June 20, 2011
KENNA MARY MCKINNON
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
EDMONTON — Austin Mardon, longtime advocate for the rights of the mentally ill, has been awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the University of Alberta.
Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1992, Mardon has spent his career advocating for the rights of those with disabilities, in particular schizophrenia. He has been the "public face of schizophrenia" since that time.
He received the Order of Canada in 2006 and numerous other awards, including the CM Hincks Award, the highest award given by the Canadian Mental Health Association. A member of St. Alphonsus Parish, he has also won an award from the Canadian Church Press for an article published in the WCR in 2009.
Giving the convocation address in the Jubilee Auditorium on June 10, Mardon said, "I was just a few blocks from here when I first became ill with schizophrenia in 1992.
"When they wheeled me past the psychiatry sign over at the U of A Hospital, I thought my life was over.
"I'm glad to be able to stand here today, and tell you that a disability does not mean your life is over. Perhaps the idea you had of what your life will be may change, but how we accept and adapt to the large unexpected things that get thrown at us in life will affect how happy you think your life is."
Pointing to the row of professors beside him, Mardon said, "I'm the son and grandson of college professors. That's what my future was supposed to hold. However, as my wife likes to say, life is what happens to you while you are making other plans."
Mardon has a bachelor's degree in geography from the University of Lethbridge, a master of science in geography from South Dakota State University, and a master of educational curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University.
Despite being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, he went on to earn a distance learning PhD in geography from Greenwich University in Australia in 2000.
He has published numerous books and articles, many co-authored with his father, Ernest Mardon. He has also mentored many people over the years, serving as an inspiration and guide to those with disabilities.
Austin Mardon says, "If you view adversity as an opportunity, you will control your life rather than just floating along with the current."
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