Thompson Rivers University

Distinguished Local Author to Receive UCC Honorary Degree

  Posted on: March 23, 2004

KAMLOOPS-A distinguished local author and pioneer of The University College of the Cariboo (UCC) will be recognized with an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree at UCC’s Convocation Ceremony, to be held June 11th. Joan Weir, a prolific author who has contributed much to Canadian letters and to regional historical knowledge, was born in Calgary, later moving to Winnipeg in her high school years. She completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in History and English at the University of Manitoba.

After graduation, Ms. Weir embarked on a professional writing career, writing first for radio, then for television, then settling into researching and writing novels and historical fiction for both young adult and juvenile readers. She moved to Kamloops with her husband Dr. Ormond Weir when he joined the surgical staff at Royal Inland Hospital. They have four sons: Ian, Paul, Michael and Richard.

Joan Weir taught creative writing at UCC beginning in 1977, the year her first and second novels, Exile at the Rocking Seven and Career Girl, were published. For over two decades, she nurtured UCC’s creative writing program, inspiring her colleagues as well as her students. The first individual to donate her papers to the UCC library’s Special Collections, she completed much of her research in that library, a fact she has repeatedly acknowledged in her books. She also gave unstintingly of her time to fundraising book sales and guest lectures. Her longevity at UCC is commemorated on the Pioneer Wall.

Her contributions to the larger community are also considerable. In addition to leading workshops for the public library system and speaking to classes throughout the Cariboo region, Joan Weir served the local school district for several years by leading workshops for the annual Young Authors Conference.

She is the author of several unique works among her six non-fiction books, including definitive histories of the community of Walhachin during the early years of this century, a history of the historic and horrendous all-Canadian route to the Klondike straight north from Edmonton, and a history of Barkerville’s Gold Rush Church, all of which are resources valued and frequently consulted at the Kamloops Archives. Influenced by her father, the Anglican Archbishop of Rupert’s Land, she has also written three histories related to the role of the church in opening up the West: Catalysts and Watchdogs: BC’s Men of God, Canada’s Gold Rush Church, and Sherman.

Her fiction comprises a total of 17 novels, including The Principal’s Kid, which won the 2000 BC Book Award and was shortlisted for two other awards the same year: The Silver Birch Award and CNIB Tiny Torgi Talking Book Award. Her novel, The Brideship, was also shortlisted for two awards, the 1999 Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction Award, and the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award. Four of her books, The Principal’s Kid, Storm Rider, Secret at Westwind, and Sixteen is Spelled O-U-C-H, have been translated into a number of languages, including Korean, German, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish.

Two new historical novels by Joan Weir are scheduled for publication next year: Promises to Keep, an historical novel set in Walhachin, BC during the time of the First World War, and a new young adult adventure novel which unfolds against the background of the Cariboo Gold Rush.

“This honorary doctorate is an absolute thrill, and I still can’t believe it,” said Weir. “It was my association with other faculty members at UCC and with the students in my classes that helped me grow and develop as a writer. Even today, I would be lost without the resources of the UCC Library and the help of the Library staff. When UCC was established, the founders envisioned an institution that would be a source of inspiration, education and encouragement for its students. This is exactly what they have succeeded in creating.”

“UCC has developed into the unique and responsive university it is today because of the dedication and talents of people like Joan Weir,” said UCC President Roger Barnsley. “UCC is greatly honoured by having Joan Weir accept this degree.”

For more information, please contact: Roger Barnsley250-828-5001 and/or Joan Weir at 250-372-5473 or email: joanweir@direct.ca

Photo available: please contact Bronwen Scott at 250-371-5739 or email:
bboulton@cariboo.bc.ca