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Widow accepts soldier’s posthumous degree

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Amanda Anderson barely held back her tears as she prepared to receive her husband Jordan’s posthumous degree this afternoon.

“It’ll be an honour,” she said in a brief interview moments before the University of Manitoba fall convocation began.

“I wish it wasn’t me doing it, I wish it was him. I’ll do it for him,” Anderson said.

Cpl. Jordan Anderson died in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan in early July.

He’d been completing a distance education degree in political studies through U of M’s military support office, and was very close to finishing when he died.

“It was elective credits that were left,” Amanda Anderson said.

U of M awarded Jordan Anderson a posthumous degree, the first time the university has ever given a degree to an active soldier killed in wartime.

Several family members accompanied his widow from Alberta, and the audience at the Church of the Rock was speckled with uniforms, from enlisted soldiers who’d served with Jordan Anderson, to senior officers.

“The regiment made sure some of his closest friends could be here,” Amanda Anderson said. “The interest has been amazing from the general public.

“It was his friends — they were the ones who contacted the university.”

Prof. George MacLean, acting head of political studies, persuaded the university’s senate to take the unprecedented step. Anderson had completed all his political science courses, and had hoped to go on to graduate school and become an intelligence officer.

“He loved learning,” said Amanda Anderson. Her husband would read something in the newspaper, then go to other sources to learn as much about a subject as he could, she recalled.

“Everyone in the military support office has been terrific over the past five years,” she said. “It’s something he wanted to do — I’ll finish it for him.”

Jordan Anderson’s friends have raised $10,000 to establish two bursaries in his memory.

“He was always doing some kind of homework,” said Cpl. Jeff Black with a smile. “Once he got his mind on something, you couldn’t shake him.

“He was an easy-going guy, but he was the most dedicated soldier I’ve ever seen,” said Black, who served with Anderson in Edmonton as a member of the Third Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

“It’s a great honour being asked to come here,” said Black.

“He was a joy to talk to. He was above-average intelligence,” said Cpl. Adam Bowness, a friend from Anderson’s first of two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

“We were working basically out of a trench for six months,” Bowness said. “He wanted to be an intelligence officer, and he wanted to be a graduate student.Black said that if Anderson could have been at convocation Thursday, “He’d probably have his trademark cackling laugh, and be grinning ear-to-ear.”

The fall convocation was moved to Church of the Rock because of an going strike by support service workers at U of M.

Environmentalist Prof. Louis Fortier and educator Don Robertson received honourary degrees as 1,271 students graduated Wednesday and today.

Among them were the first six Master’s of Arts students to graduate in school psychology — in such high demand that each student has already been recruited and hired, all in Manitoba.

“We’re not surprised; the school psychologist is a valuable team member contributing to a healthy, functioning community, and these are topnotch students,” said Prof. Barry Mallin, co-ordinator of U of M’s school psychology program.

“School systems today are asked to respond to the needs of children with highly diverse and complex issues,” Mallin said. “Children with learning and behavioural problem, issues of cognitive functioning, health, emotional and family concerns and the occasional crisis are all part of the job.”

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 18, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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