ON MAY 31, 1969 SIR EDMUND HILLARY ACCEPTED an honorary degree from the University of Victoria. Sixteen years and two days earlier, Sir Edmund and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay had become the first to conquer the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak (at 8,850 m). They braved excruciatingly cold temperatures, debilitatingly thin air, and winds of 180 kmh. When the news spread around the world, they became instant celebrities.
Sir Edmund went on to write and lecture extensively. His Himalayan Trust raised funds for more than 30 schools, a dozen clinics, two hospitals, airfields and infrastructure in the Sherpa villages of Nepal.
His UVic tribute came during sixth annual convocation, which was conducted at Centennial Stadium. As the stadium’s ever-present biting winds swirled around the podium, Sir Edmund joked that it seemed almost colder than Everest.
Sir Edmund Hillary died on Jan. 11 at the age of 88 in his home of Auckland, New Zealand.
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