In a recent post, I mentioned a number of artists who have inspired and influenced me in my current profession as a photographer. Inspiration of course may come at different times in one’s life. In the acknowlegements section of my ‘Georgian Bay’ book (2008), I wrote: “ I am forever grateful to the following:
… Gerard Courtin for writing the introduction to this book and also for sharing with so many of us at Laurentian University over the years your passion about the environment and your enthusiasm for teaching. There is often one teacher who stands out in one’s life and you have been that one for me”. It was also an honour for me to dedicate the book 'Georgian Bay' to Gerard Courtin.
I still remember that first botany class in 1972. I had enrolled in the Biology Faculty at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario without really knowing what my career aspirations would be. For some administrative reason, I was not allowed to take the biology course in the 13th grade in high school so I really did not know whether I was making a smart choice. But after that first class, I knew I would pursue biology as a career. Dr. Courtin, or G.M.C. as he was often referred to, made the study of plants so interesting, so exciting and so infectious. He was an inspiration for many of my colleagues as well and, as is often the case with smaller universities, he was always accessible throughout my entire degree. This inspiration served me well during my 17-year career in the biological sciences as well as in my current freelance photography career - often as a nature photographer - which began in earnest in 1996.
As life would have it, our paths have crossed on a number of occasions. In the fall of 1999, I photographed Gerard Courtin for ‘Green Rebirth’, an article published in the May 2000 issue of Canadian Geographic magazine about the reclamation of the Sudbury area which he had been involved with since the beginning when I was an undergrad at Laurentian University. In 2007, I approached Dr. Courtin to write the introduction to my ‘Georgian Bay’ book (published by Key Porter 2008). Even before retiring as a full time biology professor at Laurentian University, Gerard had been leading kayaking trips on Georgian Bay with White Squall for years now so he was an excellent candidate to complement in writing my imagery of Georgian Bay. I returned to Sudbury in 2000 to photograph for the millennium book project ‘Healing The Landscape: Celebrating Sudbury’s Reclamation Story’; Gerard was very helpful in providing ideas for photography. In the fall of 2012, Gerard approached me to become a Patron of ‘The Friends of Lake Laurentian’. As a founding member of the organization, the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area was always close to his heart. As an undergrad, I had spent much time discovering the natural world while hiking its trails so it was a ‘no-brainer’ to accept.
While retired from the Department of Biology, Gerard continues to teach forensic botany at Laurentian Univeristy as well as work on forensic botanical cases for various Ontario police departments. Last night, while watching the latest episode of ‘The Nature of Things’ hosted by CBC’s David Suzuki, I was pleased to see Gerard featured in the episode ‘Bugs, Bones and Botany: The Science of Crime’. So now we can add ‘movie star’ to his long list of continuing achievements. I remember a comment he made to me a few years ago which went something like this: “The key to being healthy after retirement is to keep active”! Well, active he is but mostly he continues to be an inspiration to me and, I suspect, to many others as well !