Honorary degree recipients announced for spring convocation

Eleven inspiring leaders will give grads a memorable send-off during convocation ceremonies this June.


This June, the University of Alberta will welcome 11 influential and inspirational figures to campus to receive honorary degrees and revel in the air of possibility as part of its 2016 spring convocation festivities.

“A University of Alberta honorary degree recognizes transformative leadership across a range of ideas, enterprises, fields of study, community initiatives, discoveries or institutions—leadership that contributes to the public good,” says U of A Chancellor Ralph Young. “I look forward to celebrating spring convocation with these outstanding individuals and our graduating class of 2016.”

A proud Lebanese-Canadian who arrived in Canada at the age of 10, Salah Bachir, president of Cineplex Media, has had a long and successful career in the entertainment industry. However, he may be best known as a philanthropist and patron of the arts. His support through fundraising and volunteer leadership with organizations such as Camp fYrefly, iSMSS, the 519 Community Centre and the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research have made him one of the most prominent LGBTQ philanthropists in Canada. A skilled fundraiser, he gained fame for his Non-Gala Gala in support of St. Joseph’s Health Centre, which raised $210,000 by inviting people to donate instead of buying event tickets with the pitch, “You ARE NOT invited to a long, formal evening of so-so food, questionable entertainment and uncomfortable shoes.” Bachir serves as a volunteer board member with arts organizations including the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Luminato Arts Festival, and donations from his private art collection can be seen in the National Gallery of Canada and Rideau Hall, among many others.
Salah Bachir will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 9 at 3 p.m.

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a distinguished leader in the field of astrophysics, credited with one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century. While studying as a PhD student at Cambridge University in 1967, she discovered the first radio pulsars ever to be found, and has since become one of the United Kingdom’s most prominent scientists. She has taught at several prestigious institutions including the universities of Southampton, Oxford, Bath and Princeton. Bell Burnell has also campaigned to improve the status and number of women in the fields of physics and astronomy, and was the first woman to serve as president of the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is currently a visiting professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Mansfield College.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 14 at 10 a.m.

Mark Carney has been called the outstanding banker of his generation. Born in Fort Smith, N.W.T., and raised in Edmonton, where his father was a professor of education at the U of A, Carney was appointed governor of the Bank of Canada in 2007. He is credited with playing a major role in helping Canada avoid the worst impacts of the financial crisis that began that year. In 2012, Carney was appointed governor of the Bank of England, the first non-Briton to be appointed to the role since the bank was founded in 1694. Carney has also served as the chairman of the Financial Stability Board, an international body that monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system, since 2011. In 2015, he was named to the Order of Canada.
Mark Carney will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 7 at 3 p.m.

In April 1994, Lieutenant-General the Honourable Roméo Dallaire (ret’d) was in command of a United Nations assistance mission in Rwanda when extremist Hutus in the Kigali government launched an orchestrated massacre of Tutsis. Dallaire's requests for a broader UN mandate in Rwanda and more troops were denied, and an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in less than 100 days. What he witnessed left him deeply affected, but also deeply committed to preventing genocide, ending recruitment of child soldiers and advocating for veterans’ mental health. Dallaire was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross and the U.S. Legion of Merit for his courage and leadership during the UN mission. He is an officer of the Order of Canada and a commander of the Order of Military Merit. His account of the Rwandan genocide, Shake Hands With the Devil, won the Governor General's Award for Literary Non-Fiction in 2004.
Roméo Dallaire will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 8 at 10 a.m.

In the words of Lorne Tyrrell, director of the U of A’s Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, Tony Fields “has affected cancer care in Alberta more than any other individual in recent memory.” Born and raised in Barbados, Fields studied natural sciences at the University of Cambridge and graduated from the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine in 1974. At Alberta Health Services, he was responsible for the province’s tertiary and associate cancer centres, community oncology programs and cancer research programs. At Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute, where Fields also served as director, he specialized in the treatment of patients with gastrointestinal cancers. He also served as vice-president of medical affairs and community oncology with the Alberta Cancer Board, and is a past president of the National Cancer Institute of Canada and the Canadian Association of Medical Oncologists.
Anthony Fields will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 10 at 10 a.m.

