Memorial University has announced the honorary degree recipients for the spring convocation ceremonies. Memorial University will celebrate its 100th regular session of convocation this spring, an event that will include awarding honorary degrees to a stellar group.
Memorial will present honorary degrees to nine outstanding individuals during ceremonies to be held in both St. John's and Corner Brook.
The honourees include (biographies follow below): former federal cabinet minister and Nobel Prize nominee Lloyd Axworthy; traditional singer and archivist Anita Best; celebrated author Richard Gwyn; physician and administrator Dr. Linda Inkpen; acclaimed theatre director and instructor Jillian Keiley; anthropologist Dr. Robert Paine; photographer Ben Hansen; environmentalist and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki; and volunteer and philanthropist Sam Walters.
Honorary degree recipients are chosen by the Senate, the university's academic governing body, after a very careful examination of the grounds for their nomination.
The honorary doctorate degree is designed to recognize extraordinary contribution to society or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement. The awarding of honorary doctorates, an important feature of Memorial's convocation, serves to celebrate both the individual and the university, as well as to inspire graduates, their families and guests.
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook will hold its spring convocation ceremonies at the Pepsi Centre on Friday, May 15. Meanwhile, convocation runs at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John's from Tuesday, May 26 to Friday, May 29.
To mark the occasion, Memorial University commissioned a new piece of music to be performed during the 100th ceremony. The call to Canadian composers went out in December asking for an original suite of ceremonial music for the special event. Dr. Michael Parker was selected composer. Dr. Parker had a long and distinguished career as a professor of classics at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College campus and as a composer whose music has been commissioned, recorded and performed across Canada.
"I am really, really pleased," Dr. Parker said earlier this year. "I have been at Grenfell for 30 years in education and it is very exciting to compose music for what is the climax of a student's journey. This is a wonderful opportunity to combine my interest in classics and music."
Dr. Parker acknowledged that the pieces are quite challenging because they require several arrangements and they need to be variable in length. He is planning to base the pieces on a Newfoundland tune. Most of his time is currently spent in the library researching music that will serve as the basis of his original work. "It is going to be unique to Memorial. I have four months, but it is tricky and I have to get down to work," he explained excitedly.
Best known for his role in the international treaty to prohibit the use of land mines and as a federal cabinet minister, Lloyd Axworthy is a man who has had a long and effective role in the promotion of human rights.
Born in North Battleford, Sask., Dr. Axworthy graduated in 1961 with a BA from United College (now the University of Winnipeg), and received an MA and PhD from Princeton in 1963 and 1972 respectively.
He began his professional career as an academic at the University of Winnipeg, but was drawn to the political process by the example of Lester B. Pearson. He entered the Manitoba legislature in 1973 and federal politics six years later.
In the Liberal Party governments of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien, Dr. Axworthy held several cabinet posts, including Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2000. As minister he hosted the 1996 international meeting to discuss the ban on land mines and challenged the delegates to return the following year for a treaty signing. For that, he received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since leaving public life in the fall of 2000, Dr. Axworthy has been the recipient of several prestigious awards and honours. Princeton University awarded him the Madison Medal for his record of outstanding public service, he received the CARE International Humanitarian Award, and he was elected Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Axworthy has been named to Order of Manitoba and to the Order of Canada and has received honorary doctorates from 12 universities.
Dr. Axworthy is currently president and vice-chancellor of the University of Winnipeg.
For his lifelong commitment to the betterment of the world, Dr. Axworthy will receive an honorary doctor of laws at the 10 a.m. session of convocation on May 29.
Anita Best has spent a lifetime exploring, cataloguing and celebrating the rural Newfoundland lifestyle and culture. In the process she has become one of the province's most prominent traditional singers.
Born on Merasheen Island in Placentia Bay (since abandoned under the resettlement program), Ms. Best has worked as an educator, archivist, folklorist, broadcaster and singer. A particular interest in oral history – songs and stories passed down through generations – led to her performing career. She has toured extensively as a storyteller and singer, made numerous television and radio appearances and added her voice to several Newfoundland recordings.
She is best known for two albums: The Colour Of Amber, a collaboration with Pamela Morgan, was released in 1993, and Crosshanded, a collection of 12 songs for solo voice, followed a few years later. In these recordings and in her performances, Ms. Best tends to forego the standard Newfoundland repertoire in favour of the lesser known songs and stories collected from around the province.
Ms. Best is also the co-author of the folk song collection Come And I Will Sing You. She has worked with numerous folk arts councils and heritage groups, organizing concerts and other folklore events. She has received several awards and honours for her contributions to heritage preservation and the cultural life of the province.
She has studied folklore at Memorial University and now works from St. John's as a university lecturer, ballad singer and storyteller, as well as a heritage consultant, with a specialty in cultural policy. She travels around Canada, in the U.S. and Europe in her storytelling and singing career.
