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Ursula Franklin honoured for humanitarian work
Engineering prof the 22nd recipient of the Pearson Peace Medal

by Susan Bloch-Nevitte

Jan. 17, 2002 -- Ursula Franklin, University Professor Emeritus in U of T's Department of Materials Science Engineering, has received the Pearson Peace Medal from the United Nations Association in Canada. A world-renowned expert in the study of ancient materials, Franklin is the 22nd recipient of the award, which recognizes contributions to humanitarian causes championed by former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

"By her direct actions in support of or in opposition to ideas and policies, she has changed the thinking, the assumptions, the direction of the lives of those who have welcomed her clarity, honesty… and her constant search for truth," wrote her nominator for the award.

Franklin's activism has included serving as part of a group that campaigned against NATO bombing in Kosovo. She also played a central role in the creation of an innovative program in cross-cultural understanding and conflict resolution at the Toronto high school named in her honour.

"I have very strongly made the point throughout my life that peace is the only way in which a civilization can continue and thrive," said Franklin. "In the post-Sept. 11 world, it is doubly important to explore the means of peace and cooperation because in the face of violence, one forgets so easily the solutions of big problems that were achieved without war, such as South Africa. And I was very thankful that a former recipient of that same medal - Archbishop Edward Scott - was in the audience so that I could, in his presence, point out how a concerted moral effort against something that was as evil as apartheid could change the government of a very large country without war."

Franklin came to Canada in 1949 after completing her PhD in experimental physics at the Technical University of Berlin. In 1967 she was the first woman appointed to the then-department of Metallurgy and Materials Science and the first to be appointed University Professor, U of T's highest academic rank. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Susan Bloch-Nevitte is the U of T director of public affairs.

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