By Neale McDevitt
One is an internationally recognized expert on China who was raised in Oxford, England, the other a Floridian who is considered a world leader in the field of health care practices for pregnant women and their newborns. On Oct. 16, both were honoured with prestigious awards from the Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas) – a Quebec-based organization that awards researchers who have made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of research and scientific knowledge in French-speaking Canada. So, who says learning a second language is difficult?
For Robin Yates, Department of East Asian Studies and History, and the recipient of Acfas’ Prix André-Laurendeau for his exceptional contribution to the field of humanities, acquiring French was an edifying byproduct of his upbringing. The son of a high school classics and French teacher in Oxford, he spent his summers in Southern France on the property of his great-grandfather, a former mathematics teacher who had retired there. “We spent most of our time exploring the region’s villages, cathedrals and museums,” said Yates. “I quickly became very comfortable in a French environment.”
An expert in early and traditional Chinese history, historical theory, archaeology of culture, traditional popular culture, Chinese poetry, Chinese science and technology, Yates said he was “absolutely delighted to receive the Prix André-Laurendeau. It is a tremendous, tremendous honour.
“But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my many colleagues at McGill and, of course, that of my wife Grace Fong [a professor in the Department of East Asian Studies].”
For his part, Florida-native Dr. Michael Kramer says being named the recipient of the Léo-Pariseau award in acknowledgment of his outstanding work in biological and health sciences, has only solidified the connection to the Montreal – the place he has called home since 1978. “As an Anglophone who immigrated to Montreal from the U.S., I have always felt at home in Quebec, both professionally and personally,” he said via email from Minsk, Belarus where he is pursuing a randomized trial of the long-term child health effects of breastfeeding that he began there 14 years ago. “To have won an award from a francophone scientific society reinforces my attachment to the city and province.”
A professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Kramer also understands the significance of the award for his profession. “As the first epidemiologist to have won this award, the honor means even more to me, signifying not only the province’s openness to me as a person, but also its recognition of the importance of my area of research,” he said.