Presentation of the 2009 Killam Prizes
Rideau Hall, Thursday, October 8, 2009
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There are women and men who walk a path so brilliant that it fills our sky with dazzling light that shines down upon us long after they have left this world.
That was certainly the case for Izaak Walton Killam.
His modest beginnings did not prevent him from scaling the heights of the financial world. And brick by brick, relying on his drive and business acumen, he built an investment empire and became the wealthiest Canadian of his time.
History could have stopped there.
But instead, it continued with a wonderful final chapter written with the help of his wife Dorothy, with whom he shared a generous plan: to allocate a significant portion of their fortune to higher education.
We know what happened next: following the death of her husband, Dorothy more than doubled her inheritance, and their legacy was to establish a tradition of patronage in Canada in the areas of science and knowledge.
The Killams had understood that thought gives rise to progress and that education is the key to our success.
We are extremely fortunate, indeed, to have women and men in this country who devote their lives to furthering human genius and the common good.
Researchers, scientists, intellectuals, creative minds who push back the boundaries of knowledge; who make vital discoveries whose applications continue to improve the lives of millions of people; who bring new understanding to the world and life itself.
Women and men whose research, unique approaches, innovations, and solutions have changed how we think and act, and whose renown now reaches well beyond our borders.
Philippe Gros, Wagdi Habashi and François Ricard, from McGill University; John Smol, from Queen’s University; Ernest Weinrib, from the University of Toronto, you are among that group, and Canadians look upon you with respect and admiration.
Not just because you are extraordinary people, but because you represent a sense of commitment, an ability to excel, a desire to dig deeper, and a willingness to explore knowledge and life in all their dimensions.
Because like shooting stars, you carve out a path of light that guides humanity in its search for truth and knowledge.
My deepest wish is that your work—most often carried out in the solitude of your laboratories, your offices, your workshops—and its vital importance for the future of our societies will be better known, recognized and appreciated by the general public.
After all, we all stand to benefit from your discoveries and advances.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.