The President's Tea, hosted by Dr. Douglas Kneale and held on June 11, 2019 was an opportunity for WURA members to share their company and, as a special treat, to pay tribute to Dr. Datta Pillay, who recently received an honorary doctorate for his many years of service to the University of Windsor. The pictures featured below are also accompanied by the speeches given by Mr. Roger Lauzon and Dr. Stanley Cunningham.
Before we celebrate the guest of honour today, Dr. Datta Pillay, I would like to take a few minutes to thank Dr. Douglas Kneale, for all that he has done for WURA as Interim President of the University, and as Provost and V.P. Academic before. He has always been open to our ideas and treats our retirees’ group with respect. With WURA’s suggestion, he was very willing to schedule today’s annual Spring President’s Tea for Retirees, which Dr. Wildeman had originally started a few years ago, but was not held last year. He was also willing to allow WURA to have a Celebration for Dr. Pillay today, at his President’s Tea.
Along with the Executive Director of IT Services, Ryan Kenney, Dr. Kneale was willing to give WURA dues-paying members, free access to Online Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel and Powerpoint). This is on top of free access to our e-mail system, MS Outlook, and complimentary parking for any WURA events in Assumption Hall. As well, he was open to WURA increasing our membership to include retired non-union managers and administrators.
Thank you Dr. Kneale, for all that you have done for WURA. We look forward to continue working closely with you after, when you return to your position as Provost, and hopefully, assist us with our relationship with the new President, Dr. Robert Gordon.
Now, for WURA’s guest of honour, Dr. Datta Pillay, who received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree at Convocation on May 29th . He joined the Biology Department in 1963 and retired in 1997, after 34 years of service at the University of Windsor. He was an NSERC-funded researcher for all 34 years at the University. He has chaired the United Way University Campaign for more than 20 years, and was honoured by the United Way with an Ambassador Award. For his numerous community activities, he has received many other awards, which were enunciated at Convocation.
Since Datta’s retirement, he has been a Professor Emeritus and very actively involved with the Windsor University Retirees’ Association (WURA) Executive. WURA was started in 1991, and Bill Phillips was Editor of its first Newsletter #1, in July, 1991. Datta joined WURA in December 1997, the year he retired, as its Secretary, and took over as Editor of the Newsletter in January, 1998, with Newsletter #26. It is ironic that also at that time, retired Senior Administrators were added as new members of WURA, to existing retired Faculty and Librarian members. Today, in 2019, retired non-union managers and administrators are now being added as new members of WURA. Since that time in 1998, Datta has edited some 88 Newsletters, with Newsletter #113 coming out this past Spring. He has been Editor of the Newsletter and on the WURA Executive for some 21 and ½ years. WURA celebrated its 25th Anniversary a couple years ago. Datta has been WURA’s heart and soul, over the years. I am very sure that without Datta’s dedication to WURA, WURA would not exist today.
I have given you a little history of Datta’s involvement with WURA. I have asked a longtime friend and WURA colleague, Dr. Stan Cunningham, to share some of his experiences with Datta over the years. Stan, a few words please…….
(Mr. Roger Lauzon, WURA President, June 11, 2019.)
Datta and I have been good friends for over 50 years. I came to know who he was shortly after his arrivaI in Windsor in the early 1960s, but I got to know him much better when we served together in the Faculty Association during the 1970s, he as President and I as past President. During that time I became aware of his interests in the various university sectors and how they functioned together. As a result, he soon became my go-to-guy for all manner of issues. He emerged in my overall view as someone willing to discuss and analyze a wide range of issues—academic, administrative, and intellectual—and offer his best advice whenever he thought I and others needed it.
Over the years, I have also come to realize he runs far deeper than that in his life experiences, his personal values and private achievements. Following his father’s early death when he was just 8 years old, then living with his mother and siblings in a painful shift from affluence to poverty and struggle and dependence, Datta quickly came to appreciate the importance of service to others. He soon began to assist his mother through his modest earnings tutoring children even younger than he. After bicycling home in the dark, he often studied by the light of the street lamp because the electricity had been turned off in his home. Effort and sacrifice like this became a lifelong commitment to hard work and service to others. His own early hardships and struggles became an instructive hard-won truth: that there are inspirations and opportunities embedded within difficulties and challenges. It’s interesting that in reviewing his early years, Datta does not use the word ‘difficulties’; rather he uses the word “challenges”.
In his own reflections, too, Datta speaks in some detail about all those who helped him and about the importance of recognizing that no-one succeeds only by one’s own efforts. Indeed, as part of that effort, he urged our young students and graduates, in their reflections, not just to pay lip-service to gratitude, but to “dwell in gratitude” making it a core ingredient of their identity.
In reviewing Datta’s career, I’m reminded of Tennyson’s Ulysses who, even in his twilight years, chooses never to rest on his laurels. That is how I see and understand my dear friend, who never really rests on his laurels. He understands clearly what it means when the poet concludes “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” That’s the Datta Pillay I know, and by whom this university and its community have been blessed by his presence and contributions.
June 11, 2019