For her contribution to the preservation of Newfoundland culture through her collecting and performing of traditional music, Ms. Best will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters at the 3 p.m. session of convocation on May 28.
Richard Gwyn is an award-winning author and political columnist. He was born in England in 1934, educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and emigrated to Canada in 1955. He is now widely-known as an author, as a commentator for the Toronto Star and as a frequent contributor to TV and radio.
His six books include biographies of Newfoundland Premier Joey Smallwood, The Unlikely Revolutionary, and Prime Minister Pierre Elliot-Trudeau, The Northern Magus.
His 1995 book, Nationalism Without Walls: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian, was selected by the magazine, The Literary Review of Canada, as one of the 100 most important books published in Canada.
His contributions to this province include the annual Winterset Prize for the best book of the year by a Newfoundland and Labrador writer, set up to commemorate his late wife Sandra Fraser Gwyn, who was a keen advocate of the arts of Newfoundland, and the highly successful annual Winterset in Summer Literary Festival at Eastport.
His most recent work, John A: The Man Who Made Us; The Life and Times of Sir John A. Macdonald, Vol. One, 1815-1867, won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction for 2007 and was short-listed for the Shaughnessy-Cohen Prize for Political Writing. He is now at work on his second volume of his biography of Macdonald.
Dr. Gwyn is an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is the recipient of five honorary degrees and is a former chancellor of St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo.
For his contributions to the fostering of writing in Newfoundland and Labrador, Richard Gwyn will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters at the 3 p.m. session of convocation on May 29.
Dr. Linda Inkpen is an active medical practitioner in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. She graduated from Memorial University in 1969, 1970, 1972, and 1974 with degrees in science, education, medical science, and medicine, respectively.
She has practised medicine since graduating, but has also pursued other interests and endeavours. She is currently chair of the board for Fortis Properties, is a past chair of Newfoundland Power, and is an active director of the parent company, Fortis Inc.
Dr. Inkpen was president of Cabot College (now College of the North Atlantic) from 1987 to 1993, has served on and chaired numerous commissions, committees and inquiries at both the provincial and federal levels, has been a lay member of the Newfoundland Law Society, and worked in many volunteer capacities.
Dr. Inkpen was a member of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and is a recent past chair of the Medical Advisory Committee for the Eastern Health Board in Newfoundland and Labrador.
She has been the recipient of many awards and honours, most notably Memorial University's Alumna of the Year Award in 1988, the Order of Canada, the Queen's Jubilee Medal, and an honorary degree from Mount Saint Vincent University.
For her long career in and contribution to public service in Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Inkpen will be awarded an honorary doctor of science at the 3 p.m. session of convocation on May 26.
Jillian Keiley is the artistic director of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, winner of the Canada Council's John Hirsch Prize, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council's Emerging Artist Award, Calgary's 2006 Betty Mitchell Award for Directing and the 2004 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, the richest in Canadian Theatre.
The jury for the Siminovitch Prize described her work as "startlingly original and radically imaginative," and her as a "visionary, innovative artist whose experiments with form and content have magical results for audiences and performers alike."
Aside from a lengthy list of productions with Artistic Fraud, Ms. Keiley has also directed Jack Five Oh for Sheila's Brush, and Tempting Providence for Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL), both of which continue to tour to national and international venues and festivals.
In 2006, she staged the massive Ann and Seamus Children's Opera for Shallaway Youth Chorus, which toured to points in central Canada, the U.S., Ireland and the Copenhagen Opera House.
Ms. Keiley directed Orpheus for Cork Opera Works in Ireland, Tilt with Teatro Sotteraneo in Florence, Italy, Sailor Boy with Ghost River and The Old Trout Puppet Workshop in Calgary, and Wind in the Willows for the Montgomery Theatre in P.E.I.
Ms. Keiley has a bachelor of fine arts from York University, and has also made her mark as an instructor in the theatre programs on Memorial University's St. John's campus and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, and at the National Theatre School of Canada.
As an enthusiastic but clear-sighted promoter of Newfoundland culture, Jillian Keiley will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters at the 10 a.m. session of convocation on May 28.
Dr. Robert Paine has made major contributions to anthropological studies in Newfoundland and Labrador and internationally. Dr. Paine was born in Portsmouth, U.K. and attended Oxford where he received a BA, MA and D.Phil. He began his academic career doing fieldwork among the Northern Scandinavian Saami people.
He came to Memorial to lead the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in 1965 and soon after received a major grant from the Canada Council, at the time the largest research grant in the arts at Memorial.
He was also responsible for developing the publishing arm of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) and brought Memorial's scholarship to the public arena, especially in the case of resettlement.
