Spring convocation: Super volunteer awarded honorary degree

(Edmonton) When Bunny Ferguson falls in love with a cause, it's virtually guaranteed to prosper.

An alumna of the University of Alberta, Ferguson has transformed public conversations around family business and social innovation, and has become one of the dearest friends her alma mater has ever known. Founding chair of the U of A's Alberta Business Family Institute, founding director of the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and director of the Norlien Foundation, she is a tireless advocate for community-university engagement, health-care excellence and educational leadership.

"Volunteering really does excite me. I like creative thinking and strategizing and when I fall in love with a cause�look out, because I give it all I’ve got," said Ferguson to the 2011 class of business students while accepting an honorary doctor of laws degree June 13.

Having successful volunteer stints with the Canadian Cancer Association, the Winspear Centre and the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, Ferguson counts her efforts of helping build the university among her greatest. She helped raised money for the Timms Centre for the Arts and then became the founding chair of the Alberta Business Family Institute in the Alberta School of Business.
“This was a huge undertaking, creating an institute 'run by families, for families,' and under the umbrella of this empire called the University of Alberta," said Ferguson, a member of the Order of Canada. "It was like starting your own business, and in startups, it’s wise to call on people you respect and trust, to seek from them advice and ideas.”
Ferguson says the solid relationships she has developed throughout these years have led to her becoming director of the Norlien Foundation, a private foundation in Alberta whose mandate supports U of A research that relates the brain and early childhood development to the prevention and treatment of addictions and other negative mental-health behaviours.

“Each time I have been asked to serve in various capacities, I have received far more than I have given. And today is a prime example,” said Ferguson. “Graduates, your degrees today provide you the opportunity to go out and experience new beginnings, to be our leaders of tomorrow. I encourage you to find that certain something you are passionate about and align it with who you are and what you believe in."

To read a full transcript of Ferguson’s convocation address, click here.

To watch the entire June 13 convocation ceremony, click here.