2022 Alumni Award Recipients

University of Alberta alumni around the globe use their education to make the world a better place through their professional achievements, community service and innovation. The Alumni Awards recognize these contributions and tell the stories of our exceptional alumni, inspiring us all to lead with purpose.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the Alumni Association's highest honour. The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes the outstanding lifetime accomplishments of alumni who have earned national or international regard or have had significant local impact as a result of their outstanding professional achievements and/or service to society.

Lorne Grant Cardinal
Photo by Shimon Photo

Lorne Grant Cardinal, ’93 BFA

Cree actor Lorne Cardinal is well known for his portrayal of Davis Quinton, the loveable Corner Gas police officer, but he's also the first Indigenous graduate from the U of A’s fine arts program, a fighter of cultural stereotypes and a shining example of the power of perseverance to achieve a dream. Hailing from a long line of headmen and healers on Alberta’s Sucker Creek First Nation, Cardinal was in his early 20s when he took a theatre class on a whim. There, he discovered a passion for telling stories and a desire to "learn Shakespeare." Enrolling at the U of A meant turning down film and television offers but Cardinal calls it the best decision he has made. Over four decades, he has created characters for more than 100 stage and screen productions while firmly declining projects that perpetuate stereotypes of Indigenous peoples. His Shakespearean dreams came true with an all-Indigenous production of King Lear at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, and the Edmonton staging of The Tempest performed by a mix of deaf and hearing actors. Cardinal was awarded the 2020 August Schellenberg Award of Excellence, recognizing significant achievements of an Indigenous actor, and was recently selected as the namesake for a space in Edmonton's newly reopened Roxy Theatre. Known for caring deeply about his projects, Cardinal has a unique ability to lift those around him to crack a scene, find the humour and reveal the human heart.

Robert Thomas Foster
Photo by Michael Jorgensen, p.g.a.

Robert Thomas Foster, ’79 BSc, ’82 BSc(Pharm), ’85 PharmD, ’88 PhD

Scientist, businessman and inventor Robert Foster created hope of relief and recovery for millions of people suffering from a complex autoimmune condition. The medication — voclosporin, commercially known as Lupkynis — is based on a drug molecule he discovered and received FDA approval in 2021 as the first oral treatment for lupus-related kidney diseases. It's among only a few made-in-Canada drugs to receive FDA approval, but equally remarkable is the story of its origin, starting with Foster's U of A research and courageous 1993 decision to leave his tenured position to become an entrepreneur. His first business, Isotechnika Pharma, grew from his basement to become a highly successful pharmaceutical company focused on developing better anti-rejection drugs for transplant patients. In 2013, Isotechnika merged with Aurinia to form a multi-billion-dollar company that completed the development of voclosporin to treat lupus, a complex condition in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs. An inventor with about 170 patents to his name, Foster also created Helikit, a point-of-care test that detects an infection that causes ulcers. Foster is now at the helm of Hepion Pharmaceuticals, which is making headway in developing therapies for chronic liver disease, hepatitis, cancer and other liver conditions. Throughout his career, Foster has maintained strong ties with the U of A where he remains an adjunct professor to pharmacy students, mentoring and inspiring the next generation of scientists.

R. Brian Haynes

R. Brian Haynes, ’69 BSc, ’71 MD

R. Brian Haynes is a doctor and health-care researcher whose work has helped physicians around the world care for their patients. A pioneer of health information science and a founding advocate of evidence-based medicine, Haynes created tools over a five-decade career that use digital technology to put vital information from medical literature at a doctor’s fingertips. Haynes’ interest in medical informatics — an interdisciplinary science that uses the power of information technology to improve health care — was rooted in his medical school days when he began questioning the proof behind the theories he was being taught. The lack of answers led him to focus on health research, which in turn took him to McMaster University. There he began teaching medical students and post-graduate doctors how to critically read the literature and eventually founded the university’s Health Information Research Unit. With the advent of the internet, Haynes developed several services to facilitate access to high-quality research. These include the McMaster Health Knowledge Refinery, where recent health studies are reviewed and tagged to make them searchable, and Clinical Queries, a series of search filters used by doctors to find relevant articles in medical literature databases. His work also changed how abstracts of medical journal articles are written, allowing doctors to quickly assess a study’s relevance. Haynes has received numerous honours, including the Order of Canada, for his efforts to improve clinical decision-making.