ISER and ISER Books played a critical role in developing the idea of the North Atlantic as a research area. By supporting and publishing international research on key issues – notably the fisheries and offshore development, community studies and social problems, and aboriginal studies – ISER helped put social science in and of Newfoundland and Labrador into a transatlantic framework.
Dr. Paine's other research topics have focused on Newfoundland political rhetoric, Jews in the West Bank, and Saami ethnopolitics. He has been a visiting professor at various Canadian universities as well as at Uppsala University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of Adelaide, and Tromsø University, Norway.
In 1997, Dr. Paine was named professor emeritus in Anthropology. His numerous awards include honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh and Tromsø University.
Dr. Paine is also Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was named to the Order of Canada in 1996.
For his significant impact on Memorial's international research capacity and reputation, Dr. Paine will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters at the 10 a.m. session of convocation on May 26.
Ben Hansen is one of Newfoundland and Labrador's most celebrated and accomplished photographers. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Mr. Hansen came to Canada in 1953 and worked as a public relations photographer for Canadian Pacific and Canadair in Montréal.
He came to Newfoundland in 1968 and worked as manager of Photographic Services, now Image Services, for Memorial University until 1988.He then retired from Memorial and travelled extensively around the province, photographing its people and places. Mr. Hansen has published 12 books of photography.
In 1981 he was named Maritime Professional Photographer of the year and in 1990 he was awarded the title, Master of Photographic Arts.
In 1993, he was presented with the Confederation125 medal by the Government of Canada.
He lives in St. John's with Joyce, his wife of 53 years.
For his role in celebrating and recording the old and the new Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Hansen will an honorary doctor of letters degree during convocation at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook on May 15.
David Suzuki, co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.
Dr. Suzuki graduated from Amherst College, Massachusetts, in 1958 with an honours BA in Biology, followed by a PhD in Zoology from the University of Chicago. He held a research associateship in the Biology Division of
Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Lab (1961-62), was an assistant professor in Genetics at the University of Alberta (1962-63), and since then has been a faculty member of the University of British Columbia.
He is now professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia's Sustainable Development Research Institute.
In 1972, he was awarded the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship for the outstanding research scientist in Canada under the age of 35. He has won numerous academic awards and holds 22 honorary degrees in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. A member of the Royal Society of Canada and a Companion to the Order of Canada, Dr. Suzuki has written 42 books, including 17 for children. His 1976 textbook An Introduction to Genetic Analysis (with A.J.F. Griffiths), remains the most widely used genetics text book in the U.S. and has been translated into several languages.
His television career began with CBC in 1971 when he wrote and hosted Suzuki on Science. In 1974 he developed and hosted the long-running, popular science program Quirks and Quarks on CBC Radio. In 1979 became the host of the award-winning The Nature of Things with David Suzuki for which he has won four Gemini Awards.
For his exceptional contribution in advancing the awareness of science and of alerting the world to environmental problems, Dr. Suzuki will be awarded a honorary doctor of science at the 3 p.m. session of convocation on May 27.
D.S. (SAM) WALTERS
A banker by profession, Sam Walters has made his mark as a volunteer and philanthropist for numerous charities and public service organizations.
Mr. Walters was born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. He graduated from Lunenburg Academy in 1962 and joined the Royal Bank the same year. After serving in various communities he was awarded the Muir Scholarship and attended Dalhousie University from which he graduated in 1971 with a bachelor of commerce degree.
Subsequently he received his Fellows Institute of Canadian Bankers (FICB). After graduation he worked with Royal Bank in Halifax and St. John's, and in 1989 was appointed vice-president for Newfoundland and Labrador.
In August of 2000, Mr. Walters retired after 38 years of service for the Royal Bank.
But it's for his charitable work that Mr. Walters is as well known. Since 1984, he has served as a director of the St. John's Board of Trade, chair of the Institute of Canadian Bankers Newfoundland Labrador, a member of the organizing committee for the Peter Gzowski invitational golf tournament in aid of literacy and honorary campaign chair for the 1990 and 1991 Canadian Red Cross financial campaign.
He has been a particularly good friend of Memorial University's. He has served as mentor and employer to many Memorial business undergraduates and graduates, has been a long-time member as well as chair of the Faculty of Business's advisory board, adviser to the Genesis Centre and mentor to its clients, and was a major figure in RBC's donation to the Memorial/Royal Bank Virtual Design Centre for distance education during the Opportunity Fund campaign in the late 1990s.
In 1992, Mr. Walters received the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada awarded to Canadians who made significant contributions to their fellow citizens, to their community or to Canada. He received the 1999 Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries (NATI) Achievement Award for Leadership.
For his contributions to the university and the community, Mr. Walters will be awarded an honorary doctor of laws at the 10 a.m. session of convocation on May 27.