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RDP bestows honorary degrees on educator and scientist

James Barmby and Russell Schnell to be recognized at RDP’s 59th Convocation Ceremonies Friday.
James Barmby will be formally recognized with Honorary Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies Degrees at RDP’s 59th Convocation Ceremonies Friday. (Photo contributed)

A dedicated educator and a climate scientist are receiving honorary degrees from Red Deer Polytechnic.

James Barmby and Russell Schnell will be formally recognized with Honorary Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies Degrees at RDP’s 59th Convocation Ceremonies Friday.

“It is a privilege to recognize Dr. Barmby and Dr. Schnell as our Honorary Degree recipients this year,” says RDP president Stuart Cullum in a statement.

“As respected experts in their fields with deep roots in central Alberta, they have spent their careers in service to the betterment of our communities and our world. They possess uncommon curiosity and passion for education, making them both the kind of lifelong learners we hope our students will be.”

Barmby came to RDP for an Art and Design Diploma and served as a member of student council from 1973-75.

Barmby went on to make significant contributions to the provincial and national post-secondary sectors as an educator and leader. He has been involved in curriculum development, strategic enrollment management, advanced education policy and accreditation.

Throughout his post-secondary roles, Barmby has worked extensively to collaborate with Indigenous communities and to provide supports for people with disabilities.

“Educational institutions provide an opportunity to learn through interaction with others, to realize our individual potential, and to help us appreciate the world in which we live,” says Barmby. “Our institutions are gardens, not factories, and the growth of every person in their care requires the best we have to offer.”

As a distinguished atmospheric and climate scientist, Schnell has made significant contributions to environmental sciences in the region, province and around the world. Over 60 years, he has authored or contributed to nearly 200 publications that have enhanced scientific and global communities.

Schnell was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. This prestigious honour was granted for efforts to disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to outline measures to help mitigate this impact.

Schnell also discovered biological ice nuclei, which are effective initiators of natural precipitation, while working on the Alberta Hail Project.

In recent years, Dr. Schnell has built Little Free Libraries out of recycled materials and donated them to communities to inspire youth. These libraries can be found in Alberta and around the globe.

“Growing up in a small town was an ideal place for me. In summer, my friends and I played outdoors and hiked over the hundred square miles of coulees, streams, and badlands,” says Schnell, of his journey from Castor to world-renowned scientist.

“Coming from a small rural town or a farm background is not an impediment to success. From my perspective, it is a clear and large advantage.”

Barmby and Schnell will join nine others who have received honorary degrees since RDP began bestowing the honour in 2014.

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