigonish home for the past decade, Lowthers has a strong passion in telling people’s stories in a creative, yet thought-provoking way. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2016, where he played varsity football with the Hurricanes. His simple pleasures in life include his two children, photography, live music and the local sports scene.