Alumni Honour Award

Recognizes the significant achievements and contributions over a number of years by University of Alberta alumni to their profession and/or their community.

Jerome Cranston
Photo by Rae Graham, University of Regina

Jerome Cranston, ’90 BSc, ’92 BEd

To Jerome Cranston, an educator and advocate for racial justice and equity, classrooms are the starting point for change. After 16 years working in K-12 schools on the Prairies, Cranston now works to transform the education system as a university leader. At the University of Manitoba, he designed an admissions policy that strategically boosts the diversity of education students and, in turn, of future teachers. At the University of Regina, where he is dean of education, Cranston launched community-based degree programs that address both the need for more Indigenous teachers and the lack of access to education programs in remote Saskatchewan communities. With imagination and innovation, Cranston is challenging the systems, values and behaviours that perpetuate discriminatory behaviour in education.

Soraya Hafez

Soraya Hafez, ’75 BEd, ’75 Dip(Ed)

Soraya Hafez used her skills as an educator to champion her Muslim heritage while encouraging cultural tolerance and understanding. As a teacher in Edmonton, she led the first Arabic-English bilingual program inside a Canadian public school and shared her vibrant spirit with students learning Arabic at the U of A. As a community leader, she worked to enlighten Albertans about the past and future of Muslims in the province. Hafez helped run the campaign to have Canada's first mosque preserved at Fort Edmonton Park and lobbied the Edmonton Police Service to allow female Muslim officers to wear the hijab. In 2018, an Edmonton elementary school was named after her, a fitting tribute among many honours she has received.

Godfrey Walton
Photo by Tom Hawkins

Godfrey Walton, ’74 BSc(Hons)

Godfrey Walton is a mining executive focused on efforts to be responsible and sustainable in the extraction of silver and gold. Under his guidance, Endeavour Silver launched social, economic and environmental initiatives to improve the mining industry and the remote Mexican communities where the company works. These include reforestation and water recycling projects to minimize environmental harm, plus skills training and job placement programs in communities where mines are closing. Walton has also steered education initiatives for Mexico and Canada. A Mexico scholarship program has created post-secondary opportunities for more than 150 students who live near the mining operations. U of A students, meanwhile, benefit from the field-based learning experiences he encouraged that will prepare the next generation of geologists for success in an increasingly challenging field.

Alumni Horizon Award

Recognizes the outstanding professional achievements and/or contributions to community of recent graduates. Nominees must be 40 years of age or younger at nomination deadline.

Omayra Issa
Photo by Tenille Campbell

Omayra Issa, ’14 BA

A teenager when she came to Saskatchewan from Niger, in West Africa, Omayra Issa quickly learned what it is like to be Black on the Canadian Prairies. Now as Saskatchewan's national reporter for CBC/Radio-Canada, Issa is telling complex stories about diversity — and changing society in the process. The Campus Saint-Jean graduate helped lead Black on the Prairies, a CBC storytelling project and teaching guide that delves into the past, present and future of Black people in the Prairie provinces. With her refreshing outlook and passion, Issa’s voice is helping guide national conversations around inclusion and diversity in newsrooms, and efforts to combat hate and harassment against journalists online. With stories and action, Issa is pushing forward improvements that speak to the foundations of journalism in Canada.

Tiffany Prete
Photo by MoonSong Photography

Apooyak'ii/Tiffany D. Prete, ’09 BEd, ’11 MEd, ’18 PhD

Tiffany Prete is a Blackfoot scholar whose research explores the impact of colonization, a gifted speaker who tackles difficult subjects with eloquence and humanity, and a difference-maker who is committed to improving Indigenous education. Her doctoral dissertation made a powerful case for incorporating a focus on residential schools into Alberta’s curriculum and has guided high-level decisions on education policy. Two major research grants have allowed Prete's work to follow her heart in an investigation of the history of residential schools among the Kainai (Blood tribe) of which she is a member. Whether speaking to a class of future teachers, members of the media or viewers of her YouTube channel, Prete has taken on the role of community educator in the journey toward truth and reconciliation.

