2009 honours award

Summer Festival

2009 Moose Jaw Honours Award

Presented to Gary Hyland

April 23, 2009


Gary Hyland, born in 1940, grew up in Moose Jaw as a “South Hill boy”. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in Arts & Science and

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Education. He began his career teaching English at Riverview Collegiate, where he stayed until he retired in 1994. In his thirty-year career as a teacher of English, he won numerous awards for his teaching. These included a Hilroy Fellowship, the McLuhan Distinguished Teacher Award, and the Joseph Duffy Memorial Award for excellence in teaching language arts.

Gary is known by his peers as a writer, editor and poet. For years he wrote a column for Freelance titled “Becoming a Writer: Some Ways and Means”. He is a long-time member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. In 1980 he helped found a school for writers, called the Sage Hill Writing Experience, which is now one of the country’s most respected writing programs. Together with three other local writers he started Coteau Books, a small press which has published many Saskatchewan writers. Undoubtedly Gary Hyland has made our province a better place for writers.

In 1982 Gary published his first book of poetry entitled Just Off Main. Seven more books of poetry followed. Love of Mirrors, released in 2008, won both the prestigious Book of the Year and the Poetry award at the Saskatchewan Book Awards gala. His latest book You appeared last fall.

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In the past few years Gary has received more awards and honours than most people do in a lifetime. He has won the Order of Canada, the Lieutenant Governors Arts Award for Leadership, the Saskatchewan Volunteer medal, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, and a Doctor of Literature degree from the University of Regina in recognition of his remarkable contributions, and was selected to deliver the convocation address on that occasion. In addition, Gary was declared a University of Saskatchewan 100 Alumni of Influence Honoree. He was proud to receive Moose Jaw’s Citizen of the Year Award on two occasions.

When it comes to volunteer activities, Gary is one of a kind. Moose Jaw would not have a thriving cultural community without his drive, determination and tireless work. Perhaps the best example of this is the Festival of Words. He got the idea in 1996 when he realized there were no literary festivals in the prairie provinces, and he asked himself “Why not in Moose Jaw?” The Festival would never have gotten off the ground if it were not for Gary’s leadership and hard work at every level of the organization.

He recruited volunteers, planned programs, contacted speakers, organized events, worked fund raisers, wrote grant applications, trained staff, and even fixed computers. For eleven years he was the unpaid Artistic Coordinator who made the festival fly. Today, in its 13th year the festival is known as a raging success right across Canada.

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In recent years, Gary often attended three or four meetings a day, and had to keep a tight schedule. He is a remarkable individual, who contributes vision, imagination, and vast amounts of energy, and countless hours of unpaid labour to make so many valuable enterprises successful. He was chairperson of the Moose Jaw Cultural Builders, and was directly responsible for making the dream of a cultural centre a reality. Gary was a driving force of Moose Jaw Arts in Motion, a member of the Great Plains School of the Arts, a member of Moose Jaw Pride and Promise, and he was very involved in the formation of the Prairie Arts Festival.

One of Gary’s greatest contributions to this community was when he single-handedly gathered all the information, prepared the application, and was successful in having Moose Jaw declared a Cultural Capital of Canada for populations of less than 50,000. Not only was this a great boost for the image of our city, it made $500,000 available for cultural activities. Some of these activities included: 30 performances of the River Street Musical, a series of four plays running several nights each, the Regina Symphony for five concerts, Ken Mitchell’s Medicine Line for 3 nights, and for the children Who is Mrs. Wilson?, and Cinemagic. In addition it provided funding for the Festival of Words and Prairie Arts Festival.

On one occasion when Gary was in Toronto, he was annoyed and frustrated by the attitude of Toronto publicists. When they heard he lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan he was treated with condescension or dismissal. He said “I’m proud of Moose Jaw and Saskatchewan and those who scoff at us or are patronizing should be staked out naked in Taylor Field in January!”

Gary Hyland has accomplished so much in such a short span. He would be the first to tell you that it would never have been possible without his wife Sharon. It has been her understanding, unqualified support, and tender loving care that has enabled him to achieve so many amazing goals. His three sons Mark, Michael, and Miles are justifiably proud of their father.

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This is an award that Gary himself developed to honour those Moose Jaw citizens who have given so much to their community, and yet have been given little recognition. Gary, until this year, had refused to accept this award, because he said he had received so much recognition. We salute Gary Hyland, an amazing individual – a giant among us, who has cast a long shadow.

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