In sport parlance, to
medal at a championship event means to have won a place on the dais with two other medal winners. Guy Harrison-Murray knows the feeling, having taken that step up in Scotland during the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships to claim bronze. Now he ascends the podium again to share the accolade for winning a Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies. He and eight other winners from Maritime business schools receive thirty thousand dollars apiece. Not a bad little nugget of gold, that. And Guy’s accomplishment is all the more remarkable since half of it was earned underwater.
Before there was academic excellence, there was water. Oceans of it. Guy is from Australia, by way of England, born in a place called Bath, naturally. He began swimming at three years of age. There were a hundred pools, miles of beaches, and open water competitions before he stepped up on that dais in Scotland, and certainly before he competed in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Paralympics, because Guy was born with a congenital defect in his legs which doctors said would limit his mobility. Of course, psychology textbooks are replete with examples of motivation involving reverse psychology. And whether they knew it or not, Guy’s doctors were throwing down a challenge.
It was in Rio where Guy repudiated medical opinion emphatically and forever by competing as a finalist in the Olympic medal event. And though gold, silver, and bronze slipped through his fingers on that occasion, there was another glimmer of opportunity that caught his attention. It turns out that Dr. Conor Vibert of the Manning School was in Perth with his family. Brendan, Conor’s son, met Guy and swam with him on the same swim team. When the Viberts returned to Canada, Brendan kept in touch with Guy and sold him on coming to Acadia with its varsity swim team. Guy came from half-way around the world to immediately inspire his fellow swimmers, who responded positively to his enthusiasm and confidence.
I was named captain at the end of my first year, Guy says,
and used my Olympic training to help my team-mates improve their technical skills, particularly stroke mechanics. He also took over social media for the team, was heavily involved with recruitment, and changed the group mindset from doubters to believers. With laser-like accuracy, he led the team to the Atlantic University Sport championship, ending Dalhousie’s 21-year reign and claiming the first championship in swimming for Acadia in 39 years.
It is difficult to overestimate the effect this implausible win had on the swim team specifically and on Acadia varsity sport in general.
And yet, awards are not the only criterion for excellence. If they were, Guy Harrison-Murray, Dean’s List scholar and honours marketing student, has a full boatload: Acadia University Achievement Award in Athletics, Alumni Swimming Leadership Award, AUS Community Service Award, Cecil Patterson Blakeley Business Administration Scholarship, J.W. Johnstone, Jr. Scholarship in the Faculty of Professional Studies, KPMG Marketing Potential, Peter T. Sheehan Memorial Scholar-Bursary, Roger Prentice Citizen Award, Sully Ashfield and Barbara Bill Ashfield Award, along with the Athenaeum and Acadia Alumni Student of the Year Award.
But by themselves, talent and intelligence are latent, inactive, suspended in that jell of inertia that we know as potential. The catalyst to turn talent and intelligence to action is character. So, what does character do with the God-given attributes of talent and intelligence?
In 2020, Guy organized and ran the Acadia Mental Health Fair. The year before he hosted the International Student Banquet. He has organized financial literacy sessions for school children in the Annapolis Valley, guided Junior Achievers, helped first-year students as a Student Orientation Leader, participated in Relay for Life for cancer research, organized athletes to help with the heavy lifting on residence Move-in Day, and the cleaning up the day after Homecoming. On weekdays, Guy welcomed visitors to campus as a University Ambassador. He has interviewed and featured some of the people he has met over his four undergraduate years on the Facebook page Humans of Acadia.
Everyone has a story, he says.
You just have to find it.
Guy’s own story includes appointments as Assistant Coach and Interim Head-Coach for Acadia Swimming alongside close friend and mentor Jen Ingham, and a term as president of the Acadia Business Society where he sat as a member of the School’s Advisory Board. As president, he organized mentors for in-coming BBA students, populated the Disrupt Conference with top rank guest speakers, arranged professional financial advice for students and a LinkedIn presence, secured high-level respondents to answer student questions in Real Estate, career development, and due diligence workshops. All this was achieved during the cumbersome restrictions imposed by Covid. It seems as if achieving excellence while under duress is a part of Guy’s DNA. It also points to another pattern in his character, a trait that he had brought with him to Acadia and developed further while here: Empathy.
His concern for others Guy attributes to his mother and her unstinting care for him while growing up with a disability. In the two years he trained for the Paralympics, he paid it forward by helping his friend, a fellow athlete and sight-impaired, to complete his day-to-day chores while both vied for a spot on the team. When both achieved that goal, something else besides the glow of victory settled in Guy’s spirit.
I realized on that day that my passion wasn’t for swimming or competing, but helping people succeed and achieve their dreams. That has become my passion and I hope to continue to do so until my last days.
In the passionate contest that has broadened to encompass his entire life span, there can be little doubt that Guy Harrison-Murray has placed first already. And it is clear that he will remain in that position for as long as the deep blue sea stretches out before him.
About the Manning School
Founded in 1957, the Manning School at Acadia University is home to over 600 students from over 20 countries. With 23 faculty members from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, the Manning School offers small classes that encourage concentrated interaction between students and faculty. Our students have opportunities to learn outside the classroom through co-op placements, projects with local enterprises, and international exchanges. Firmly rooted in a rich institutional legacy that personifies the very essence of a liberal education, the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program at Acadia is challenging and flexible, allowing students to explore a broad range of interests and producing well-rounded graduates who are well-positioned to pursue varied professional opportunities. Our graduates work in leadership roles across Canada and around the globe, with many having made their Acadia BBA degree a pathway to prestigious graduate programs.