During the University of Guelph's fall convocation on Oct. 18, President and Vice-Chancellor Franco Vaccarino conferred an honorary Doctor of Science degree on Leighton, a longtime professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).
Leighton, who graduated from the WCVM in 1979, described the special ceremony as a "huge personal honour for me."
The degree's citation described Leighton as a "visionary thinker, scientific leader and professor" who has made profound contributions to the understanding of wildlife disease in Canada through his leadership roles at the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC).
Leighton co-founded the CWHC (formerly known as the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre) in 1992 and served as its co-director and executive director for many years. The national wildlife conservation and management partnership includes all five of Canada's veterinary colleges along with key partners in government and non-governmental organizations.
Leighton stepped down from his role as CWHC executive director on July 1, handing over the leadership reins to Dr. Craig Stephen (WCVM '87).
In addition to his efforts with the CWHC and his roles as an accomplished teacher and researcher, Leighton was commended for his tireless work with the World Organisation for Animal Health (Office International des Epizooties or OIE) to build a stronger leadership structure for wildlife health management in other countries.
"Serving as the head of the OIE International Collaborating Centre for Wildlife Disease Surveillance and on the OIE Working Group on Wildlife Diseases, Dr. Leighton has brought education and technical support to governments and agencies throughout Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia," read the citation.
After receiving his honorary degree, Leighton delivered a convocation address that included many references to his diverse background and career in academia, research and international development. He also shared his serious concerns about environmental stewardship and how disconnected Canadians are from "many of the urgent, life-and-death issues confronting humankind on earth.
"We can not prevent the rising tide of global realities from flooding across our land and our ways of living, but if we grasp the moment, make wise decisions and prepare for the broadly predictable future, we can restore our stewardship, discharge our responsibilities as global citizens and chart a civilized pathway through what will certainly be challenging future," said Leighton in his convocation speech.
For more details about Leighton's diverse career, read "Leighton's legacy is strong CWHC."