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By Gerianne Wright
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Center for the Study of Canada and the Canadian studies program marks its 50th anniversary this year, with the center planning a special celebration that includes the Distinguished Canadian Address and a visit from Center Director Emeritus Richard Beach.
Beach will return to Plattsburgh to attend a gala celebration Oct. 21 in the Warren Ballrooms, Angell College Center.
“Richard was larger than life at the center,” said Center Director Christopher Kirkey. “He was the center. He positioned us in the forefront of Canadian studies in the United States. And I had the good fortune to come along and follow in his footsteps.”
Program Began in 1966
Beach retired from the center in 2000. After a period of interim directors and changes that moved the study abroad program away from 133 Court St., Kirkey came on board in 2002. And while the center dates to 1975, Kirkey said Beach said the entirety of the program began in 1966 and took time to grow.
“By the early 1970s, the college had a formal Canadian studies academic program in place,” Kirkey said. “We had professors teaching courses with Canadian content. Once we reached the critical mass of faculty and critical mass of courses and speakers coming, we said then that we should move forward with the academic program and dedicated space that is the Center for the Study of Canada.”
SUNY Plattsburgh continues to be one of only a handful of colleges and universities in the United States with what Kirkey calls “a mature Canadian studies program.”
“And we’re one of the only colleges with fully developed stand-alone structure, support staff, endowed funds, significant internal and external financial support, and an academic program offering both majors and minors,” he said. “While we do a tremendous amount on campus, in the greater community and on a regional basis, what distinguishes us from the rest is our focus on national programming.”
Distinguished Canadian Address
In addition to celebrating 50 years at SUNY Plattsburgh, the gala will feature the Distinguished Canadian Address given by Dr. Michael Hawes, CEO of the Foundation for Educational Exchange Between Canada and the United States and executive director, Fulbright Canada. Hawes is also the recipient of an honorary degree, doctor of letters, from SUNY Plattsburgh.
Others scheduled to say a few words include Dr. George Sulzner, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who specializes in American and Canadian politics and is president of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, and Jean Labrie, senior program manager for international scholarships at Global Affairs Canada, whom Kirkey described as “a long-standing supporter of the center.”
“If I carry over anything from Richard in my position, it’s that we both believed in partnerships,” Kirkey said. “We’ve reached out to academic associations, government bodies here in the United States and in Canada, particularly in Quebec.”
Kirkey and Hawes have worked together on a number of projects, including conferences designed to support and provide opportunities for graduate students and early career colleagues. In addition, they co-authored several journal articles, special issues of journals and academic books.
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