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U of A names honorary degree recipients for 2022 spring convocation

A Canadian cultural icon, a respected advocate for Métis education and scholarship, and two Supreme Court judges are among a diverse group of 14 outstanding achievers who will receive honorary degrees from the University of Alberta this June — the first time in two years that the university’s annual convocation ceremonies will be held in person.

“The diversity of backgrounds, experiences and contributions of these 14 individuals is a reminder that it takes many different people doing exceptional things in their own unique ways to create the kind of culture and community we aspire to be,” says U of A chancellor Peggy Garritty.

“After two years of virtual convocation ceremonies, we are excited to honour these recipients on campus and for our graduating students to hear their stories in person.”

Spring 2022 Honorary Degree Recipients

Justice Russell Brown is a member of the Supreme Court of Canada and a leading jurist and scholar in the legal field, having written on negligence law for economic loss. He is also the author or co-author of more than 40 published law review articles, book chapters and essays on tort law, property law and civil justice. His distinguished career includes serving as a Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta and the Court of Appeal of Alberta, a Judge of the Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories and a Judge of the Court of Appeal of Nunavut. Prior to his judicial appointments, Brown, a U of A graduate, served as an associate dean and professor in the Faculty of Law. Justice Russell Brown received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 16 at 10 a.m.  Click here to read his Convocation Address.

Brian Cox is a professor at the University of Manchester who has worked on particle physics experiments at CERN and other prestigious research centres around the world. An internationally renowned science communicator, he has shared his passion for the universe through several acclaimed BBC documentaries, radio shows, newspaper articles and public lectures. He has also written or co-written books on the topic that have sold more than a million copies worldwide. His work also earned him the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture and the Institute of Physics William Thomson, Lord Kelvin Medal and Prize. Brian Cox received an honorary doctor of science degree in a special conferral June 3.

Justice Eileen Gillese of the Appeal Court of Ontario has made significant and compassionate contributions that have improved the quality of life for thousands of Canadians, including important rulings on the legalization of same-sex marriage within Canada, and trusts and pension law. From 2017 to 2019, she served as the commissioner for the Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes System.An accomplished academic, she is a graduate of the U of A and of Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. Justice Eileen Gillese received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 10 at 10 a.m.  Click here to read her Convocation Address.

Lorne Gladu, founding chief executive officer of the Rupertsland Institute Métis Centre of Excellence, has empowered Métis citizens in Alberta through education, training, and research supports, creating a ripple effect that will have a positive impact on the lives of Métis people for generations to come. Gladu’s perseverance and advocacy resulted in the establishment of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research at the U of A, and the Rupertsland Centre for Teaching and Learning, designed to bring Métis foundational knowledge, resources and professional development opportunities to Alberta teachers. His work in labour market development over the past 25 years led to post-secondary partnerships that helped establish 21 endowments and awards for Métis scholars to pursue higher levels of education across Alberta. Lorne Gladu received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 14 at 3 p.m.  Click here to read his Convocation Address.

Ingrid Kritsch is an anthropologist whose work in support of the Gwich’in people has contributed significantly to the documentation, revitalization and resilience of Gwich’in heritage in the Northwest Territories and Yukon over the last three decades. An honorary member of the Gwich’in Nation, Kritsch worked alongside Elders and traditional land users on more than 120 research projects, building a rich archive of Gwich’in oral history and traditional knowledge for generations to come. A former U of A graduate student, she was given the Wise Woman Award from the Status of Women Council of the NWT and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Ingrid Kritsch received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 15 at 10 a.m.  Click here to read her Convocation Address.

Justice Sheilah Martin is a member of the Supreme Court of Canada whose career as an educator, lawyer and judge has been driven by a commitment to equal justice for all. Her work has addressed significant societal issues, including Supreme Court of Canada decisions on women and sexual assault law. As counsel for the Assembly of First Nations, she also contributed to the approach that led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. She served as a judge on the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and on the courts of appeal of Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and as deputy judge for the Supreme Court of Yukon. A U of A graduate and former dean of law at the University of Calgary, Martin has also demonstrated her lifelong commitment to education through her work with a variety of organizations on equality issues and judicial education programming. Justice Sheilah Martin received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 16 at 3 p.m.

Rick Mercer is a comedian, television personality, political satirist and author who has made indelible contributions to Canadian culture. A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, he is best known for his work on the CBC Television comedy shows This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Made in Canada and Rick Mercer Report. He is the author of four books, all national bestsellers. Mercer has received nearly 30 Gemini Awards and Canadian Screen Awards for his work on television. His CBC Television special Talking to Americans remains the highest-rated Canadian comedy special ever, with 2.7 million viewers. He serves on the board of directors of Historica Canada, an organization dedicated to promoting Canadian history, identity and citizenship, most famously through the series of “Heritage Minute” vignettes. He is a recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement and an officer of the Order of Canada. Rick Mercer received an honorary doctor of letters degree June 15 at 3 p.m.  Click here to read his Convocation Address.

