• Wade Davis addresses the 2017 Royal Canadian Geographical Society College of Fellows Dinner

    Wade Davis addresses the 2017 Royal Canadian Geographical Society College of Fellows Dinner. (Photo: Andrew Lovesey/Canadian Geographic)

Exploration and innovation were the two prevalent themes at The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s annual College of Fellows Dinner held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. on November 16.

Among the luminaries in attendance were HIH Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie, President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, and Princess Saba Kebede, whom the RCGS was honoured to host as part of a trip commemorating the 1967 visit to Canada of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Distinguished guests included Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Hon. John Manley, former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Canada, Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy! and Honourary President of the RCGS, Dr. Roger Crofts, Chair of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) and Mike Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of the RSGS.

Also in attendance were RCGS Explorer-in-Residence Jill Heinerth, bestselling author and RCGS Flag Explorer Adam Shoalts, Honourary Vice-President Louie Kamookak, Senator Michael McDonald, MP Will Amos, Superintendent J. Greg Peters, Usher of the Black Rod, and Geoff Green, Executive Director of Students on Ice, leader of the Canada C3 expedition and an RCGS Flag Explorer.

Here are eight of the best moments from geography's biggest night:

1. We honoured former heads of state, educators, explorers and geographers

The annual medal ceremony, which preceded the College of Fellows Dinner, awarded and recognised 19 individuals who have made profound contributions to the field of geography — or aided the Society in fulfilling its mandate of making Canada better known to Canadians and to the world. 

Massey Medal

Dr. David Morrison, Arctic archaeologist

Gold Medal

Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster and writer

Gordon Lightfoot, singer-songwriter

John Turner, Canada's 17th Prime Minister

Lawrence J. Burpee Medal

Jimmy Carter, former president of the United States

Andrew Prossin, founder and managing director, One Ocean Expeditions

Camsell Medal

Jody Decker, Professor Emeritus of geography, Wilfrid Laurier University

Phil Howarth, Professor Emeritus of geography, University of Waterloo

Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration

Wade Davis, anthropologist and author

Pat and Baiba Morrow, mountaineers, photojournalists and filmmakers

Martin Bergmann Medal

Martin Fortier, Executive Director, Sentinel North at Université Laval

Capt. Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Medal

Phyllis Arnold, publisher of educational resources

Shelagh Grant, educator, historian and author

Jon Grant, business leader and philanthropist

Bob Ramsay, president of Ramsay Inc. 

Mike Robinson, CEO, Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Geographic Literacy Award

Beth Dye

Innovation in Geography Teaching Award

Paula Huddy-Zubkowski

2. We inducted our first royal since 1930 into the Society's College of Fellows 

HIH Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie is the first royal to be inducted into the College of Fellows since Edward, Prince of Wales, became a Fellow in 1930. 

3. We announced big plans for our new home at 50 Sussex Drive in Ottawa

RCGS President Gavin Fitch gave an update on exciting plans for the landmark new home for The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic, 50 Sussex, which will also house Canada's Centre for Geography and Exploration. After hosting two exhibitions this summer, the building is now closed for extensive renovations to the lower levels, and will reopen in spring 2018. 

4. We signed an MOU with The Royal Scottish Geographical Society

At the Annual General Meeting held at 50 Sussex earlier in the day, the RCGS and the RSGS entered into a partnership. The MOU will see the sister organizations work together to stengthen ties and lay the groundwork for future collaboration.

5. We introduced the newest One Ocean Expeditions vessel

RCGS CEO John Geiger, President Gavin Fitch and Honourary President Alex Trebek presented the ensign and certificate for One Ocean Expeditions' newest vessel, the RCGS Resolute, to founder and managing director Andrew Prossin. 

6. We asked RCGS Fellows to help us perfect our next Giant Floor Map

At 50 Sussex, we presented a miniature mock-up of our next Can Geo Education Giant Floor Map, which was funded by generous donations made by the College of Fellows and focuses exclusively on Newfoundland and Labrador. We invited Fellows to make suggestions for the map. 

7. Wade Davis gave us hope for the planet's future

In his keynote address, the renowned anthropologist and ethnobotanist shared photographs and insights from his travels to some of the most remote places on Earth, including the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous peoples the world over are leading the fight to protect the planet's ecosystems from anthropogenic threats, Davis says, and it is on all of us to listen and learn from their efforts.

8. We played on a map with Alex Trebek

The world-famous host of Jeopardy! and the Honourary President of the RCGS engaged with students from Ashbury College on our new Route 338 Giant Floor Map at 50 Sussex before the Annual General Meeting. This democracy-themed educational resource is the newest addition to Can Geo Education's collection of Giant Floor Maps available free to teachers across Canada.