ParaSport® Ontario Remembers Dr. Robert Jackson

It is with great sadness that ParaSport Ontario mourns the passing of Dr. Robert W. Jackson.  In October 2009, ParaSport Ontario honoured Dr. Jackson by presenting him with its first ever Medal of Distinction.  In memory of Dr. Jackson, here is a partial transcript of the speech given in his honor that evening:

We are pleased to be here pay tribute to Dr. Robert W. Jackson, a visionary and leader in the field of medicine and sport for people with a physical disability.  For so many reasons, we would not be here, if it were not for Dr. Jackson.  But, before we talk about his amazing achievements in the field of sport, let us briefly touch upon the advancements he brought to the field of medicine.

Dr. Jackson is a North American pioneer in arthroscopic surgery.  After introducing the technique to the western world in 1965, the surgery became a catalyst for change in orthopaedic surgery.  Many athletes undergo this surgery and go on to resume successful careers, but without Dr Jackson, athletes would have to undergo more invasive surgeries followed by a long period of healing and rehabilitation.

Yet, it has always been Dr. Jackson’s love of sport, particularly his support of sport for athletes with a physical disability that has distinguished him from the rest of the pack.

In 1964, as a medical student, Dr Jackson attended the Paralympic Games in Tokyo as a consultant with the Canadian Olympic Team.  He wondered why Canada did not have a team participating in the Paralympics.  Dr. Jackson decided to stop questioning why and start doing, so in 1967, he, along with several others, created the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association where he held the position of “Founding President” from 1967 to 1972.

In 1968, Dr Jackson brought the first Canadian wheelchair team to the International Paraplegic Games.  Following this, Dr Jackson organized the 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled in Toronto.  As a result, the precursor for the Canadian Paralympic Committee was created.  It was also at this time that Dr Jackson received one of his many awards.  The City of Toronto selected him to be the recipient of the Civic Award of Merit for his work in organizing the Olympiad for the Physically Disabled.

After being awarded this honour, Dr. Jackson did not rest on his laurels.  Instead he became President of the International Stoke Mandeville Games and continued in his role as team physician of the Toronto Argonauts – a position he held until 1991.  In 1984, Dr Jackson continued his tireless efforts in promoting Paralympic Sport, and was responsible for the inclusion of wheelchair racing (1500m for men and 800m for women) in the Los Angeles Olympics.  He also was responsible for the inclusion of blind and amputee skiers in the Winter Olympics.

Air Canada recognized Dr Jackson as Executive of the Year in Amateur Sports in 1984 which is the same year he was awarded the Donald King Memorial Trophy as Volunteer of the Year from the Sports Federation of Canada, but the accolades did not stop there.  In 1994, after being instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Dr Jackson was honoured by Sports Illustrated by being named as one of forty individuals who had the most impact on sports during the forty years the magazine had been published.

The Canadian government recognized his achievements by naming him an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1997 – the same year he was presented with the Olympic Order, the highest order given by the International Olympic Committee.  The Canadian Paralympic Committee followed suit and inducted him into the Canadian Paralympic Committee Hall of Fame.  In 2007, Dr Jackson was honoured internationally by being awarded the Paralympic Order.

Now retired from medicine, Dr Jackson continues to be an advocate for athletes with a disability.  In his down time, Dr Jackson and his wife, Marilyn, can be found on the golf course – where Marilyn is known to beat him quite regularly!

We would not have as strong a Paralympic movement without Dr Jackson.  Tonight we add to his honours by presenting him with the first ever ParaSport Ontario Medal of Distinction.  Furthermore, the award will henceforth be known as the Dr Robert W. Jackson Medal of Distinction which will be presented to those who exemplify extraordinary leadership, dedication and excellence in sport for athletes with a physical disability.

Dr. Robert W. Jackson will be sadly missed and always remembered by ParaSport Ontario.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Jackson family at this sad time.

Arrangements are as follows:
Visitation Tuesday, January 12, 6:00pm-9:00pm
Resting at Morley Bedford Funeral Home
159 Eglinton Ave West

Funeral Wednesday January 13, 1:00pm
Rosedale United Church
159 Roxborough Drive

The Jackson family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Parasport Ontario or a charity you choose to support.  To make a donation to ParaSport Ontario, please click here.