Society and Culture

Nine inspiring individuals to receive U of A honorary degrees this spring

A Nobel laureate, a world-renowned animal welfare advocate and an iconic children’s entertainer are among the luminaries who will inspire graduates during convocation ceremonies.

  • May 10, 2023
  • By Sandrine Camminga

A Nobel laureate, a world-renowned advocate for animal welfare and an iconic children’s entertainer are among nine outstanding individuals who will receive honorary degrees from the University of Alberta this June during the university’s spring convocation ceremonies.

"Honorary degrees are the university's highest honour, recognizing people who inspire our students, who reflect the best of what our university strives to achieve, and who have made remarkable contributions to our community and the world," says U of A chancellor Peggy Garritty.

"At this year's spring convocation, we're proud to honour and celebrate individuals with diverse backgrounds, talents and achievements who certainly meet that bar. Congratulations to this year's honorary degree recipients."

Shirley McLellan

Shirley McClellan has an extensive history of civic involvement, support for adult education in Alberta and service through diverse board and advisory roles. In 1987, she was elected for the Chinook constituency and would be re-elected five times in the following years. She held roles in several ministerial portfolios including agriculture, health and community development, as well as deputy premier from 2001 to 2006. After retiring from the government, she accepted an appointment as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the U of A and lectured for multiple faculties. She has received honorary degrees from Olds College and the University of Lethbridge, and was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. She currently serves on the board of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, and Catholic Health of Alberta.

Shirley McClellan will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 4 at 2:30 p.m.

Scott Graham

Scott Graham is a community convener who sees the power of collective philanthropy as a force for positive change. Maintaining his family’s legacy of community service, he has mentored emerging leaders in volunteer and fund-development communities and supported diverse community development organizations. His previous philanthropic work includes serving as the director of community grants at the Edmonton Community Foundation and as the founding executive director of The Stollery Charitable Foundation. He has also supported initiatives and organizations that promote diversity and multiculturalism, such as the Edmonton Human Rights City initiative, the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council, and Vibrant Communities Edmonton. In 2023, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for enhancing the lives of Edmontonians. An advocate for human rights, he seeks to inspire others to contribute their time and talent to voluntary service.

Scott Graham will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 6 at 10 a.m.

Stacy Schiff

Stacy Schiff is the author of six critically acclaimed books. Her first book, Saint-Exupery: A Life, was a 1995 Pulitzer Prize finalist; she received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), as well as the George Washington Book Prize and the Ambassador Award in American Studies for A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. Named one of The New York Times’ Top Ten Books of 2010, Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life was a #1 bestseller and has been translated into 35 languages. Her most recent book, The Revolutionary Samuel Adams, appeared on President Obama’s list of 10 Best Books of 2022. Among many other publications, Schiff has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Her work has been honoured with fellowships from organizations including the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. In 2006, she received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Schiff was inducted into the academy in 2019.

Stacy Schiff will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree June 7 at 10 a.m.

Brian Paisley

Brian Paisley is a playwright, screenwriter and author who has been instrumental in shaping Edmonton’s and Canada’s arts scene. His screen credits include Patrick, Pagans, and Party Animals: The Amazing Legacy of St. Patrick of Ireland, Trunk, and Wheeler’s Everest. He created and produced Edmonton’s first Fringe Theatre Festival in 1982, which inspired national and international Fringe events across North America. He also created and produced the 2006-2007 Victoria International Arts Symposium: Artists of Conscience. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Athabasca University in 1990, inducted into Edmonton’s Cultural Hall of Fame in 2001 and named a member of the Order of Canada in 2010 as ​​“a cultural visionary who has left an indelible mark on Canadian theatre.”

Brian Paisley will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree June 7 at 3 p.m.

Bert Crowfoot

Bert Crowfoot is a Siksika/Saulteaux photographer, award-winning coach, the founder and CEO of the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society (AMMSA) and the general manager of Windspeaker Media. He is the great-great-grandson of Chief Crowfoot, who signed Treaty 7. He is a renowned powwow photographer, preserving the spiritual practices of different nations in a way that is highly respectful and honours the protocols, sanctity and supernatural forces that are present in Indigenous spiritual rituals, nature and life. As Windspeaker Media’s general manager, he oversees four radio stations offering Indigenous content in five Indigenous languages: Blackfoot, Cree, Stoney Nakoda, three Dene dialects and Metchif. As a step towards reconciliation, the programming is also presented in English. He was awarded Alberta’s Lifetime Achievement award, inducted into the Aboriginal Walk of Honour in Edmonton in 2006, and recognized in Venture Magazine’s “Top 100 Albertans who built the province (1905-2005)” and by CBC for his work. In 2023, he received the Alberta Magazine Achievement in Publishing Award.

Bert Crowfoot will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree June 8 at 10 a.m.

Joanne Liu

Joanne Liu is a Canadian practising pediatric emergency physician and professor at McGill University’s School of Population and Global Health. In 1996, she began her medical career with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, where she joined more than 30 field assignments addressing humanitarian and health emergencies. From 2013-2019, as the organization’s international president, she was a leading voice drawing global attention to humanitarian crises including Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, attacks on hospitals and forced displacement. She has also introduced comprehensive care for survivors of sexual violence and developed a telemedicine platform to connect doctors in rural areas with specialists worldwide. In 2015, she was listed among Time’s 100 Most Influential People. She is the recipient of the 2021 PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership, the Meritorious Service Cross of Canada and the Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Joanne Liu will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 9 at 10 a.m.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Her achievements include implementing animal welfare auditing programs at corporations such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Costco and Whole Foods, and designing livestock handling facilities that are used globally. She has written several books on animal care, including Livestock Handling and Transport and The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways of Enhancing Animal Welfare. Grandin is autistic and an autism activist, and her writing credits include several books on autism. Her books, Animals in Translation and Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns, and Abstractions were on the New York Times Bestseller list. Grandin has used money earned from books and speaking engagements to pay for scholarships for more than 20 graduate students in animal science. In 2017, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and she was named a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor in 2022. She currently teaches classes at Colorado State University on livestock handling.

Temple Grandin will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 13 at 10 a.m.

Michael Houghton

One of the world’s foremost virologists, Sir Michael Houghton is the director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the U of A. He also serves as Li Ka Shing Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, a position he has held since coming to the U of A in 2010 as Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology. His current research includes therapeutics for cytomegalovirus, Alzheimer’s disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as vaccines against hepatitis C and Group A streptococcus. In 1989, Houghton, Qui-Lim Choo, George Kuo and Dan Bradley discovered the hepatitis C virus and created tests to prevent it from entering the global blood supply. His contributions toward this achievement were recognized in 2020 when he became a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also the first to characterize the hepatitis D viral genome, and he developed blood tests to diagnose affected patients. He remains deeply committed to researching diseases of global concern to improve health care.

Michael Houghton will receive an honorary doctor of science degree June 14 at 10 a.m.

Fred Penner

Fred Penner is an acclaimed performer whose voice, writing and music have resonated across media genres and among generations of Canadians for more than 40 years. Empowering philanthropy through his visibility, Penner has served as a spokesperson for World Vision, UNICEF, UNESCO, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society and countless other organizations working with children. He is a four-time Juno award recipient and starred in nearly 1,000 episodes of his hit CBC TV series, Fred Penner’s Place. In recognition of his achievements, he has been inducted into the Order of Manitoba, the Order of Canada and the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Fred Penner will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree June 15 at 10 a.m.