Nfld. & Labrador

From one rock to another: Corner Brook born volcanologist among new recipients of Order of Canada

Donald Dingwell, a world leader in volcanology and researcher of geosciences, is one of four Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to be appointed to this year's Order of Canada.

Donald Dingwell 'deeply, deeply honoured' to receive award

Donald Dingwell is one of four Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to be recently appointed to the Order of Canada. (The Academy of Europe)

Governor General Julie Payette announced 120 names from across the country to receive the Order of Canada on Friday, including four Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Among the politicians, entertainers and businesspeople is Donald Dingwell of Corner Brook, a world leader in volcanology and a well-decorated researcher of geosciences.

"It's not too many people that get this honour per year, and there are a vast number of people who are deserving of this. You look at all your colleagues and you realize that you're standing there symbolically for a lot of other people as well," Dingwell told CBC News from his home in Munich.

"So [I'm] just deeply, deeply honoured. There's no way that this was an automatic goal of mine."

I was always facinated by rocks.- Donald Dingwell

Dingwell grew up in Corner Brook on the island's west coast, and received his undergraduate degree in geology and geophysics at Memorial University.

He then moved on to the University of Alberta to complete his PhD in geology, two years at Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., a year as an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and ultimately his doctor rerum naturalium in geochemistry from the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

Today he's the director of the department for Earth and environmental sciences, chair of mineralogy and petrology and a research professor for experimental volcanology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich.

"I was always fascinated by rocks," Dingwell said of his early interest in the field. 

Dingwell's appointment as an officer to the Order of Canada recognizes his leadership and contributions to the study of volcanology and in promoting science and research in international public policy formation. He joins nearly 7,000 other Canadians, from across all sectors of society, to have received the honour since its beginning in 1967.

From one rock to another

Dingwell said he tries to make it back to Newfoundland every couple of years or so, still connected to family in Corner Brook.

When it was announced that he had been appointed to the Order of Canada, Dingwell said the response from family and friends across Canada and across Newfoundland and Labrador was stunning. 

A row of Order of Canada medals are seen on a table before being presented during a ceremony at Rideau Hall. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"That's been the most moving part of the whole experience — is to see everybody who remembers you and how they genuinely enjoy the fact that this has happened," he said. 

But despite living more of his life out of the province than in it, Dingwell said its moments such as these when he is reminded of where he comes from.

A happy e-mail

It was shortly before the list was released by government that Dingwell opened up his inbox to find an e-mail with some good news waiting for him. From there it was a quick phone conversation to find out if he would be interested in accepting the honour, to which he graciously accepted. 

After that, Dingwell said, another e-mail, this time with details about what had transpired and with details about what will happen moving forward.

Several different investitures will take place over 2020 to honour new appointees with ceremonies held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa and La Citadelle in Quebec City. Dingwell said he expects to make the journey from Munich to attend.

For now, the 61-year-old said being appointed to the Order of Canada gives him a little boost of energy to continue his pursuit of researching geosciences. 

The three other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians appointed as members in this year's class include former Premier Roger Grimes, singer-songwriter Sean McCann and businessman Thomas Foran.

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