Gene Joseph, the first librarian of First Nations heritage in B.C., was made an honorary doctor of laws at Vancouver Island University’s convocation ceremony on Tuesday.
Joseph’s love of books was recognized early on, her family joking that even an earthquake couldn’t stop her from reading.
She attended Langara College, where she was of only a few First Nations students in 1972, then studied at the University of British Columbia. During her graduate studies in library science at UBC, Joseph realized the language and terms used to catalogue and organize material on First Nations were inaccurate and demeaning.
She embarked on a new classification system with terms used in First Nations communities, known as First Nations House of Learning Subject Headings.
Joseph has never stopped. She was founding librarian at UBC’s Xwi7xwa Library. She also organized materials from the landmark Delgamuukw court case, which set a legal precedent for the court’s recognition of Aboriginal title in Canada.
In 1991, Joseph helped establish the B.C. Library Association First Nations Interest Group that enacted an endowment in her name for First Nations students.
Sixteen Gene Joseph Scholars are now working as information professionals.
Joseph says her parents were an inspiration to their 12 children, who were always expected to work hard, be honest, support and encourage others. Her father had an elementary-school education and her mother attended a residential school until 16, but most of Joseph’s siblings have post-secondary degrees.
VIU will award honorary degrees to three others at convocation ceremonies today.
Sergio Cocchia and Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia will also be made honorary doctors of laws. Since learning their child was on the autism spectrum, Cocchia and Lisogar-Cocchia have assisted other families dealing with similar diagnoses. They founded the Pacific Autism Centre Foundation and Society, a family-led initiative that established the Autism Spectrum Disorder Knowledge Centre for B.C. and the Good Life Family Fitness Autism Hub.
Political scientist Michael K. Hawes will be made an honorary doctor of letters. As CEO of Fulbright Canada, Hawes has worked to make the organization the world’s largest and most prestigious academic exchange program. The Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program enables scholars from both countries to cross the border to lecture and study.
On Monday, Robert Joseph, hereditary chief for the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation and a pioneer of Canada’s truth and reconciliation process, was named an honorary doctor of laws.