Governor General leads list of honorary degree recipients during Canada's 150th anniversary
Twelve inspiring individuals will receive the University of Alberta’s highest honour at convocation ceremonies this June.
By SEAN TOWNSEND
The University of Alberta’s spring convocation this June will include a nod to Canada’s 150th anniversary as Governor General David Johnston receives an honorary degree. Johnston is among a dozen influential leaders being recognized with the university’s highest honour.
“Honorary degrees are intended to recognize individuals whose character and whose extraordinary intellectual, artistic or athletic achievements or service to society set a standard of excellence that merits the university’s highest honour,” said U of A chancellor Doug Stollery. “In accepting an honorary degree, each of our recipients for spring convocation 2017 also honours the spirit of the university."
The Right Honourable David Johnston, the 28th Governor General of Canada, is a lifelong champion of civic engagement and post-secondary education as evidenced by his career as a law professor and dean, principal of McGill University (1979-1994), president of the University of Waterloo (1999-2010), and as a statesman. He has also devoted his time and energy to numerous government task forces and committees, as well as boards of corporations and community organizations. First appointed to the Order of Canada in 1988, he was named chancellor and principal and extraordinary companion of the order in 2013. He has been serving as Governor General since 2010.
David Johnston will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 6 at 3 p.m.
As music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, William Eddins has attracted a growing audience for classical music with his eclectic program choices and focus on excellence. His charm, intelligence and humour have made him adept at both the artistry of performing masterworks and the art of engaging the community in the fine arts. Before taking the helm of the ESO in 2005, he held positions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Ireland. He has also appeared as a guest conductor with orchestras around the world.
William Eddins will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree June 7 at 10 a.m.
An Albertan by birth, Dave Mowat returned to his home province in 2007 to become president and CEO of ATB Financial. Since then, Mowat has driven the successful growth of a company that now ranks as Canada’s eighth largest bank and holds more than $43 billion in assets. His commitment to creating an engaging and inclusive workplace extends beyond ATB to his service on the boards of organizations including the United Way, STARS and the Citadel Theatre. It also extends to his support for numerous causes, particularly LGBTQ issues—support that literally shines from ATB’s downtown Edmonton headquarters during events such as Pride Week.
Dave Mowat will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 7 at 3 p.m.
Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson cultivated her passion for telling the stories of Indigenous peoples in a 30-year career as a journalist and broadcaster. Her efforts to tell those stories include launching the first daily television news service for northern Canada, developing the Arctic Winter Games and the True North Concert Series to showcase northern talent, and serving on the board of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. One of three commissioners of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Wilson helped bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in comprehending the injustices of the residential school system and in seeking a new relationship of mutual understanding and respect.
Marie Wilson will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 8 at 10 a.m.
Firoz Rasul’s background as an engineer, entrepreneur and community developer has served him in good stead as president of Aga Khan University. After a stellar business career in Canada that saw him turn two startups into world leaders in wireless communications and clean fuel cells, Rasul took on the challenge of leading a global university based in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom. In his 11 years as president, Rasul has been instrumental in developing a rich partnership with the U of A that has created opportunities for exchange and collaboration for students, professors and researchers at both universities.
Firoz Rasul will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 8 at 3 p.m.
Saida Rasul has devoted her life and career as a dentist to improving lives for those less fortunate. A longtime volunteer and donor with the United Way, she was integral in securing an $18-million provincial grant to establish British Columbia’s Success by 6 program focused on developing healthy children and families. She’s also involved with the Rotary Club, the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation, among many others. Most recently, she worked with faculty members in the U of A’s School of Dentistry to set up dental hygiene programs offered through Aga Khan University in East Africa and Pakistan.
Saida Rasul will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 9 at a special ceremony commemorating the centenary of the School of Dentistry.
In a career spanning more than 40 years, U of A alumna Jeanne Besner excelled as a clinical nurse, researcher, educator, policy developer and health-care administrator. She developed new models of health-care delivery based on her vision and focus on finding the most effective match between patients and practitioners. As president of the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses, she helped to influence the shift from diploma to degree as the standard for entry to practice for registered nurses. She received the Alberta Centennial Award in 2005, a U of A Alumni Honour Award in 2007, and was named to the Order of Canada in 2011.
Jeanne Besner will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 12 at 3 p.m.
Anne Smith, president and CEO of the United Way of Alberta Capital Region, has spent 40 years bringing pervasive problems in communities to the forefront of public awareness in an effort to improve the lives of vulnerable people. Since 1995, the organization has engaged more than 5,000 volunteers and created a shared vision aimed at “Creating Pathways Out of Poverty” for more than 123,000 people in the region. She has chaired or co-chaired United Way task groups at the national level and served on the boards of numerous community organizations focused on affordable housing, homelessness and mental health, including the End Poverty Edmonton initiative.
Anne Smith will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 13 at 10 a.m.
Dubbed “the emperor of math” by The New York Times, Shing-Tung Yau has revealed the shape of space from the subatomic world of string theory to the astronomical dimensions of the known universe. He is perhaps most famous for solving a geometric conundrum known as the Calabi conjecture, an achievement that had a profound impact not only on geometry, but also on theoretical physics. He has received numerous awards and honours, including the Fields Medal in 1982, the MacArthur Fellowship in 1985 and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 2010. Yau is currently director of Harvard’s Center of Mathematical Sciences and Applications.
Shing-Tung Yau will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 13 at 3 p.m.
U of A Alumnus Doug Goss is a passionate advocate for post-secondary education in Alberta. As U of A board chair from 2012 to 2015, he led an ambitious change agenda and became a public champion for government investment in the post-secondary sector during a time of budget constraint. During his tenure, the university’s endowment grew from $800 million to $1.2 billion. For his contributions as a lawyer and business leader and his community service to a wide variety of causes, he received the U of A’s Alumni Honour Award in 2002 and was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2013.
Doug Goss will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 14 at 10 a.m.
Olympic cross-country skiing athlete Sharon Firth was the first Indigenous woman elected to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. A member of the Gwich’in First Nation, she survived the residential school system to become a four-time Olympian between 1972 and 1984, and to represent Canada in three world championships. An ambassador for sport and an adviser on youth programs for the government of the Northwest Territories, she was named to the Order of Canada in 1987 and received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 2005. She and her twin sister Shirley were inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Sharon Firth will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 14 at 3 p.m.
Dennis Anderson has had a distinguished career serving Alberta and Canada as an MLA and as a prominent advocate for mental health. From 1979 to 1993, he served as deputy government house leader and held portfolios in three major ministries. After leaving politics, he took on the role of founding chair of the Alberta Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health and founded the Chimo Project, which uses trained therapy animals in hospitals, rehabilitation programs and youth programs. In 2007, he was named honorary consul general of Thailand. He also served as a director of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and as founding chair of the Lieutenant Governor's Circle on Mental Health and Addiction.
Dennis Anderson will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 15 at 10 a.m.