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Norse scholar Birgitta Wallace receives honorary degree, urges Grenfell Campus graduates to conjure up Viking-like bravery when tackling life

Renowned Norse scholar Birgitta Wallace addresses graduates after receiving an honorary degree from Grenfell Campus, Memorial University in Corner Brook Thursday.
Renowned Norse scholar Birgitta Wallace addresses graduates after receiving an honorary degree from Grenfell Campus, Memorial University in Corner Brook Thursday. - Gary Kean

There are a lot of misconceptions about Vikings, but Birgitta Wallace said there are aspects of the commonly held conceptions that university graduates should adhere to.

Wallace, a renowned archaeologist, was at the L’Anse aux Meadows site in 1964 when Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad made the historic discovery of Norse settlement on the tip of the Northern Peninsula.

She would return again to work on the site in 1968 and go on to become one of the world’s most pre-eminent Norse scholars. She has been a strong advocate for Newfoundland and Labrador’s rightful place in Viking history.

On Thursday, the Parks Canada’s archaeologist emerita was bestowed an honorary doctorate degree from Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.

During her address to the latest class of graduates from Grenfell Campus, Wallace recounted the experience of visiting the stark landscape at L’Anse aux Meadows and the wonderful local people who would eventually become lifelong friends of hers.

She also recalled the unbelievable moment when one of the workers at the site brought forth a spindle whorl, which was the first of several artifacts that confirmed the Norse once spent time in the area.

“We celebrated that night with Scandinavian strong drink I had brought in my pack,” she said. “Of all excavations I have been on, before and after, this find has remained the most remarkable.”

Like those Norse who travelled the sea to L’Anse aux Meadows, Wallace told the graduates setting out on their own new and exciting ventures to tackle their life’s adventure with vigor and a willingness to go the extra step to get to where they want to be.

Most importantly, she encouraged them to always be open to discussion and considering new ideas

“Much of the public appeal of L’Anse aux Meadows is that the word Vikings conjures up a magical concept of liberty, boldness, adventure, skills and initiative,” she told them. “While in reality, the Vikings were no more enterprising and skillful than their modern descendants. I hope that you will be inspired by the Viking concept in your next events: unafraid of challenges and ready to strike out beyond your own boundaries.”

Leah Vokey Sing, who graduated from Grenfell Campus, Memorial University with a bachelor of fine arts degree, plays violin on "Can't Stop Me," a song she and fellow fine arts graduate, Alyssa Leahy, wrote and performed for their fellow graduates at their convocation ceremony in Corner Brook Thursday.
Leah Vokey Sing, who graduated from Grenfell Campus, Memorial University with a bachelor of fine arts degree, plays violin on "Can't Stop Me," a song she and fellow fine arts graduate, Alyssa Leahy, wrote and performed for their fellow graduates at their convocation ceremony in Corner Brook Thursday.

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