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Friday, August 26, 2005

  • Optometry student is mourned
  • ESQ celebrates 15th anniversary
  • A weekend and a look ahead
Chris Redmond

The tsunami of 1883

Optometry student is mourned

[Higgins] A funeral service was held Wednesday for Rachel Higgins (right), a third-year optometry student who died August 21 after a two-year battle against a brain tumour. She was a few days short of turning 25.

Along the way, Higgins and her family created Rally Against Cancer Hardcore, with the initials RACH to match her own full name: Rachel Anne Cecilia Higgins. The organization started a baseball tournament as a fund raiser in her home town of Parry Sound, collecting $34,000 last year and $40,000 this year for brain cancer research at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital.

"Rachel Higgins was an amazing woman," says someone in the optometry school who knew her. "Her spirit was unbelievable -- she completed all of her final exams while undergoing chemo. The funeral was a really celebration of her life. She was inspiring, courageous, strong-willed, with the most positive attitude I have ever met in anyone! Rachel accomplished so much in her short life. I thought the rest of the UW community would like to know about this wonderful, bright star that we have lost."

A page about Higgins on the RACH website tells the story of her illness, beginning with a diagnosis of lupus -- inaccurate, as it turned out -- while she was in first year optometry. Cancer treatment began in 2003, and the web page indicates that as of just a few weeks ago, Higgins was still planning to return to UW this fall, "not exactly clear what year she will actually be in".

During the baseball tournament this summer, in which Higgins threw the opening pitch to her father, she said she was living one day at a time, an obituary in the Parry Sound North Star reports. "You can't worry about things you can't control, so you might as well help out with a donation," she said then.

The official death notice notes that she is "sadly missed by those of us who find it hard to understand, her parents Dr. Thomas and Joanne Higgins of Parry Sound; her siblings Adam, Aaron, Gillian and Jordan; and grandparents", among others. The funeral was held at St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Parry Sound. Memorial donations to the RACH Foundation at Princess Margaret Hospital were suggested. Canadian Blood Services will honour Higgins during a blood donor clinic in Parry Sound next week.

[Grins, waves and peace signs]

Saying farewell today are the last participants in this summer's Arts Computer Experience, or ACE camp. The program, for kids aged 7 to 12, has been running in two-week sessions since the beginning of July -- and a swim is always the last activity of each day. Classes resume in local schools September 6.

ESQ celebrates 15th anniversary -- from the UW media relations office

Canada's largest science and technology camp, the UW-based Engineering Science Quest, is celebrating both its 15th anniversary and the arrival of its 20,000th camper this summer.

To mark the years of fun and creative education, ESQ will be holding a special "20,000th camper/15th Anniversary" celebration at 9 a.m. on Monday, the last registration day of the 2005 season. Members of the media are being invited to the celebration.

ESQ, an innovative program for kids entering grades 1 to 12, says it follows a simple recipe: take real scientific concepts and present them to youth in fun and creative ways. Ice cream is made using liquid nitrogen, and "slime" is made using water, borax and glue. While some campers model DNA using household items, others dissect anything from real cows' eyes to computer towers as part of their week.

Launched in 1990 with three staff members and two small camps, ESQ has grown to 18 groups each summer, with more than 100 high school and university leaders involved. Parents from as far away as Hong Kong and the Northwest Territories send children to the camp. Others have asked if similar programs can be started in countries as far away as Cuba and Peru.

Since its inception, ESQ has become a full year-round program. Special themed camps are offered throughout the year, including a girls-only camp and a specialized Lego camp. In May and June, ESQ travels to schools throughout southwestern Ontario to bring fun and innovative science activities directly into the classroom.

ESQ has also been expanding geographically. Each summer, it operates beyond the UW campus, offering special "satellite" programs in such locations as Chatham, Stratford and Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, near Brantford. These programs provide opportunities for children who would otherwise not be able to come to a major urban centre for a science camp experience.

