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  • Archaeologist Birgitta Wallace to receive honorary degree

    Thursday, April 5, 2018
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    An annual rite of passage, Memorial’s spring convocation will see some 2,500 degrees, including around 600 graduate degrees, awarded during 12 sessions at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre on May 17 and at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre from May 29-June 1.
     
    While spring convocation highlights Memorial’s newest graduates, it is also an opportunity to recognize leading cultural, academic and social influencers with the awarding of six honorary degrees.
     
    Here at Grenfell Campus, an honorary degree will be awarded to Birgitta Wallace, archaeologist of the Norse settlements in North America.

    Archaeologist emerita of Parks Canada, Ms. Wallace has been a tireless advocate for Newfoundland and Labrador’s rightful place in Viking history.
     
    Born and raised in Sweden to Swedish and Danish parents, Ms. Wallace received her degree in Scandinavian archaeology and anthropology at the University of Uppsala.
     
    Ms. Wallace began her career at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where she also served as adjunct professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. At this time she undertook an exhaustive survey of all alleged Norse sites in North America.
     
    She also continued field work in Sweden, co-directing excavations with a staff of American graduate students funded by the American-Scandinavian Foundation. In 1964 she was seconded to the excavations led by Anne Stine Ingstad at L’Anse aux Meadows and worked there in 1964 and 1968. The Norwegian expedition led by Drs. Stine Ingstad and Helge Ingstad proved beyond a doubt that the site was Norse and dated from the 11th century, leading to its designation as a National Historic Site of Canada.
     
    Excavations by Parks Canada from 1973-76, in which Ms. Wallace participated, greatly added to the analysis of the site. After her move to Canada in 1975, she became a full-time employee of Parks Canada, first as a staff archaeologist, and later as a senior archaeologist for the Atlantic region, a position she held until her retirement in 1997. Following retirement, Ms. Wallace has continued researching, writing and lecturing on the Norse in North America and on other research.
     
    Among her responsibilities as an Atlantic region archaeologist was directorship of the final excavation season at L’Anse aux Meadows and the subsequent analysis of the results. Innovative and comprehensive, the results have been lauded throughout the archaeological world, and have led Ms. Wallace to conclude that L’Anse aux Meadows is indeed the main site Leif Eriksson described in the Norse Vinland sagas.
     
    Ms. Wallace is the author of
    Westward Vikings: The Saga of L’Anse aux Meadows and more than 80 articles and chapters in books.
     
    In 2015 she was the first female archaeologist to receive the Smith-Wintemberg Award of the Canadian Archaeological Association for outstanding contributions to Canadian archaeology.

    At the St. John's campus convocations, degrees honoris causa will be awarded to Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Indigenous children’s rights advocate; Marion Bogo, social work scholar; Newfoundland playwright Robert Chafe; cultural leader Peter Herrndorf; and acclaimed historian and author Margaret MacMillan.
       
    Honorary degree recipients are chosen from nominations submitted by the public to the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, after a careful examination of the grounds for their nomination. The honorary doctorate degree is designed to recognize extraordinary contribution to society or the university or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.
     
    Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Memorial’s president and vice-chancellor, will address all sessions of convocation and will be joined by other members of Memorial’s senior administration who will speak at various ceremonies.
     
    For further information about convocation, please visit the convocation website.
     
    Ceremonies will be broadcast live online during each session of convocation. The recorded broadcasts will be archived on Memorial’s convocation website for future viewing.
     

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