Shirley Douglas was surprised and thrilled when she found out she would be receiving an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the University of Regina.
"My first reaction was how lovely to have something from the city where I lived as a youth."
Douglas lived in Regina from the age of 10 until she was 18, while her father, Tommy Douglas, was Premier of Saskatchewan.
She well remembers spending part of her teenage years at activities at Regina College, now known as the College Avenue Campus.
"Darke Hall is where I first performed with the Regina Little Theatre, and I have great memories of that place," recalled Douglas in a telephone interview from her home in Toronto.
Douglas went on to study at the Banff School of Fine Arts and in 1954 she graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England. During her career she performed on stage, film, radio and television in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Douglas has been an activist since the 1950s, when she took part in anti-nuclear marches in England. In the 1960s, after moving to the United States, she became involved in the civil rights movement, and later campaigned against the Vietnam War and advocated for the rights of women and immigrants. She returned to Canada in 1977 and campaigned for nuclear disarmament and the protection of Canada's publicly-funded health care system, based on the model her father developed when he was Premier.
Douglas became aware of social issues as a little girl growing up in Weyburn during the 1930s. Her father was a minister before getting into politics, and he often met with people deeply harmed by the Depression.
"The people around me were people who were extremely positive and were building a new political party, the CCF (the forerunner of the NDP). They were full of energy, and I was in an extraordinary position to meet people who were so hopeful about the future."
Tommy Douglas received an honorary degree from the University of Regina in 1978. This is the first time that a daughter has followed in her father's footsteps in also being awarded an honorary degree from the U of R.
Shirley Douglas received her degree in Toronto, as part of a ceremony in which she was presented with a lifetime achievement award from the Toronto chapter of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA). On some occasions, the U of R will confer an honorary degree outside Regina.