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Thelma Finlayson

Our Thelma to receive chancellor’s award

January 7, 2010

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Correction Appended

For SFU’s favourite lady, Thelma Finlayson, receiving the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service award will be another feather in an already well-feathered cap.

The 95-year-old retired biology professor received word about the honour while attending President Michael Stevenson’s seasonal reception in December.

The chancellor’s award recognizes individuals who have made a distinguished contribution to the province in areas in which SFU has a major interest or direct association.

Finlayson is a renowned entomologist who helped found the university’s pest management program, which she recently revitalized by funding a new chair.

She has spent the past three decades since retirement (in 1979) counselling students at the Burnaby campus.

The president’s reception was a welcome outing for Finlayson, who last summer contracted a C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) infection after taking antibiotics for a foot injury.

The normally active senior spent eight weeks in hospital recovering. "I still haven’t got my legs back," she says.

"Once I do, and if they’d have me, I’d like to be back up at the university. That’s what I’m hoping for, but it’ll be harder to get around now with a cane."

Learning that C. difficile is often deadly came as a surprise, she says. "It just never occurred to me that I wouldn’t recover. So I simply got better. And now I feel fine."

As for the Chancellor’s award, Finlayson says she is "stunned."

"This is just so totally unexpected," says Finlayson, whose "award wall" in the bedroom of her Burnaby apartment includes the Order of Canada and a YWCA Woman of Distinction award. It also includes a treasured departmental diploma of recognition, featuring drawings of the insects she focused on during her career.

Correction: January 12, 2010
The original print version of this story incorrectly described Finlayson as "founder of the university's pest management program". While she did help found the program, the founding director was in fact Bryan Beirne. He joined SFU in 1967 and established the centre for pest management and the world's first master's program in the discipline. Beirne later became dean of graduate studies. He died in 1998.

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