U of A alumnus Francis Morris Flewwelling has had an extraordinary impact over his lifetime of public service as an educator, volunteer and civic leader. In 1968, he started Alberta's first alternative school for at-risk junior high students, which became the provincial model. In the 1990s, as president of the Canadian Museums Association, he worked with the Assembly of First Nations to develop new and better ways of preserving and sharing Indigenous history—protocols that became a worldwide standard. During his service as mayor of Red Deer (2004–2013), he established and chaired a task force to end homelessness in the city. He also served for six years on the U of A Senate, where he was a member of task forces to address the status of female academics on campus and barriers facing Indigenous students. He was named Red Deer Citizen of the Year in 1982, was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2014 and was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1997.
Francis Morris Flewwelling will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 9 at 10 a.m.

Ruth Kelly is one of Alberta’s greatest publishing success stories. As president and CEO of Venture Publishing Inc., a company she founded, she has been called “an extraordinary role model for young men and women in Alberta and Canada … establishing a powerful voice in important social, economic and political issues.” She was born and raised in Alberta, receiving a degree in English from the U of A in 1978. Her company’s magazines—including Alberta Venture, Alberta Oil, Grip and Unlimited—have garnered numerous national awards, and she has herself been recognized often for her exceptional business acumen. She has worked tirelessly to help underprivileged women become independent and self-sufficient. In 2008, she became the first Albertan to receive the Woman of the Year award from Canadian Women in Communications, and in 2012 she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Ruth Kelly will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 14 at 3 p.m.

Stephen Mandel has spent his career building Edmonton as a businessman and politician, most notably in his role as a city council member and then mayor from 2004 to 2013. During his time in office, he was a transformative leader, establishing the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, championing an expanded transit system including LRT, supporting projects such as the downtown arena district and the redevelopment of the city’s airport lands into the community of Blatchford, and laying the foundations for a provincial Big City Charter. A passionate advocate for post-secondary education, in 2013, during his State of the City address, he noted that the U of A “is of no less significance to our city than the energy industry is to downtown Calgary.” After leaving municipal politics in 2013, Mandel went on to become Alberta’s health minister and the MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud. Following his return to private life, Mandel continues to be a community leader and a champion for Edmonton.
Stephen Mandel will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 15 at 10 a.m.

A significant player in the field of global health, Jerome Nriagu is widely considered the leading international authority of heavy metals in the environment. As a Biafran refugee from Nigeria in the late 1960s, Nriagu came to the University of Toronto when he had nowhere else to go. His PhD research led to the use of phosphate to immobilize lead in contaminated soils. It also led to what would become a 20-year posting with Environment Canada where he pioneered the application of sulphur isotopes to trace atmospheric emissions from smelters in Sudbury, Ont. His renown researching emissions, transformations, behaviour and fate of environmental pollutants would bring him to the University of Michigan School of Public Health where his work has advanced our understanding of arsenic in groundwater. Now a professor emeritus, Nriagu was named a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 2002, won a Fulbright Senior Fellowship in 2002 and received an Alexander von Humboldt Distinguished Research Award in 2009.
Jerome Nriagu will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 13 at 3 p.m.

Mary Robinson was elected as the first female president of Ireland in 1990, a position she would hold for seven years. Her popularity and passion allowed her to change the nature of the role from one that was largely ceremonial to one of active engagement in major societal issues. As a human rights lawyer, long-serving senator and then president, Robinson was able to champion human rights, social change and the environment. In 1997, she was appointed as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a role in which she served for five years. In 2007, she was a founding member of The Elders, a convened group of world leaders working together for peace and human rights, created by Nelson Mandela and currently chaired by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. In July 2009, Robinson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour awarded by the United States.
Mary Robinson will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at a special conferral ceremony June 21 in the early evening.

Indira V. Samarasekera was the 12th president and vice-chancellor of the U of A. During her 10 years as president (2005–2015), Samarasekera oversaw massive growth at the university, including more than $2 billion in capital projects and a $1.2-billion endowment, as well as international partnerships with schools and industry in Germany, India, China and Brazil. Samarasekera was vice-president of research at the University of British Columbia before becoming president of the University of Alberta in 2005. She is the first woman and the first engineer to serve as U of A president. She is currently a distinguished fellow in residence at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC, and a senior adviser at Bennett Jones LLP. In 2016, she was named a member of the Senate appointment advisory board by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Samarasekera is an officer of the Order of Canada and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum.
Indira Samarasekera will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 8 at 3 p.m.