  • Northern Ontario medical school ready to go
  • Asteroid named for U of Western Ontario
  • 'The outsider stirring a revolution at the heart of Oxford'
  • Athena Swan charter for women in British science
  • 'Connect 2 Canada' for Canadians in the US
  • SSHRC moves ahead with changes despite leadership uncertainty
  • 'Women still face bias in science' (CNN)
  • 'Piled Higher and Deeper'
  • New president for Royal Military College
  • 'Credit due for foreign credentials' (University Affairs)
  • Revisiting Diversity on Campus (UA)
  • Labour peace slow in coming to major British university
  • 'If academics don't deal with hate'
  • Health information on the web: pluses and minuses
  • A weekend and a look ahead

    Gorgeous weather and breathtaking buskers are in the forecast as we come -- can you believe it? -- to the last weekend before Labour Day. Things will be quiet on most of the campus, with not so much as a Tim Horton's serving up the brew on Saturday or Sunday.

    The UW libraries are on reduced, between-terms hours, with both Dana Porter and the Davis Centre closing at 6 tonight and open only from 12 to 6 on Saturday and Sunday. The map library, and the architecture library in Cambridge, won't be open over the weekend at all. Another library note: they're still cleaning up the micro room on the first floor of the Dana Porter Library, following last week's minor flood. Some materials are now available for use -- ask at the circulation desk -- and staff are hoping to have the room reopened within a few days.

    One area that will be buzzing this weekend is the Ron Eydt Village conference centre, where two groups are arriving today. One is a 100-strong cheerleading camp, sponsored by the prize-winning UW Cheerleaders, that runs through Sunday. The other is the roughly 100 dons and other residence life staff for the coming year, who are starting a week of high-intensity training just before thousands of students move into the residences on the long weekend.

    Warrior football camp is also still in progress, and other teams are preparing for the fall season as well. The soccer Warriors, both men and women, will face squads from McMaster University on Sunday in Hamilton. Men's rugby starts August 31, baseball September 3, football September 5, and so it goes.

    [Guelke] It was announced while I was away, earlier this month, that Len Guelke (left) is among UW faculty members who are officially retiring as of September 1. That would end a thirty-year career for Guelke as a professor of geography, and for a time chair of the geography department. But frankly, it's difficult to imagine the university without Guelke's presence as commentator and gadfly, in addition to his work in historical geography, the philosophy of geography, frontier settlement, cartography (he was president of the Canadian Cartographic Association), and similar fields. Guelke has been a frequent writer of letters to the editor, was president of the faculty association 1988-91, and served in other roles, including many years as a member of the academic freedom and tenure committee. The faculty association says he has agreed to continue assisting with AF&T matters. He is married to Jeanne Kay Guelke, also a professor of geography.

    Canadian high school students, backed by UW, did well this year at the International Olympiad in Informatics, a computer programming competition in Poland. The four students -- selected for their scores on the Canadian Computing Competition, a nation-wide contest organized by UW's mathematics faculty -- each earned a medal. Topping the list was Richard Peng of Vaughan Road Academy in Toronto, earning a gold medal for his 17th-place finish among 283 contestants from 72 countries. Other Canadian students took a silver medal and two bronzes. Two of the students -- silver medalist Simon Parent of Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and bronze medalist Aidin Kashigar of London -- will be attending UW this fall, while the other two competitors, Peng and North York's Qiyu Zhu, have another year to complete in high school. The International Olympiad in Informatics is an annual computer programming competition for the best pupils of secondary schools from all over the world. The week-long competition wound up Wednesday. The Canadian team was sponsored by Sun Microsystems of Canada.

    Team Nova Scotia, which included UW civil engineering student Vickie Lounder, had two wins, two losses and a tie in field hockey competition in the Canada Summer Games in Regina this month.  . . . Participants in the Ontario Mennonite Music Camp, which has been going on for the past two weeks at Conrad Grebel University College, will give their final performance tonight at 7:30 at Breslau Mennonite Church. . . . Here's a reminder that fall term fees are due Monday for those who are paying by cheque (payments by bank transfer can come as late as September 7). . . .


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