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Legacy of Penny Park lives on through travel award

August 19, 2019
Canadian journalist and science writer, Penny Park (July 26, 1953 – December 14, 2018).

Canadian journalist and science writer, Penny Park (July 26, 1953 – December 14, 2018).

Penny Park dedicated her career as a journalist to making science more accessible. Now, a new award made in her memory creates a path for journalism students to broaden their horizons — internationally.

The Penny Park Journalism Travel Award will provide two journalism students annually with $5,000 each to travel to pursue stories, an international exchange or a short-term travel intensive. The award will give students — particularly those with an interest in science journalism — the opportunity to explore foreign countries, learn about different cultures, customs and ideologies, and ultimately become better journalists.

“Penny loved to teach and mentor,” says Dr. Sharifa Himidan, Park’s closest friend and a pediatric surgeon at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. “She believed in breaking down silos between scientists, the government and the public — and between people of different cultures and backgrounds,” she adds. “She had a lot of respect for journalism schools, particularly Ryerson’s, and the emphasis the university places on diversity.”

Park passed away on December 14, 2018. Her storied career included 15 years as producer of the award winning Quirks and Quarks on CBC Radio, and 16 years at the Discovery Channel where she developed and produced the popular nightly television program, the Daily Planet. In 2010, Park became a founder and executive director of the Science Media Centre of Canada where she helped ensure media had access to experts to bring scientific viewpoints to current events.

Dr. Himidan created the award along with Park’s family, friends and colleagues. She anticipates that Park’s many peers in the journalism, broadcast, and science industries will contribute to the award to commemorate Park’s life and work.

“Penny was a remarkable journalist and person,” says Dr. Himidan. “She had an endless amount of energy and despite always operating at what seemed like 200 per cent, she never seemed to tire. Her optimism and ability to always find a positive lifted everybody up,” she adds. “She was truly selfless, and I am happy that this award will carry on her name and legacy.”

Travel allows you to shift your perspectives and better understand global issues. “It can be a life-changing experience,” says Janice Neil, chair of the School of Journalism, “but it’s expensive, so having these scholarships makes it much easier for students to quench their thirst for adventures.”

The inaugural recipients of the award will be selected this coming academic year. To contribute to the award, please contact Michelle Hounslow at