Dalhousie University’s Tribute to Dr. Ken Hill

By David A. Egan

It is a great honour to have the opportunity to say a few words about Ken who was a great colleague and friend. It is hard to believe that almost thirty years have elapsed since we last met and he retired.

In the mid to late 1960s, Ken was one of many UK educated physiotherapists with a postgraduate teaching diploma who were highly sought after by Canadian Physiotherapy Programs. At that time, radical changes were beginning to sweep across the profession with regard to practice and teaching and the need to engage in research. As well, it was a challenging time due in large part to opposing attitudes within and outside the profession.

From his arrival in Halifax in 1967, Ken (as the second member on the faculty of the School with Hazel Lloyd) undertook a heavy teaching load and other responsibilities through to the termination of the Diploma Programme in 1977. Ken and Hazel carried out their duties over long teaching hours and extended academic years that made it possible for the Diploma students to graduate in just over 2 years. The School was extremely fortunate to have Ken with his wide experience to teach the electrotherapy course. At that time, teachers with such knowledge, skills and abilities were rare and extremely valuable. He also understood the need for personal advancement. At a relatively late stage of his career, Ken undertook to do research towards, and successfully completed, his Masters degree in Anatomy while continuing his full-time duties in the School, quite a remarkable achievement.

My first and brief meeting with Ken was during the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) congress in Halifax 1969 when I had been in Canada for just one week. I was impressed by a cine movie of Physiotherapy techniques for Physiotherapists made by Ken at a time when educational technology was beginning to change. It was clearly evident that Ken was looking for improved ways to enhance the student learning experience. How things have advanced since those early days.

My next meeting with Ken was in 1975 when I was attending interviews for the position as Director of the School at Dalhousie. Ken was a major influence in my decision to go to Dalhousie and from 1975 -89 I had the privilege and pleasure of working with him. Foremost in my memories of Ken’s attributes were his positive attitude, patience, kindness and being a strong advocate of fairness for all. On one hand, he was deeply spiritual and private, on the other he was open and cheerful, practicing great collegiality, spreading helpfulness and friendliness to all. He earned and enjoyed the high respect of his peers and students. My early recollections regarding his secrets to success, centre around his strong commitment to, and deep love of, his family, profession, students and life. Ken always spoke kindly of others and would reach out to help anyone.

As a colleague, Ken was a pleasure to work with and during my own early days at Dalhousie, Ken was strongly supportive and helpful with planning in such areas as the new BScPT degree program. He contributed very effectively in our long and frustrating search for improved accommodation for the School, which finally came to fruition in 1984 when we moved into the Forrest Building. He was active in continuing physiotherapy education and provided strong support on orthopaedic workshops that we taught in the Atlantic region. He was a valued and close personal friend who helped me greatly throughout our time together at Dalhousie.

Outside his academic activities, Ken was continually active through his Church and recognition of his ongoing and outstanding work with children with health needs in Kenya lead to the award of an Honorary Doctoral degree from Dalhousie. A richly deserved tribute.

When Anne asked me to say a few words about Ken she also invited me to offer a few words regarding any humorous encounters Ken and I shared. So many instances came to mind, so I must be selective.

As we all know, and were sometimes reminded, Ken was a vegetarian. During a workshop in Prince Edward Island in early 1975, a group of us decided to assist Ken with his dietary requirements by collecting grasses from the sand dunes. Unknown to Ken, and much to his amusement later, we were also able to persuade the staff in a restaurant to serve a well presented ‘salad’ as a starter for his dinner. To say it appeared unappetizing would be an understatement. Then there were the memorable moments at the reception for Ken’s retirement, which many of you will recall, when we presented him with all the old electrotherapy electrode detritus he had painstakingly stored over the years. We tried to tell him it was a jig-saw puzzle to work on in his retirement.

There are so many memories to recall however, I must conclude my message. I believe that the words of Wayne Dyer aptly reflect Ken’s life ‘You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience’. This, Ken achieved to the full and we are all richer for having had the privilege of sharing and enjoying our time with him.