Honorary degrees recognize outstanding achievers

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta is poised to award 11 individuals with honorary degrees for a vast array of achievements that hold at least one thing in common—they continue to make the world a better place.

"Our spring convocation honorary degree recipients remind all of us of the importance of talent, integrity, passion and wisdom,” said U of A chancellor Ralph Young. “It is my hope that these outstanding individuals will inspire our graduates to consider leadership roles in the many local, national and international communities our university serves.”

Alexander McCalla

Alexander Frederick McCalla, alumnus and former president of the U of A’s Students’ Union, has made extraordinary contributions to feeding the world and improving conditions for the poorest among us through innovative agricultural teaching programs as well as path-breaking research on the economics of public policy related to agriculture, international trade, economic development and food security. McCalla, former two-time dean and agricultural economics professor at the University of California at Davis, elected early retirement and joined the World Bank as director of agriculture and natural resources. One of his challenges was to reverse a disturbing trend that saw the bank’s agricultural lending drop by more than half in less than a decade beginning in the late ‘80s. He was co-author of the bank’s new rural development strategy, which contributed to turning the trend around before the century was out and continues to guide the bank’s essential activity in reducing poverty worldwide. In 2004, he was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the U of A. Alexander McCalla will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 3 at 3 p.m.

Bruce Hogle

While standing at the forefront of local television for 30 years starting in 1965, Bruce Hogle set a journalistic standard that established Edmonton as one of the most competitive new markets in the country, and he used this powerful medium to challenge, provoke and inspire, always with an eye towards righting injustice and improving our community. Over the years, Hogle’s editorial efforts resulted in the formation of a number of community-first entities such as the Alberta Crimes Compensation Board, a group that provides financial support for victims, and Alberta’s Block Parent Program, as well as changes to Alberta’s adoption laws, rent controls and improvements in how society treats people with learning disabilities. Hogle’s commitment to pushing back the margins also led to “Wednesday’s Child,” the long-running CTV Edmonton feature that helps find permanent homes for difficult-to-adopt children. Always ahead of his time, Hogle also hired Edmonton’s first female news anchor. For his dedication to his community, he received the Order of Canada in 1998. Bruce Hogle will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 4 at 10 a.m.

Beckie Scott

By the time she retired from nearly two decades of competitive cross-country skiing in 2006, Beckie Scott had rewritten the Canadian cross-country record books. A three-time Olympian, she won a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and silver at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. Scott’s career accomplishments on the trails are matched only by her work off. Her tireless advocacy for drug-free sport landed her a role as Canada’s representative on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Athlete Committee in 2005. She was one of only two international athletes elected by her peers to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission for an eight-year term during the 2006 Olympics. Also a firm believer in charitable endeavours, the Alberta-born and raised Scott is active in Right to Play, an organization that uses the power of sport to transform the lives of children in the most disadvantaged parts of the world, and Ski Fit North, a cross-country ski initiative directed at impoverished First Nations youngsters. She was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. Beckie Scott will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 4 at 3 p.m.

Dave Lede

In turning the Ledcor Group of Companies into one of Canada’s largest construction companies, alumnus Dave Lede has managed to instil an award-winning corporate culture that values safety, family and community above all else. Lede is known as the visionary behind not only thousands of kilometres of roadways, but also iconic structures like the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton and The Bow in Calgary, but his biggest accomplishment might be the zest for generosity his employees bring to the communities they live in. Ledcor’s employee engagement follows Lede’s example; over the years, the Dave Lede Family Foundation has contributed millions to charities in Alberta and British Columbia. Making responsible and ethical business decisions has transformed Ledcor into a pioneer in integrity, accountability, innovation and sustainability as the construction giant pursues opportunities in an open, fair and forward-thinking manner, which has driven positive change within the industries in which it operates. Earlier this year, Lede received the Canadian Business Leader of the Year award from the U of A’s Alberta School of Business. Dave Lede will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 5 at 10 a.m.

Darren Entwistle

Darren Entwistle was recently appointed executive chairman of Telus after serving as the company’s president and CEO since 2000—the longest-serving CEO in the global telecom industry. Under his leadership, Telus has transformed from a regional phone company to a global communications leader, recognized for technology innovation, leading economic performance and excellence in human capital development. Telus and its 43,000 team members have delivered a world-leading total shareholder return of 286 per cent since 2000, outpacing the number two incumbent globally by 110 percentage points. Telus’s enterprise value has increased by over 226 per cent, from $10.5 billion in 2000 to more than $34 billion today. In 2013, the Telus team achieved an unprecedented 83 per cent engagement score, confirmed by Aon Hewitt as number one globally among employers of similar size and workforce mix. This world-leading culture helped Telus become the sixth company in history to be named to Waterstone Human Capital Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures Hall of Fame and one of only three organizations in the world to win the BEST Award eight times for excellence in human capital development from the American Society for Training and Development. Entwistle is leading Telus’s journey to answer the challenges of health-care transformation by leveraging the power of broadband communications networks that move digital information across the health-care continuum to elevate the wellbeing of Canadians. Telus’s technology leadership is helping to drive the prevention of disease, not just its remediation, and has earned the organization recognition by Branham Group Inc. as the top Canadian health-care technology company for five years. Entwistle is also dedicated to honouring the Telus team’s heartfelt philosophy, “We give where we live.” Since 2000, Telus, its team members and retirees have contributed $350 million to charitable organizations and volunteered 5.4 million hours of service in communities across Canada. As a result of this compassion, Telus was the first Canadian company to be named the most outstanding philanthropic corporation in the world in 2010 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The U of A honoured Entwistle with the 2010 Canadian Business Leader of the Year Award. Darren Entwistle will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 5 at 3 p.m.

