I first met Jack when I was a young teenager. As a speed swimmer from Saskatoon competing against his son Dave, I was billeted at the Boan household. It was there that I first learned about the life of a professor. In 1974, I moved with my parents to Regina. After a year of work and travel, I began studying history at the newly independent University of Regina. Since Jack was the only person I knew, I took a stroll over to his office the first week of school. He took me under his wing and gave me the guidance that would change my life.
“Since Jack was the only person I knew, I took a stroll over to his office the first week of school. He took me under his wing and gave me the guidance that would change my life.”
Under Jack’s tutelage, I joined the tiny campus chapter of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC). As the chair, Jack arranged WUSC lectures and other events where we could learn about the challenges facing developing countries. In one of our first WUSC roundtable sessions, Jack asked me whether I thought everyone in the world should have the same rights, irrespective of nationality. I gave him the standard answer: rights are conferred by states and states decide who is or who is not a citizen. Gently agreeing that this was currently the case, Jack asked me if I could imagine a future world in which all human beings would have full and equal rights as global citizens. What seemed to be a highly utopian and far-off idea at the time eventually wormed its way into me. Gradually, I began to appreciate the liberating potential of Jack’s vision for the future.
In that first year at WUSC, Jack asked me to put my name forward as the University’s student candidate to attend a month-long working seminar in Guyana. I did and, to my great surprise, I was selected by the national office. Jack immediately rolled up his sleeves and helped to raise the necessary funds. He paraded me into various professors’ offices and then, after explaining the purpose of the WUSC seminar, shamelessly asked them for sizeable contributions. With me standing in front of them and Jack laughing off the request, they coughed up the money.
My learning experience that summer changed my life. Jack knew it would, as it had for every student he helped attend a WUSC seminar. I began to see the importance of understanding economics, and I added the subject as a second major for my undergraduate degree program. At that point, I also decided that I would use my studies in university – first history and economics, later law – to build a career in public policy. Indeed, I ended up specializing in health policy, the same area that Jack devoted much of his life.
Years later, after doing my PhD in the United Kingdom and working as a young professor in the United States, I moved back to Regina to work as a deputy minister in the Saskatchewan government. I reconnected with Jack.
When I later became the executive director of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada – the Romanow Commission – I called upon Jack to talk to my staff about his experience decades before as a researcher on the Royal Commission on Health Services – the Hall Commission – from 1961 until 1964. I hung on his every word as he talked us through the trials and tribulations of the Hall Commission and pointed out the less well-known recommendations and the impact they could have had if only they had been implemented. He quoted with great pride the opening lines to the Hall Commission’s Health Charter for Canadians (a line which I suspect that Jack himself drafted): “We recommend a course of action based upon social principles and the cooperation and participation of society as a whole in order to achieve the best possible health care for all Canadians, an aim that Canadians by their individual efforts cannot achieve.”
What may not be as well known is that, from his base at the University of Regina, Jack worked assiduously to develop a community of health economists in Canada. Jack turned this network into an organization in 1983 (the same year he began his formal “retirement”) known as the Canadian Health Economics Research Association (CHERA). And then, 20 years later, he helped expand CHERA into the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research (CAHSPR).
Jack also established the Justice Emmett Hall Memorial Foundation to raise money to foster health economics and policy research among undergraduate and graduate students. There was only one condition for potential submissions for the annual awards – students had to address at least one of the five principles of the Canada Health Act: public administration; comprehensiveness; portability; universality; and accessibility. I am very proud to say that, in 2015, these awards were renamed the Jack Boan Student Essay Competition to commemorate his role in facilitating student interest and research in the field.
In summary, Jack created a real and deep community of dedicated scholars. As he described the selection criteria for the individual selected annually for the Emmett Hall Memorial Lectureship, his was “an outstanding contribution to the health ideals held by Emmett Hall” and, I would add, Jack himself.
Greg Marchildon BA’80, MA’84
Ontario Research Chair in Health Policy and System Design with the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto