Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Working for the people

Judd Buchanan, ’53 BA, displayed a strong work ethic from a young age. Beginning with his first paper route, he moved on to work as a “redcap” with CP Rail, unloading luggage and pocketing tips.

He earned an economics degree while serving as president of his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, and the U of A Liberal club. His political interest began when he worked for his father’s provincial Liberal campaign. Nelles V. Buchanan, ’21 LLB, didn’t win, but the teenaged Buchanan was hooked.

Buchanan was elected to the House of Commons in 1968 and appointed to the cabinet in 1974. He served as minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, minister of Public Works, minister of state for science and technology and president of the Treasury Board.

He helped form one of the earliest Toastmasters clubs in Canada: the Forest City Toastmasters in London, Ont. Buchanan’s days serving travellers at CP foreshadowed things to come. He became the first chair of the Canadian Tourism Commission and he invested in Silver Star Mountain Resort near Vernon, B.C. Buchanan was also the first chair of the group that built the Wickaninnish Inn, a hotel on the beach in Tofino, B.C.

His volunteer work has included serving as chair of the Greater Victoria Hospital Society and working with other organizations in London and Victoria. He became an officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.


By the book

Linda C. Cook, ’74 BA, ’75 BLS, ’87 MLS, was one of those kids who read under the covers with a flashlight. When this avid reader enrolled in her first university class, The English Novel, she fell in love with the course.

After completing her library studies degree, Cook began her first library job at the Misericordia Community Hospital, where she learned that librarianship is about helping people and making a difference.

After serving as director of the Yellowhead Regional Library System in Spruce Grove, Alta., Cook began a new journey as chief executive officer of the Edmonton Public Library until her retirement. For 19 years she fought for the public library system, implementing a self-check-in and checkout service, free memberships, an Aboriginal services librarian, a lending machine in an LRT station, new and renewed libraries, and outreach workers to help customers who are at risk use the library.

In 2014, EPL became the first Canadian library to be named North America’s Library of the Year, a proud moment for the dedicated CEO and her staff.

Cook continues to make a difference by volunteering on various boards. She was the first recipient of MacEwan University’s Gold Medal, has won the U of A’s Library and Information Studies Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award and both the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and Diamond Jubilee Medal.


Helping Hands

When Donald C. Fletcher, ’80 BMedSc, ’82 MD, was in kindergarten, someone asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and his answer was a doctor or a tiger. He chose scrubs and surgery over stripes and claws.

Ophthalmology appealed to Fletcher and working with low-vision patients called to him. His patients have significant vision loss that affects their everyday life, especially the ability to read. He has provided care to more than 25,000 patients and has worked on technologies to help his patients read.

One of his proudest contributions was to incorporate a team approach that included occupational therapists in low-vision care. It took him 15 years to get blanket approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to include rehabilitation with vision improvement.

He has also helped establish low-vision rehabilitation clinics in the Philippines, Zimbabwe and North and South America.

Fletcher has served in leadership roles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As bishop for a San Francisco congregation at one point, a relative shared that he was a member of the LGBTQ community. Fletcher welcomed the community into the church.

“I think this is one of the most correct things I’ve ever done, and I will keep pushing until the day I die to ensure my brothers and sisters who are gay know God loves them.”


Lawyer, judge, pilot, mayor, lifesaver

Virgil P. Moshansky, ’51 BA, ’54 LLB, followed an arts degree with a law degree and worked as a lawyer for many years. A move to Vegreville, Alta., brought three terms as mayor.

As a private pilot and aircraft owner, he flew between his office and courtrooms across the province.

In 1976, the federal government called and, after 21 years in Vegreville, Moshansky and his wife June moved to Calgary, where he served on the bench of the Supreme Court of Alberta for 28 years.

On March 10, 1989, Air Ontario Flight 1363 crashed and Moshansky was appointed to head the commission of inquiry into the causes of the incident that killed 24 people in Dryden, Ont.

His team spent three years conducting what has been called the most exhaustive aviation system investigation. A main area of concern was the lack of proper de-icing fluids and procedures. Transport Canada and other international regulatory authorities adopted his recommendations, making revolutionary changes to aircraft de-icing and saving countless lives.

Moshansky received the Order of Canada in 2005 and was elected as a fellow of the U.K. Royal Aeronautical Society in 2007. He has spent much of his time volunteering. He is a life member of the Vegreville Lions Club and a past international director of Lions International.


One life, one goal

When Norgrove Penny, ’71 BSc(Med), ’73 MD, was three years old, he knew he wanted to be a doctor. Penny grew up in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, where his father, Cherer, was a missionary doctor. Penny wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, helping those in need.

