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Innovation Blog

Thanking Dr. Robert Fournier


Thanking Dr. Robert Fournier
Selection Committee Member: 1990 – 2016
Chair: 2009 - 2016

The Foundation’s Nobel-inspired evaluation and selection process is underway in its search for the 2019 Manning Laureates. The three-part process was developed in 1982, and continues to identify some of Canada’s most outstanding innovators.

First, submissions are reviewed to determine if they qualify for the second phase of the process. Once the Awards Coordinator determines the qualified nominees, their submissions are sent to evaluators who are experts in the innovation’s field. The evaluators’ scores and comments for each submission are then sent to the selection committee for their final determination of the year’s Manning Laureates.

The Selection Committee is a group of seven academic, business and community leaders with wide-ranging expertise and diverse networks. Their decision is final and completely independent of the Foundation’s Trustees.

The Foundation relies on the Chair of the Selection Committee to guide the process, ensuring the innovators chosen as Manning Laureates are of the highest caliber in their fields. For seven years, Dr. Robert Fournier held the position of Chair, and he upheld the integrity of the process with skillful passion. He recently retired from the Committee, after 26 years of service, seven of those as Chair.

Bob was an eminently qualified selection committee member. He received his Master's and Doctoral degrees in Biological Oceanography from the College of William and Mary, and the University of Rhode Island. In addition, Dr. Fournier held fellowships in Norway and England before joining the faculty of the University of Hawaii in 1969.

In 1971 he joined Dalhousie University where he retains the well-deserved title of Professor Emeritus of Oceanography. He is credited with leading Dalhousie’s transformation into Canada’s leading ocean university. His research interests included studies of the physical and chemical processes that contribute to the high biological productivity on continental shelves. From 1985 to 2000 Dr. Fournier served as Associate Vice-President (Research & International Relations), and Executive Director of Ocean Studies and was instrumental in facilitating the acquisition of a number of important research initiatives.

Dr. Fournier, Oceanographer

Dr. Fournier is a former member of the Science Council of Canada, the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology, which reported directly to the Prime Minister, and chaired the Nova Scotia Council of Applied Science and Technology, which advised the Nova Scotia government on science and technology policy. At the request of the Premier of Nova Scotia, he chaired the Halifax Harbour Task Force, and also served as a member of the Northern Cod Review Panel that reported to the Federal Minister of Fisheries. Subsequently, he chaired the Joint Public Review Panel for the Sable Offshore Energy Project, the Electricity Marketplace Governance Committee, and the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Whites Point Quarry on Digby Neck. He was also active in marine-related projects in Uruguay and Nunavut.

Dr. Fournier is also a well-known interpreter of science to the public, and was a regular contributor of science commentaries to many local and national CBC radio and television programmes since from 1974 to 2016. He delivered more than 2,500 weekly science commentaries on local radio and national television.

Bob succeeded Dr. Francis LeBlanc as Chair in 2009. Frank recalled why he recommended Bob as his successor. Having served together on the Selection Committee for 19 years, Frank had observed Bob’s many skills and attributes that made him the natural successor.

“A good chair has to be a good listener”, said LeBlanc. “Bob was one of the best listeners, and would listen to all points of view before making his final decision. He never came to a committee meeting with pre-conceived ideas of which submission should win. He was one of the most accomplished debaters in the adjudication process; his general overall expertise meant he had a firm grasp on what was innovative and which submissions met the criteria.” Most importantly”, closes LeBlanc, “he was highly respected by his fellow committee members.” 

Selection Committee members recall Bob’s leadership with respect and affection. Current Chair, Dr. Eric Cohen says “Bob led by example as an obviously brilliant and thoughtful person with not only a wide scope of knowledge, but also a keen appreciation of the passion and commitment needed to turn good ideas into great innovations.”
Dr. Eric Cohen, Chair, Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation Selection Committee

Using marine-related images, Committee member Dr. Morley Hollenberg recalls, “Bob's stewardship is of a very steady hand guiding the ship, with attention to detail and promoting a thorough enquiry into each and every application that came to our table. In brief: an expert hand guiding the Manning Awards ship to the right harbour.”

"Bob is an amazing individual and colleague, with a rare combination of curiosity, integrity, humour, patience and practicality. As the Chair of the Selection Committee, Bob was extremely talented in managing to enable open and deep discussions about various applications, and then bring members together to arrive at excellent decisions. From a more personal perspective, Bob and his wife Nancy were a key part of the overall success of the Selection Committee. Together, they brought wonderful camaraderie to our group. I always treasured my conversations with them both about the adventures of their family and grandchildren, the latest books that they were reading and the latest issues that they were championing. While I could never get either of them to join me for a swim at our various meetings, I always enjoyed learning of the new local places and people that Nancy met while our committee toiled in our meetings. The contributions and warmth that Bob and Nancy brought to our Selection Committee members and partners, as well as the passion for the Manning Innovation Awards is tremendously appreciated and fondly remembered," shares Dr. Janet Ronsky, Selection Committee Member.

"Bob’s great leadership enabled the committee to drive to consensus while still enabling all members to share their diverse points of view. His ability to concisely conclude and communicate was greatly admired. I was proud to be a committee member under his leadership. Bob dedicated his life to science and shared his passion with others. As chairman of the selection committee he had the wonderful ability of bringing together diverse points of view and reaching group consensus. His light hearted nature, seafaring yarns and friendship will be dearly missed,” says Michel David, Selection Committee Member.

Learning of Bob’s retirement from the Selection Committee was met with a sadness, but great appreciation for his service to Canada’s most prestigious innovation awards. He and his wife Nancy were among the Foundation’s greatest supporters, and will forever be part of the Foundation’s history.

Nancy and Bob Fournier

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