Dr. Charles Jago is once again the toast of the town.
The former president of UNBC, who has been lauded for his work in education, health and economic development, will be honoured on May 2 with the Toastmasters District 96 Communication and Leadership Award.
"Sometimes you run across people that have a certain pedigree but when you listen to them speak, they're actually quite uninspired," said Greg Jonuk, a Prince George Toastmaster. "I must say that when I did hear Dr. Jago speak I was impressed that he has quite a bit of acumen in terms of communication... I was impressed with the way he was able to communicate his message."
The award is given annually a non-Toastmaster but Dr. Jago does boast a connection with the club - his father was a Toastmaster in St. Catharines, Ontario for many years.
For himself, Dr. Jago says his first experiences with public speaking were in public school - he won a handful of speech competitions as a student and was a member of the high school debate team.
But he still gets nervous speaking in public, though he says the larger the audience, the less nervous he is.
The size of the crowd no doubt helped in one of Dr. Jago's most memorable public appearances. On June 22, 2000, 7,000 people gathered at the then Multiplex in Prince George for the Condition Critical rally to voice their concerns over the state of healthcare in the region. Dr. Jago was one of the speakers and the event would form part of the effort to create the Northern Medical Program, which aimed to train doctors to work in the region.
"Attendance at this rally clearly underlines the fact that if Prince George is the patient in our current national health care crisis, we have no intention to die," Jago told the crowd that day. "The same is true of the many other northern and rural communities that exist throughout B.C. and Canada. So how do we affect a cure?"
A copy of the speech is enshrined at the main entrance of the Dr. Donald Rix Northern Health Sciences Centre at UNBC.
"I prepared very carefully and made sure I was not overpromising," wrote Dr. Jago in an email to the Citizen Sunday. "I emailed the speech to Martha Piper, President of UBC, in advance to give her advance notice as to what I was going to say... It is certainly one of the most important speeches I gave as president of UNBC along with my speech in January 2001 at the Rural Health Conference in Prince George where I presented the concept of the Northern Medical Program and announced the (memorandum of understanding) between the UBC Faculty of Medicine and UNBC."
For that work, and many other accomplishments, he received the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2003 and was named to the Order of Canada in 2004 for his quarter-century-long contribution to education.
In 2013, he was named as a mediator in that round of bitter labour talks between the provincial government and the B.C. Teacher's Federation. He was also appointed in 2007 to the Northern Health Board.
Yet, if there was one aspect of his public speaking he'd like to improve, he'd love to make his audiences chuckle a bit more.
"I wish I were stronger on the humour side," said Dr. Jago. "(It's) always fun to have them rolling in the aisles.
The award will be presented to Dr. Jago during a luncheon at the Prince George Civic Centre during the Toastmasters District Spring Conference. The two-day conference will draw Toastmasters from across much of the province.
"It's an opportunity for Toastmasters... to get-together, to network, to enjoy contests, to learn from education sessions and we usually also have a keynote presenter,"
said Jonuk, who is one of the conference organizers.
According to Toastmasters, the group teaches public speaking and leadership skills. Founded in 1924, it is comprised of more than 313,000 members in around 14,650 clubs in 126 countries, including eight clubs in Prince George.
Awarded every year to a non-Toastmaster