With political problems brewing in Rhodesia, his father moved the family to Canada. After medical school, Penny set up Vancouver Island’s first sports medicine clinic in Victoria in 1978 and was a consultant at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. After serving as chief medical officer of the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994, Penny was ready to contribute elsewhere.

He and his wife, Anné, and daughters Rebecca, Bethea and Genevieve, travelled to Uganda, where they lived until 2002, so Penny could work with Christian Blind Mission International developing a rehabilitation project for children with polio, congenital club-foot deformity and other disabilities. He was the only pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Uganda.

The orthopedic rehabilitation work Penny began in Uganda has become a successful model program around the world. He received the Order of Canada in 2007.

Penny still works as an orthopedic surgeon in Victoria, and he is on committees that focus on initiatives for children needing orthopedic surgery. He travels overseas to help establish children’s programs and to train orthopedic surgeons in developing countries.


Alumni Honour Award

Bob Aloneissi

Bob H. Aloneissi, ’84 BA, ’87 LLB, works tirelessly to help make the world a more just and humane place. He is known as one of Alberta’s leading criminal lawyers. Outside the courtroom he spends much of his time as a philanthropist. He is a U of A sessional lecturer, teaching criminal trial procedure. His work inspired some of his peers to create the Aloneissi-Gower Pro Bono Community Service Award for law students. Aloneissi has worked on the difficult yet rewarding Victim Offender Rehabilitative Dialogue project, which allows victims to meet and question offenders. In 2012, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, an honorary title given to select lawyers. Aloneissi helps organize an annual Crown versus defence lawyer hockey game, with the proceeds going to charities such as Right to Play. He also supports the World Food Programme, the YMCA’s Strong Kids campaign and the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony, which fosters harmony among Edmonton’s diverse communities. Aloneissi and his wife have four children, and his compassion led to him organizing a group that helped a Syrian refugee family with six children start a new life in Edmonton.


Carla Cuglietta

Carla Cuglietta, ’01 BEd, ’01 BPE, is known for her commitment to volunteer work and service learning with her students as an educator with Edmonton Catholic Schools for 15 years. She has taken her love for service to a global scale by also working in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, India, Sierra Leone, Uganda and China. One of her biggest passions is securing clean drinking water and micro-finance loans for women in urban slums and rural areas of India. In Sierra Leone and Uganda, she taught peace education and gender equity courses to teachers in partnership with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. She was awarded the Prime Minister’s Certificate of Achievement for getting students involved in their community, and won the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for her global work on gender equity. Locally, she co-founded WE Stand, a leadership summit that inspires and educates young people on how to foster personal growth in a way that creates positive change for others. WE Stand will embark on a world tour to seek out and develop 10,000 young leaders over the next 18 months.


Joel Cohen

Joel Cohen, ’88 BSc, is an award-winning writer and executive producer for one of the most oft-quoted television shows ever. The Simpsons is an animated half-hour of comedic genius that’s bursting with social commentary on everything from modern culture and social norms to politics and education. After earning his MBA at York University, Cohen started to dabble in writing, eventually moving to Los Angeles and landing a gig writing for the sitcom Suddenly Susan. In 2001, Cohen began writing for The Simpsons, and there’s been no looking back. He now shares his experiences through corporate lectures in a presentation he calls “The Business Tao of Homer: Lessons in Creativity and Innovation From The Simpsons.” He is also working on various movie projects. Cohen is an inspiration to past, present and future students, and he wisely says his education was fuelled by curiosity and a sense of self-discovery. His journey from science to satire has been one filled with milestones and much success.


Julius Csotonyi

When you look at the work of paleoartist Julius T. Csotonyi, ’98 BSc(Hons), ’02 MSc, you can almost feel the ground shiver and hear the snuffling and snorting of prehistoric beasts. It’s no surprise Csotonyi is one of the world’s leading natural history illustrators. His work is in museums such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. He contributed to Canadian cultural identity by creating five prehistoric animal-themed stamps for Canada Post and coins and medallions for the Royal Canadian Mint. Csotonyi is a favourite artist of paleontologists around the world, as they look to him to illustrate new species for their research publications. He is also a three-time winner of the John J. Lanzendorf PaleoArt Prize, the only award in the scientific community that recognizes paleontological art.


