Nova Scotia

CBC reporter Sherri Borden Colley's message to graduates: Stay teachable, give back

In a virtual celebration to honour the class of 2020 at the University of King's College, CBC journalist Sherri Borden Colley, designated to receive an honorary doctorate, told graduates to remain humble and teachable. 

'There's a saying, lift as you climb, and that's exactly what I do,' says Sherri Borden Colley

CBC reporter Sherri Borden Colley spoke to this year's graduating class of University of King's College in Halifax. It was done virtually due to public health restrictions. (Robert Short/CBC)

In a virtual celebration honouring the class of 2020 at the University of King's College, CBC journalist Sherri Borden Colley told graduates to remain humble and teachable. 

Borden Colley was supposed to be awarded an honorary doctorate last week at the university's graduation ceremony, but the event was cancelled because of health restrictions due to COVID-19. 

The university plans to have an in-person ceremony at a later date, at which time Borden Colley's Doctor of Civil Law will be conferred.

"Always remain teachable," Borden Colley told graduates in a video posted to Facebook. "I transitioned from a complete newspaper career over to broadcast back in 2016 and I'm still learning, I consider myself a lifelong learner. I'm still learning because, in broadcast, I'm a baby."

The university honoured Borden Colley to acknowledge 25 years of local reporting and her contributions to diversifying journalism. King's announced in March that Borden Colley would receive the honorary doctorate.

In a news release at the time, the school said that Borden Colley told stories that wouldn't otherwise be told "making all her subjects feel represented and heard." 

"She personifies the power of one to make a significant difference in the lives of many," the release said.

The University of King's College announced in March it would award the degree to Borden Colley. (University of King's College Archives)

She said she was stunned when King's told her she would be getting the honorary doctorate.

"After I got over the initial shock I actually cried because your call was totally unexpected," she said. "To have my work recognized partly because of the social justice and advocacy aspects means the world to me."

Borden Colley earned an honours bachelor degree in journalism from King's in 1997. She reported for the Halifax Chronicle Herald for two decades and has been a reporter with CBC Nova Scotia since 2016.

Her reporting put a spotlight on Viola Desmond. She was a black Nova Scotia woman who was arrested and fined in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow.

Borden Colley has written extensively about civil rights activist Viola Desmond. (Still Standing/CBC)

In 2010, decades after Desmond's death, Borden Colley interviewed Desmond's sister, Wanda Robson, and wrote a series of articles about Desmond's civil rights activism. It brought Desmond's story to a wider audience.

The lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia granted Desmond a posthumous pardon. Desmond eventually became the first Canadian woman to appear alone on the $10 bill.

"Be passionate about the work you do, always give back to your community, always give back in a way that will bring about changes in people's lives, especially in marginalized communities," said Borden Colley. 

For years she has worked with the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and has been dedicated to increasing diversity in newsrooms.

"There's a saying, lift as you climb, and that's exactly what I do," she said.