Garry Merkel is a member of the Tahltan Nation and a professional forester whose work has advanced land stewardship, community empowerment and culturally relevant Indigenous education, governance and economic independence. Over 40 years, he has been involved in many Indigenous initiatives creating businesses, schools, land management arrangements and working relationships with government. A U of A graduate, he has also chaired the Aboriginal Forestry Education and Training Review, leading to a collaborative national post-secondary approach to improving Indigenous resource management education in Canada. Garry Merkel received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 9 at 10 a.m.  Watch his Convocation Address here.

Sheila O’Kelly is an advocate for the sport of triathlon, whose work over the past 20 years has firmly established Edmonton as a leading host in the event. Her skills and dedication as an organizer have resulted in several prestigious events in the city, including three International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Championships, seven World Cups, multiple national and continental championships, and development camps including a prestigious 2004 Olympic Solidarity camp. The World Triathlon organization led by O’Kelly also created significant legacies from investment in hosting high-level international events, including the establishment of the Edmonton Triathlon Academy. O’Kelly is a member of the World Triathlon Hall of Fame. Sheila O’Kelly received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 7 at 3 p.m. Click here to read her Convocation Address.

Michael Phair is a community leader and former public servant committed to building a just society that is diverse and welcoming for all. He has served as an elected member of Edmonton City Council, as chair of the U of A Board of Governors and as a volunteer advocating for LGBTQ2S+ rights. His visionary support in numerous leadership and volunteer roles has helped address local homelessness and poverty, conservation efforts and neighbourhood revitalization. As an educator, Phair taught students ranging from kindergarten to post-secondary, including at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the U of A. The Michael Phair Junior High School in Edmonton bears his name, and he is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Michael Phair received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 8 at 3 p.m. Click here to read his Convocation Address.

Molly Shoichet is a leading Canadian researcher who has developed breakthrough approaches to treating cancer, stroke, blindness and spinal cord injuries. Her pioneering work has resulted in more than 650 research papers and patents, and she has co-founded four spinoff companies. Actively engaged in translational research, she launched Research2Reality, a national social media campaign to engage the public in understanding the importance of scientific research. She is the only person to be inducted into all three of Canada’s national academies of science, and was awarded the NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada’s top prize in science and engineering. Molly Shoichet received an honorary doctor of science degree June 13 at 3 p.m.  Click here to read her Convocation Address.

Doug Stollery is a lawyer, volunteer and former U of A chancellor committed to education, the community and the development of people locally, nationally and internationally. His pro bono work on the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case Vriend v Alberta led to the amendment of Alberta’s human rights legislation to include sexual orientation as a protected class. He serves as president of the Stollery Charitable Foundation, helping to build a philanthropic support system for people in need, and has served as president of the Alberta branch of the Canadian Bar Association and as a director of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, CARE Canada and the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Other contributions to post-secondary education include serving as chancellor of St. Stephen’s College and on the board of Grant MacEwan College. A U of A Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, he has shared his legal expertise as a lecturer at the university. He is a member of the Order of Canada and recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Doug Stollery received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 8 at 10 a.m.  Click here to read his Convocation Address.

David H. Turpin, who served as the 13th president and vice-chancellor of the U of A from 2015 to 2020, has distinguished himself as a researcher, teacher and post-secondary leader. He earned a BSc in cell biology and in 1980, a PhD in botany/oceanography from the University of British Columbia. Turpin began his career as an academic in the 1980s and held academic and leadership positions at Queen’s University and UBC. He was president of the University of Victoria for 13 years before becoming president of the U of A, where he led the university to the most successful years of research funding and philanthropic support in its history. He has also served as chair of the World University Service of Canada and is on the board of CARE Canada. Among his numerous awards and distinctions, he is a member of the Order of Canada and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. David Turpin received an honorary doctor of science degree June 14 at 10 a.m.  Click here to read his Convocation Address.

Brian Wildcat’s life work is shaped by the belief that First Nations schools have a critical role to play in improving Indigenous education. A U of A graduate, Wildcat has been a school superintendent in Maskwacis for 25 years. His leadership and continuing commitment to quality Cree education was instrumental in the recent collaboration needed to build a single, unified school system from four small school authorities in Maskwacis. Hailed as a model for Indigenous education, Maskwacis Education Schools Commission, with Wildcat as superintendent, was launched in 2018 with the vision to foster competent, confident and resilient Maskwacis Cree-speaking students. Wildcat is a member of Ermineskin Cree Nation and he lives in Maskwacis. Brian Wildcat received an honorary doctor of laws degree June 5 at 2:30 p.m. during convocation at Augustana Campus in Camrose.  Click here to read his Convocation Address.

May 03, 2022 By Bev Betkowski

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