By Dan Rubinstein
Photos by Chris Roussakis
When Daryl Rock was growing up in Dartmouth, N.S., he played hooky from high school one day — the only time he ever skipped school — and visited a Canadian Armed Forces recruitment centre across the harbour in Halifax.
“I’d like to join the navy,” he announced, “and want to become an admiral.”
Enrol in military college, the recruiter recommended, and study engineering — it would impress the brass.
Rock, who was looking to escape his impoverished upbringing, did just that, moving to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., to attend Canada’s French-language Royal Military College.
After his second year, however, back in Dartmouth for the summer, Rock accepted a ride home from a party with a friend who had been drinking. The crash threw Rock from the car and left him a quadriplegic with a C-5/C-6 spinal cord injury.
“I woke up at the hospital three days later and the doctor said I wouldn’t be able to walk again,” he recalls. “My first reaction wasn’t: ‘Damn, I can’t walk.’ It was: ‘Damn, my career is over.’”
In fact, it wasn’t finished — it just changed direction.
Rock moved to Ottawa for rehabilitation therapy, enrolled at Carleton University — already a leader by the early 1980s in providing accessibility to students with disabilities — and earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1986, followed by a master’s in Public Administration two years later.