Margaret Epoch

The phrase “make the world a better place” is used repeatedly when people talk about Margaret Jean Epoch, ’77 BPE, ’97 BEd, ’02 MEd. As a teacher and archivist at a small K-9 school in Niton Junction, Alta., Epoch makes a big difference in the world. Her list of projects, volunteer activities and awards is lengthy. One of her proudest accomplishments is helping make Niton Central School the first Canadian elementary school to be accepted as a member of the Associated Schools Project Network by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The school proudly flies the United Nations flag. Her local volunteer work with students, staff and community members includes Habitat for Humanity, the Terry Fox Run, Aboriginal Achievement Awards, Wigs for Kids, the local food bank and many more programs. Epoch also volunteers with victim services and helped fundraise for the school’s naturalization park. She started a fundraiser to help rebuild a school in India after the 2004 tsunami, and her students sent letters of support to victims after the 9/11 attacks and the shooting of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, Alta.


Pat Kiernan, ’90 BCom, spends his mornings with more than one million New Yorkers as the morning anchor for NY1, a cable news channel. He’s also the host of the Bloomberg Television program Bloomberg North, seen across Canada each Thursday evening. Kiernan curates his favourite headlines for his website, PatsPapers.com. His work in the media began at the U of A, where he was active with the student newspaper The Gateway and with CJSR radio. After graduation, Kiernan worked for Edmonton’s CTV and Global stations. It wasn’t long before he moved to New York City, where he has since added to his NY1 duties with programs for CNN, VH1, CNBC, GSN and Canada’s Business News Network. This native Albertan has become so identified with New York news that he has appeared as himself in movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Night at the Museum, and this past summer’s Ghostbusters remake. Kiernan is well-known as a New Yorker who stays connected to his roots in Canada. He’s frequently called upon to speak at community and charity events, and he’s an active member of the New York branch of the U of A Alumni Association.


Bud Steen, ’76 BA, ’79 BA(SpecCert), ’82 LLB, has always played by the rules. As a lawyer and a Canadian Football League referee, he worked with precision and a sense of fairness. He spent more than 30 years in the CFL and refereed seven Grey Cup games, including his final game: the 2010 Grey Cup in his hometown of Edmonton. He was also the founding president of the Canadian Professional Football Officials Association. His work in the field of law included serving on the Canadian Bar Association and the Queen’s Bench Rules of Court review committees. He has also lectured for the Legal Education Society. In 1997, Steen became chair of the CKUA Radio Corporation’s board of directors and helped CKUA return to the airwaves through a fundraising effort to ensure the station’s financial stability. Steen is now retired from law and active officiating but continues to volunteer in his community and work for the CFL.


Alumni Horizon Award

Leanne Brown, ’07 BA, has helped improve the lives of thousands of low-income families by empowering them through low-cost, nutritious home cooking. As the capstone for her master’s in food studies at New York University, Brown wrote Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, a cookbook for people with tight budgets, particularly those on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in the U.S. Next came a successful Kickstarter campaign to self-publish the book with a buy-one/give-one model, then a second edition of Good and Cheap through Workman Publishing. The free PDF version has been downloaded more than 900,000 times and more than 40,000 books have been donated to non-profits and food banks through the buy-one/give-one model. She was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and one of the most innovative women in food and drink by Food and Wine and Fortune magazines. Brown and her husband live in Brooklyn, N.Y.


Koren Lightning-Earle, ’00 BA(Rec/Leisure), ’04 BA, ’07 LLB, is a leader in the local and national Aboriginal community and a role model for her peers and the younger generation. Lightning-Earle, Blue Thunderbird Woman, is Cree from Samson Cree Nation. Her commitment to enhancing the future of First Nations shows in her many roles in her community. She is president of the Indigenous Bar Association, vice-president of Kasohkowew Child Wellness Society, co-chair of the First Nations Women’s Economic Security Council and a member of the Federal Court Aboriginal Bar Liaison Committee. She was an elected council member for Samson Cree Nation from 2011-2014 and is co-founder of Hub, a community mobilization program to help reduce crime. She is also a sessional instructor at Maskwacis Cultural College, a post-secondary school within the Four Nations of Maskwacis, Alta. Lightning-Earle is married, has two young daughters, and is the sole practitioner at Thunderbird Law in her home community.


Duane Linklater, ’03 BA(NativeStu), ’05 BFA, is Omaskêko Cree from Moose Cree First Nation in northern Ontario. He attended the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College in upstate New York, completing his master of fine arts in film and video. He has exhibited and screened his work in Vancouver, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Auckland and Edinburgh, Scotland. Modest Livelihood, his collaborative film project with Brian Jungen, was presented at the Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre as part of dOCUMENTA (13), with subsequent exhibitions at the Logan Center Gallery at the University of Chicago and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Linklater has exhibited at the Art Gallery of Alberta and will be a part of the SeMa Biennale in Seoul, South Korea in fall 2016. Linklater was also the recipient of the 2013 Sobey Art Award, an annual prize given to an artist under 40. He is based in North Bay, Ont.


