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The role of universities in addressing the most intractable global issues has been irrefutable since long before Woodrow Wilson commanded institutions of higher learning, in the world's service, "to illuminate duty by every lesson that can be drawn out of the past."
And nothing enhances the study of issues such as world hunger, democratization, human rights and development like the voice of experience. McGill has found such a voice in Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, the former prime minister and secretary of state for external affairs who has just joined the university as a Professor of Practice for Public-Private Sector Partnerships at the McGill Centre for Developing-Area Studies (CDAS).
Aside from his teaching and administrative duties, Mr. Clark will help McGill in its mission to foster connections internationally among academics, state agencies, the private sector and the "Third Sector" of foundations and NGOs.
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum is delighted with the new appointment. "His collaborations at McGill around these issues will undoubtedly help advance our evolving national discussion about what Canada can and should become internationally."
Mr. Clark said he looks forward to augmenting Canada's international role through the university's reach. "Canada's active leadership on international development has been a distinguishing characteristic of both our foreign policy and our national identity," he said. "McGill has a strong reputation and a deep interest in those issues, and I look forward to working with students and faculty in examining ways to strengthen that essential Canadian role in the world."
Monica Trevino, who just completed her PhD on democratization in Brazil, said having a professor who has been so involved in policy implementation is an enormous advantage: "It can give a sense — especially for undergraduates — that not all efforts are futile, that positive things can be achieved. This is someone who survived politics and had such a long experience in the field. It's necessary for students to see concrete applications of solutions towards development issues, and that we can actually do something."
It was at a conference panel last June on Democratic Governance co-sponsored by CDAS and CIDA, that the centre's director, Philip Oxhorn, met Clark. The renowned politician was intrigued by the centre's new directions and ambitions.
Oxhorn said, "Over the course of the past year, CDAS has undergone a major renewal with the goal to put McGill at the forefront of development studies and research, and further link our academic activities to real-world problems and problem solving. Mr. Clark's appointment reflects that process and brings it to a new level."
"He's a genuinely nice man, extremely accessible, and very, very smart. And he is universally acknowledged as having been one of our most effective foreign ministers."
PhD student Francoise Montambeault, who studies development in Latin America, concurred that the appointment is good news for students. "Mr. Clark's strong experience will definitely give students an opportunity to become more familiar with their practical dimensions."
Mr. Clark has been involved in politics since he was a teenager. As a student at the University of Alberta, he worked on campaigns for John Diefenbaker and others. He first ran for office in the 1967 Alberta provincial election, and in 1972, won as a Conservative candidate in the federal election. He led the Conservative party from 1976 to 1983, and again from 1998 to 2003. He was Secretary of State for External Affairs from 1984 to 1991.
When he became prime minister in 1979 at age 39, Joe Clark was the youngest in our country's history. He resigned from the House of Commons in 2004.