Distinguished Grad Profile: Debra Bodkin, RET.
If there is any testament to the notion that you never know where your path will lead you, Sgt. Debra Bodkin is it. She grew up in Florence, Ontario and knew since the start of ninth grade that she wanted to be a police officer.
“It's something I always wanted,” she explained, refl ecting on her choice. “I can remember my interview with different police departments — I was interviewed by about 16 different departments — and one of the questions was, ‘Why do you want to be a police officer?'”
“I remember saying then that I wanted to make the world a better place, help people, and I wanted a job with excitement. There wasn't anything at school that made me decide that, it was just a gut instinct. And it was the right one.”
Yet, as it often happens, one is never fully able to predict or realize their path beyond campus walls; despite her certainty in her chosen profession, Bodkin could never have anticipated the adventures that would await her in the years to come.
Bodkin chose Fanshawe College to get on track for a career in law enforcement, and upon her graduation from Law and Security Administration in 1982, she set her career in motion — a career that has been anything but predictable. Since joining the Waterloo Regional Police Service in 1987, her impressive 24 years of service has included tense undercover work, international travel and even a brief term teaching at Conestoga College late in 2010.
“I wanted a career where I was doing something good for other people, and I would highly recommend it,” Bodkin said in a keynote speech at King's College last summer. “It's not a thankful career in some respects — it's not a career where everyone you deal with likes you very much — but it's very rewarding in that you do make a difference in your community.”
Bodkin retired in January 2011, though not from growing tired of the work — in the last decade, Bodkin began to travel overseas joining international investigations of crimes against humanity in war—ravaged areas like Kosovo, Darfur, Rwanda and Chad. The experience proved to be extraordinary, and seeing fi rst—hand the atrocities taking place there changed Bodkin in deeply personal ways; upon her return, Bodkin suffered from post—traumatic stress disorder.
Bodkin found catharsis in talking about her experiences and was better able to fi nd an equilibrium between the help she wanted to provide overseas and the work she could do here at home drawing attention to the inhumanities she had personally observed. Since 2005 Bodkin has given roughly 150 lectures and presentations on the subject, and she continues to travel and speak on the matter to this day.
Bodkin received the NATO Medal of Service in Kosovo and was honoured as a recipient of the 2010 Premier's Award as a distinguished graduate of Fanshawe College. Our school was a pivotal chapter in Bodkin's extraordinary life and career, one that has taught her the merits of community service at the highest level and the value of trying to make the world a better place. In her own words, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
“Each one of us has the responsibility to find something we're passionate about and be thankful for all we have,” Bodkin said humbly. “Even though I haven't been able to change Darfur, I'm at least doing my part.”