Helen Hays

A leading global specialist and medical pioneer in the development of palliative care programs, Helen Hays is considered a modern saint for her compassion and identification of ways to enhance quality of life and reduce chronic pain for people facing terminal illness. A graduate of the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Hays was medical director of the first inpatient palliative care unit at the Edmonton General Hospital, where she developed her own pioneering approaches to this new specialization. Today, palliative care programs across North America are the result of her innovation, her deep understanding of the needs of patients and her tireless service as mentor to her fellow health-care providers. In 1994, Hays co-founded Pilgrims Hospice Society in Edmonton with the mission to provide a voluntary, free-standing hospice that offers supportive care to enhance the quality and dignity of life for those diagnosed with progressive, life-limiting illness. Helen Hays will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 6 at 10 a.m.

John Poon

John Poon is a distinguished alumnus whose achievements in the business world in Asia—particularly in finance and corporate governance—and whose commitment to public service serve as an inspiration to U of A students and alumni. Soon after graduating with a U of A law degree in 1984, Poon jettisoned his promising career as a practising lawyer to join the corporate arena in Hong Kong. Among his more notable accomplishments, Poon, as CFO and then as deputy chairman of the multinational firm Esprit, led the fashion giant and oversaw its market capitalization expansion from US$1 billion to over US$20 billion in nine years between 1999 and 2008. Poon’s successful business career has also been accompanied by a relentless commitment to public service. Since the 1990s, Poon has served on many community organizations and professional bodies in Hong Kong including his role as governor of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, non-executive director of the Canadian International School and a government-appointed council member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In 2012, Poon was appointed chairman of the Financial Reporting Council responsible for ensuring the quality of financial reporting of Hong Kong listed entities and safeguarding the interests of the investing public. In 2003, he received an Alumni Award of Excellence from the U of A. John Poon will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 9 at 3 p.m.

Kamaljit Bawa

One of the world’s foremost conservationists, Kamaljit Bawa has redefined our understanding of the evolution, ecology and sustainable use of endangered tropical forests. He is Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and founder and president of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Bangalore, India, which ranks among the top 20 non-governmental organizations in the world. Along with his groundbreaking research in population biology of trees, he is highly regarded for his work to drive wide-scale change in our thinking about sustainability by engaging academics, policy-makers, practitioners, activists, students and broader public audiences on a platform of social justice. His contributions to public discourse and public policy on sustainability have earned him the highest awards in his field, including fellowship in the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2012, he was the inaugural recipient of the Gunnerus Sustainability Award, the world’s premier international award in sustainability. Kamaljit Bawa will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 10 at 10 a.m.

David Schindler

As one of Canada’s leading environmental scientists, U of A professor emeritus David Schindler is considered one of the best-informed and strongest voices guiding science and policy to address one of Canada’s most pressing issues—ensuring water safety and sustainability. Early in his career, Schindler was made the founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, where he spent two decades running ecosystem-scale experiments. In 1989, Schindler joined the U of A to take up the role as Killam Memorial Chair, where he would spend the next quarter century assessing and relaying the often uncomfortable environmental implications of industry until his retirement in 2013. For his patience and persistence in advancing scientific evidence to influence policy, Schindler has earned numerous national and international awards, including the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal, the first Stockholm Water Prize, the Volvo Environmental Prize and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. He was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2004. David Schindler will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 10 at 3 p.m.

Elsie Yanik

A fourth-generation Métis elder, Elsie Yanik has been described as “an angel” of Wood Buffalo for her tireless work to preserve Aboriginal heritage and to promote health and education for all in her community. From the time she was a nurse’s aide in Fort Smith at age 17, she has spent eight decades offering encouragement and hope as a minister, mentor and volunteer. She served as president of the Voice of Alberta Native Women board, was a 10-year member of the Young Offenders Board and works with the Nunee Health Authority in Fort Chipewyan. For her lifetime of compassionate service and spiritual guidance, she has received a Governor General’s Commemorative Medal, the Stars of Alberta Volunteer Award, an honorary diploma from Keyano College, an Esquao Award recognizing excellence by Aboriginal women, and a blessing from Pope John Paul II for her work within the Catholic Church. She was chosen to bear the Olympic torch when it passed through the region on the way to the 2010 Winter Games. Elsie Yanik will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 11 at 10 a.m.

Sandra Woitas

Sandra Woitas has devoted her career as an educator to helping disadvantaged children across Alberta get the high-quality education they deserve. As principal of Norwood School and director of the City Centre Education Project, she built a network of support agencies that would become Partners for Kids, a program that now serves 3,700 students in 13 Edmonton schools. During a secondment to Alberta Education, she worked with parents, schools and communities on the cross-ministry Family Violence and Anti-Bullying Initiative. Most recently, as director of the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation, she has championed successful campaigns to support full-day kindergarten programs for kids in socially vulnerable communities. Her volunteer activities include serving as a board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters, a campaign speaker for the United Way, a member of the Edmonton Police Commission and a member of the Edmonton Journal Advisory Board. In 2004, she was named one of the 100 Edmontonians of the Century. Sandra Woitas will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 11 at 3 p.m.