Keynote speaker, Carl Honoré, leading author on the 'slow movement' talks about the importance of unstructured children's play
In 1962, at a time when Ernest Manning was premier of Alberta, John Diefenbaker was prime minister of Canada and the ‘Fab Four’ of Liverpool were enjoying ‘mild fame’ with a song called “Love me do”, the University of Alberta was hatching its first Bachelor of Arts degree in recreation and leisure studies. It was to be lucky year for both the Liverpool lads, and the degree, as it happened.
Since that auspicious beginning when the late professors Al Affleck and Elsie McFarland began to realize their desire of deepening our understanding of the impact of leisure on quality of life, more than 2000 graduates of the undergraduate degree program. More than 100 master’s and doctoral degree recipients have passed through these halls and made their way into society too, blazing their trails to better understanding of the vital role recreation and leisure play in every aspect of the well-being of our lives, from stewardship of special places, such as national parks and wetlands, to deviant leisure, from cultural norms of recreation and leisure among different populations to leisure policy.
It’s been a productive 50 years in a field that’s only been recognized as a formal area of study for 60 years.
Today, the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation is a major contributor to research in the field and is recognized across Canada as a leader in this field. And we’re not just saying that. In 2010 an external review team recognized that “in terms of research and knowledge production/dissemination, the Faculty is a recognized leader in the study of… leisure and tourism studies.”
The outstanding work of researchers in the faculty led to the University of Alberta being acknowledged as one of the Top 10 most productive recreation and leisure studies research institutions in North America between 1990 and 1999 and between 2000 and 2008. In addition, the University of Alberta is the only academic institution to have hosted the triennial Canadian Congress on Leisure Research twice.
Two of seven presidents of the Canadian Association for Leisure Studies, a national academic society founded at the Third Canadian Congress on Leisure Research held at the University of Alberta in 1981, have been members of this faculty.
As the faculty established its footprint on the international stage, it hosted the first World Congress on Leisure Research in 1988 and over the years three faculty members, professor emeritus Tim Burton, Gordon Walker and Karen Fox became Fellows of the prestigious Academy of Leisure Sciences, arguably the zenith of academic prestige in this field, where only a handful of academics represent Canada.
Alumni of the programs have made their mark in many ways in the field. To mention just two:
Nola-Kate Seymoar was one of two members of the first graduating class for in 1966; she also completed an MA in community development in 1971 and, subsequently, a PhD in social psychology. She served for 11 years as president and CEO of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities in Vancouver and is the founder of the Sustainable Cities: PLUS Network, a learning network of more than 40 cities around the world engaged in long-term urban sustainability planning.
Mary-Frances Turner graduated in 1981 and is a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners. She served as commissioner of Development Services for the Town of Markham from 1995 to 2002 where she coordinated planning for and implementation of the ground breaking, neo-traditional, award-winning design of the Markham Town Centre. She is currently president and CEO of the York Region Rapid Transit Corporation in the Greater Toronto Area.
And there are many more who’ve made a difference, and a generation now in first year, who’ll no doubt make theirs, each in his or her unique way.
Capping a day of celebration that included career panel discussions aimed at current students, research presentations, and even a screening and discussion of the iconic leisure film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” was a gala reception at Convocation Hall and a talk by Edmonton author, Carol Honoré -internationally renowned for his pioneer work championing the ‘slow movement.’
The future for recreation and leisure studies looks bright. Here at the U of a it has, after all, outlived two Beatles and been on the minds of poets and philosophers for centuries. I would hold with William Butler Yeats (Irish poet, 1865-1939) who said, “I am of the opinion of the ancient Jewish book which says there is no wisdom without leisure.”
Well said, Mr. Yeats. Here’s to the next 50!
Take a look at a photo gallery of the event (all photos by Zoltan Kenwell)
View the Recreation and Leisure Studies 50th Anniversary Commemorative booklet