(photo courtesy NASA)

Students' successful campaign earns U of T a talk from Chris Hadfield

Canada’s most famous moustache is coming to the University of Toronto.

Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the International Space Station (ISS), will be speaking to students, staff and faculty at Convocation Hall on March 14. The free event – which “sold out” in just four hours – recognizes the leadership of U of T’s students.

Last November, a team led by U of T students raised $148,784 for Movember – a fundraising campaign to raise funds and awareness around prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health challenges. Because they raised more money than any other Canadian university, the team’s prize was a campus visit by Hadfield.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that he’s coming here and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say,” said Jesse Wolfstadt, a U of T orthopedic surgery resident, U of T medicine graduate, and chair of the U of T Movember Committee. “Commander Hadfield is a role model for so many people – not just because of what he’s accomplished, but because of the way he accomplished it. And he is a huge supporter of Movember."

Hadfield first decided to become an astronaut when he was just nine years old. At that time, the only people going into space were Americans and Russians, and the very idea of a Canadian astronaut seemed like a pipe dream. Hadfield was determined, though, and for the next few decades he deliberately chose a path that would lead him to command of the ISS.

Hadfield has been in space three times. The first was in 1995, when he served as a specialist on a NASA shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station. The second was in 2001, when he installed the Canadarm2 – a Canadian-built robotic arm – on the ISS.

The third trip began on December 19, 2012, when he launched aboard a Russian Soyuz to take part in a long-duration space flight on the ISS.

While he was there, Hadfield used his Twitter feed to teach people back home about the challenges of living in space. He became an internet sensation – culminating in two memorable musical performances from the ISS – making him the world’s first extra-planetary recording artist. 

Hadfield holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada, a Master of Science in aviation systems at the University of Tennessee and speaks fluent French and Russian. He is coming to U of T to recognize the hard work our students put into their charity work.

“The Movember campaign is great – not just because it raises funds for an important cause, but also because it allows people to use their own creativity and leadership in the process,” said Hadfield. “U of T should be very proud of these students who reached out to their community and got such a tremendous response – all to support better health.”

Last year, the Canadian Movember campaign raised $29 million and the charity raised $146 million globally. The funds go towards programs to support men with prostate and testicular cancer and mental illness.

Some 26,500 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in Canada this year. One in seven Canadian men will develop the disease in their lifetime and approximately 4,000 Canadians die of prostate cancer each year.

Hadfield’s visit to U of T to recognize the campaign will include a meeting with the Movember team and a short lecture followed by a Q and A and book signing. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth is available for advance purchase in the U of T Bookstore and copies will be sold at the event for $30, tax included (a 10 per cent discount).

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