Jason Lee Norman, ’06 BA, is an integral part of Edmonton’s flourishing literary culture. He is a writer, editor and publisher who works to raise the profile of the city’s writing community. Norman is the creator of the bestselling 40 Below writing anthologies, collections of winter-themed works from more than 50 Alberta writers. He further supports local writers through Wufniks Press and Monto Books. He has published two short-fiction collections and was the 2014 Edmonton Public Library writer-in-residence, providing advice and encouragement to aspiring and established writers. Norman has taken to social media to promote a community network of local writers, and he is the creator of Words with Friends, the #yegwords creative-writing collective, and the #yegwords Coffee Sleeves program that prints fiction and poetry on cardboard coffee-cup sleeves.


Alumni Centenary Award for Voluntary Service to the University

John Bocock

John Bocock, ’57 BSc(Ag), is a dairy farmer, environmentalist and engaged community member. With strong convictions and a generous spirit, he has spent much of his life as an advocate for what he believed in.

Bocock has been involved with Initiatives of Change for more than 50 years. The organization is committed to promoting racial harmony and reconciliation around the world.

He spent 15 years as assistant leader of the Sturgeon Valley 4-H Dairy Club and was district chair of the Farmers’ Union of Alberta, later Unifarm. In 1970 and ’71, the Bocock dairy herd won the Department of Agriculture Greater Average Butterfat provincial award. When an oil company announced plans to set up a sour gas plant near his home, Bocock was chief spokesperson and helped bring people together to get the company to install scrubbers that would reduce sulphur emissions.

In 2010, the Bocock family established the ALES International Bar None Experience Award that goes to two U of A students in agriculture each year. Bocock also was the facilitator of a new combined Bar None Award from the agriculture classes of 1956, ’57 and ’58.

In 2012, Bocock hosted his 55th class reunion at his farm in Sturgeon County, Alta. Bocock says he is most proud of his wife Jenny and their daughter Rachel.


Alumni Innovation Award

Poppy Barley

Poppy Barley

When Justine Barber, ’06 BCom, had boots made to fit during a trip to Bali, she was told that most people don’t make footwear like that anymore. Barber believed if North American customers were given the option to input their measurements online, made-to-measure footwear, created by craftspeople with fair salaries and healthy working conditions, could be delivered to their door.

In pursuit of this dream, she and her sister Kendall travelled to León, Mexico, considered the shoe capital of the world, to partner with translator and shoe broker Laura Obregon-Cordova and factory owner Lupita Lyons. Poppy Barley was born.

In 2012, Poppy Barley became the first company in North America to sell custom fashion boots online. Barber regularly meets with suppliers and tours the factories to ensure transparency, cleanliness and safety.

The Poppy Barley company believes in a collaborative approach. Local employees include U of A grads Monica Gault, ’05 BA, Caroline Gault, ’10 BA, and Jane Sevick, ’14 BCom. The company opened a shop, office and showroom on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue in February 2015, coinciding with a large product-line expansion. A flurry of media attention followed, from Flare and Glamour to Refinery29 and the Globe and Mail. The company currently ships hundreds of pairs of custom leather footwear across North America every month, as well as boots for two National Football League cheerleading teams every season.


Reclaim Urban Farm

Ryan Mason, ’09 BA, ’15 MSc, and Cathryn Sprague, ’09 BCom, ’14 MSc, met during graduate studies at the U of A’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences as they worked on master’s degrees in environmental sociology.

With a shared passion for gardening and food security, Mason and Sprague decided to reclaim vacant urban land and use the space for growing food in an effort to improve the local food system. They studied intensive agriculture, invested in equipment and began reclaiming land in May 2014. Reclaim Urban Farm was born.

Mason and Sprague work 15 plots of land borrowed from community partners throughout the Edmonton region. They focus on growing nutritious food with the lowest environmental impact and on educating local communities. They plant every week year-round, including micro-greens indoors during the winter. They harvest on average 45 kilograms per week, easily doubling or tripling that during the summer months. Reclaim shares its produce with its partners and supplies the City Market Downtown, retail locations and several Edmonton restaurants.


