Rick Hansen granted honorary degree

(Edmonton) Rick Hansen was 15 when his spine was shattered in an accident and he lost the ability to walk.  During fall convocation at the Jubilee Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 17, Hansen, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree, said lying at the hospital bed, he could not imagine life being any worse. He said he could have sold his soul for use of his legs, but with support from friends, family and professionals, including those from the University of Alberta, he was able to realize his dream of representing Canada at the Paralympic Games. Hansen recounted how encouragement from people like the late U of A professor Gary McPherson helped him pull through.

“The words of Gary are in my head,” Hansen said. “‘It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with it that counts.’ These role models helped me realize that life was not over, it was just beginning.”

And that beginning was nothing like what was to come. Hansen went on to win 19 international wheelchair marathons, six Paralympic medals and nine gold medals at the 1982 Pan American Wheelchair Games. He raised $26 million, which was further leveraged to $246 million, for spinal-cord injury research by travelling through 34 countries. He says the U of A spirit was with him throughout the journey. Hansen encouraged students to have a good outlook on life.

“What an incredible way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Man in Motion tour than to be here in front of you to be honoured. To the graduands, I say, congratulations to each and every one of you. As you go forward, these lessons, these moments as you celebrate your success will carry forward in a journey that’s untold and unknown. That it’s your attitude that will sustain you. It is not what happened to you, it’s what you do with it. Keep up the good work and never ever give up.”