Gentry Wood
Photo by Akemi Matsubuchi Photography

Gentry Wood, ’12 BSc(MatEng), ’17 PhD

As an engineering student, Gentry Wood’s excitement was sparked by futuristic welding with high-powered lasers. More than a decade later, Wood's passion has made him an admired innovator, mentor and leader in Alberta's manufacturing sector. Wood's groundbreaking PhD work in laser cladding has allowed Apollo Machine and Welding — which supported his grad studies and where Wood is now a senior research and development engineer — to diversify its work from oil and gas to railway, mining, marine and agricultural applications. His support for the welding community includes helping grow the U of A student chapter of the Canadian Welding Bureau Association, becoming the youngest chair of the association’s National Advisory Council, and mentoring young engineers and welding professionals.

Sports Wall of Fame

Recognizes the contributions of alumni as athletes and builders of University of Alberta sport.

Pandas Gymnastics

Pandas Gymnastics ’87 to ’91

For four seasons, Pandas gymnasts were the queens of the vaults, mats, beams and bars, sweeping awards at inter-university competitions when the sport’s future was looking bleak. In 1987, head coach and former Pandas gymnast Stephanie Bishop took over the already-storied squad amid rumblings of gymnastics being dropped from university competition. Through 1991, the team was simply invincible. Star gymnasts Diane Patterson, Michele Hannemann and Kim Shore regularly turned in high-scoring routines to earn all-around titles. Bishop was named a national coach of the year four times. But the glory of the Pandas gymnastics dynasty was its team golds — four national and four Canada West championships — earned through solid performances of every team member in every event.

Jackie Rowan (Simon)
Photo by Bretten Wiebe

Jackie Rowan (Simon), ’00 BCom, ’05 BEd

One of the most celebrated players in the history of Canadian women’s basketball, Jackie Rowan (Simon) was a dominant force for the Pandas since joining the team as a starter in 1995. Described as a “team player, first and foremost,” Rowan is the Pandas all-time leading scorer. Her many accolades include Canada West Rookie of the Year; MVP of the 1999 national championship, when the team won its sole national title; representing Canada at the 1999 World University Games; and being named among the top 100 Canadian university women basketball players of the century. Since graduation, Rowan has brought her passion for the sport to a new generation — including her daughters — as a community league and high school coach.

Esther Sieben (Medema)
Photo by Derek Cooper

Esther Sieben (Medema), ’96 BEd

From hurdles, sprints and jumping events to triathlon and heptathlon, Esther Sieben (Medema) was a key part of the Pandas track team from 1992 to 1996. The U of A’s female athlete of the year in 1996, Sieben won 13 Canada West medals, four CIAU medals, was a three-time Pandas Track team MVP and found success as both a national and international competitor. Her high school long jump of 5.8 metres still stands as an Alberta record. She competed at the Pan American Games in 1995, has completed climbs of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Elbrus and Everest base camp, and brought her passion for athletics and physical education to students at Cochrane High School, where she has been a teacher and coach for 18 years.

Anna Wray (Schnell)
Photo by Hannah Larson

Anna Wray (Schnell), ’02 BCom

Anna Wray (Schnell) was an extraordinary kicker and goal scorer whose positive attitude and work ethic helped give the Pandas Rugby program a strong start during its early years. Joining when the team was formed in 1999, Wray’s leadership helped steady the squad through its growing pains and lead it to three national titles. Honours she earned as a Panda include team MVP, Canada West All-Star, CIAU All-Canadian and Academic All-Canadian. Post-graduation, Wray continued with the sport including six years on the Canadian national women’s rugby team, during which she attended two World Cups, before turning to coaching and being named Rugby Canada’s women’s coach of the year in 2016. Wray is now an associate vice-president for a commercial real estate firm.