John Holmes is the 2014 recipient of CAUT’s Distinguished Academic Award
, the highest honour the association can give academic staff in recognition of extraordinary accomplishments as a teacher, in research and scholarly work, and in service to the university and the community.
“Those who have been privileged to study with John Holmes comment on his accessibility, patience, compassion, and interest in their futures long after formal teacher-student relationships end. They have been inspired by his passion for his discipline and his unending generosity with his time and wisdom, and many are now academic faculty in their own right who further John’s theoretical insights and methodological innovations in their work and the work of their students across North America,” notes the nomination letter from the award’s jury.
Holmes, an emeritus professor of geography at Queen’s University, was presented with the award at CAUT’s council meeting in Ottawa May 2.
Holmes joined the geography department in 1971 and has twice served as its chair. He is an expert in economic geography and is credited with broadening the field to include a new sub-discipline of labour geography that shifted the focus from corporations and government only, to include and emphasize the agency of workers and their unions. Periods as a visiting professor at several universities in North America and overseas, like his many years of contributing papers, articles, and book chapters not only during the course of his career but also post-retirement, underline his influence in international geography circles.
He has taught thousands of undergraduates, supervised 23 MAs and six PhDs, and mentored three post-doctoral fellows during his career. As professor emeritus he continues to jointly supervise five PhDs.
Not only did Holmes serve the university well, but his dedication to principles of fairness, equality and solidarity resulted in his being active in the founding of Queen’s University Faculty Association — where he recently served a two-year term as president — and the organization of both Queen’s support staff and graduate students under union umbrellas. His activism also informed his work to further the interests of QUFA members, serving on the bargaining team, chairing a variety of committees, and credited with being instrumental in QUFA’s first-ever strike vote in 2011, two years before his retirement.
Off-campus, he was an active participant in social justice initiatives. He was a founding member of the Kingston Food Cooperative and an active leader in a local non-profit social housing support group. He has worked on NDP election campaigns and is an elected trustee for the Kingston & District Labour Council. As a geographer, he has served on editorial boards, reviewed dozens of papers, conducted program reviews and sat on numerous provincial and national scholarship and research awards adjudication committees.
“This level of service would be quite remarkable on its own account, but John accomplished it while revolutionizing a field of study, mentoring the next generation, furthering union interests and working to improve his community. He really has achieved excellence in all areas of academic and civic life,” noted the award jury.
“Dr. Holmes has been deeply engaged in his local community, as well as regionally and globally, and has repeatedly demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarship and service,” said CAUT president Wayne Peters. “We are pleased to recognize him with our most prestigious award.”