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Honouring a Hero!


How are heroes to be welcomed when the dust of recognition has settled?

There is nothing special in his boyish appearance to indicate that we are looking at a hero, diplomat, business executive or (as of next Monday, May 14) the Chancellor of my Alma Mater ... Victoria University at the UofT.

Ken Taylor of 5T7 at Vic (UofT) was right "next door" in the Burwash residences on campus at South House (where future actor Donald Sutherland also stayed). What would we recall today about those days? Probably little more than water fights, a demonstration or two, smoke bombs and High Jinx. The residences had a far better atmosphere than all of the fraternity houses put together. We even had time to study.

In January of 1979, as the Shah's régime was collapsing, and Iran appeared headed for chaos, Ken Taylor became responsible for having 850 Canadians evacuated. They were scattered all over Iran, but were safely sent home just before the monarch fled.

Ken will be remembered as the Canadian diplomat in Iran who, together with the embassy's immigration chief and the staff, hid six American escapees before the seizure of the US embassy in November of 1979. Iranian house servants and workers were none the wiser during the three months that the Americans were hidden, but likely thought that they were merely anti-social Canadian business executives who never went outside ... right up to the end of January of 1980 when the "visitors" were whisked off to the airport and the Canadian embassy was shut down a few hours later. A signal coup had been accomplished by the Canadians under the direction of Ken Taylor. Many of us can recall the wild celebrations in the USA and the hoopla that greeted Ken. He was invited to tour the country, and he was posted as a consul in New York. [Later attempts by the USA to free hostages had resulted in a bloody débâcle, and the Americans to our South used this event as an excuse for an orgy of congratulations and celebrations. Ken received the Congressional Medal of Honour* and the Order of Canada.]

I have no doubt that I'll be introduced to Ken one of these days. I wonder if mouths will drop open at that moment ... as happened when I was introduced to a former Chancellor. I'd guess that all depends upon how the introduction is made. [HUGE GRIN]

Cheers, Doug ;~}

* Forget the British/Canadian spelling of "Honour". Even though the US newspapers and magazine articles reported that Ken Taylor received the Congressional Medal of Honor ... no such thing exists. It's just the Medal of Honor.


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