Sports Wall of Fame

Murray Cunningham, ’97 BSc(CivEng), grew up on a farm near the eastern Alberta village of Mannville. His legacy with U of A athletics is that of an award-winning, six-foot-six, 245-pound basketball centre and football player. He was with the Golden Bears for their first national basketball championship in 1994. That same year, Golden Bears football coach Tom Wilkinson invited Cunningham to spring training camp and convinced the Edmonton Eskimos to give him a spot on their training camp roster. Cunningham played football with the Bears and was drafted by the Eskimos in 1996. He won some impressive awards, including U of A male athlete of the year. Since graduating, he has built a strong career with Scott Builders and is now chief operating officer of the company. Cunningham lives in Lacombe with his wife, Nadine, and three children. His community involvement has included United Way of Central Alberta, past president of the Golden Bears basketball alumni, a founder of the Lacombe Community Basketball Association and chair of the Lacombe Athletic Park Association.


Toni Kordic Gass, ’86 BCom, has devoted more than 30 years to the sport of basketball. Her list of accomplishments is filled with impressive numbers and statistics. Three-time CIS All-Canadian. Four-time Canada West First Team All-Star. Represented Canada at four international competitions. Recipient of the Bakewell Trophy for outstanding female athlete at the U of A. Member of the national women’s basketball team. Played in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

After completing her business degree, she moved behind the bench and across the country to coach at Bishop’s University in Quebec. She also coached high school ball for more than 20 years. Her love of athletics extends to hockey. She has been a volunteer team manager for a number of hockey teams and helped secure funding to start an AA hockey program in her area. Kordic Gass and her husband, Lucas, have four children and operate a farm in Quebec.


When Carlo Panaro, ’99 BSc, ’03 MD, twice won TSN’s prestigious Russ Jackson Award for excellence in athletics, academics and community service, it truly summed up his achievements. This two-sport athlete was captain of the Golden Bears football team and played in the CFL, winning a Grey Cup with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2003. Panaro was also a member of the Golden Bears wrestling team and the Canadian national wrestling team, and was an Olympic alternate in 2000. Along the way, Carlo earned his doctor of medicine and became an orthopedic surgeon. He has trained in Europe, Great Britain and the United States and volunteered in Ecuador. Panaro lives in Edmonton with his wife, Lauren, and two daughters. He works at the Misericordia and Royal Alexandra hospitals and with the Edmonton Eskimos medical team.


What Jeffrey Zorn, ’08 BMedSc, ’09 MD, has accomplished is almost unheard of in Canadian university sport history. As a Golden Bears hockey player he had the rare distinction of being named a CIS All-Canadian four times and a CIS Academic All-Canadian five times. Zorn won the prestigious Dr. Randy Gregg TSN Award as an outstanding student athlete, excelling in sport, academics and community involvement. He was also a member of the Golden Bears 2005 national championship team. While a student, Zorn volunteered with Friends of University Hospitals, the tobacco-free kid program and the postgraduate medical education mentor program. He received the Dr. Martin T. Spoor Memorial Award from the U of A’s Department of Surgery in 2013 for his commitment to providing outstanding patient care as a surgical resident. Zorn is a urologist in Courtney, B.C., where he lives with his wife, Laura. His interest in surgical volunteer work abroad has recently taken him to Guatemala.


The Honourable Dr. Lois E. Hole Student Spirit Award

Andrea Johnson, ’16 BMedSc, is a strong supporter of inclusivity, mentorship and encouraging well-rounded, healthy living. As a leader on the medical school orientation committee, she ensured her fellow students felt welcomed upon entering school, and she later facilitated student mentorship and presentations supporting their transition through medical training. A skilled swing dancer, Johnson helped increase membership in the university swing-dance club as president and later co-founded the Medical Students’ Association Dance Club as a way for her fellow students to network, promote healthy balance and relieve stress. Johnson is engaged in several youth mentorship and preventive health programs, such as a weeklong summer camp teaching about science and healthy living, and a smoking cessation education program. Outside of class, Johnson is a talented pianist and artist and recently travelled to the Mediterranean with friends and family.


Michael A. Tessier is a leader, an ambitious competitor and a compassionate student with an affinity for business.

Tessier is co-founder and vice-president of public relations and marketing for the U of A’s Entrepreneurship Club, where he works to engage aspiring entrepreneurs. He is also co-founder of two businesses: Good Roots Landscaping and NoLemon Automotive, which he co-founded during the U of A’s 2014 test course for Entrepreneurship 101. This team won the 2014 Mark Robinson Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award.

Other competitions in which Tessier has excelled include the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (national finalist), TEC Edmonton VenturePrize Awards (provincial finalist), and the Enactus National Student Entrepreneurship Competition, where he was a national champion.

Tessier has also learned about the arts of leadership and teamwork through a long sports career. He has been on 20 sports teams and was captain of 15 of them, including the Clansmen Rugby Club U-21.

Tessier continually strives to be an influential business leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist as he pursues his vocational goals.