Alumni Awards 2015

Meet 28 outstanding alumni, from a bat scientist broadcaster to the ‘Winston Churchill of American psychiatry’

By Sarah Pratt on August 14, 2015

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Alumni Association’s most prestigious award, recognizing living graduates whose outstanding achievements have earned them national or international prominence

Positively Batty About Science

Through TV, print and teaching, he shares his love for the world around us

Dan Riskin

Photo by Vanessa Heins

It might be unoriginal to call Dan Riskin, ’97 BSc, Batman, but he really is. The co-host of Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet is one of the most enthusiastic bat scientists you will ever meet. Ask him about catching yellow-shouldered bats in Belize or vampire bats in Trinidad. He might even keep you enthralled with stories of dog-faced fruit bats flying in a wind tunnel.

Riskin is motivated by fun, he says, and his job with Daily Planet exposes him to the most interesting stories from around the world. After the success last year of his first book, Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You: A Lively Tour Through the Dark Side of the Natural World, he is busy planning a second publication. And if his schedule isn’t busy enough, he has taken on a position as an adjunct professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, where he’s working with friend and fellow bat expert John Ratcliffe. Together, they are researching how bats echolocate and fly at the same time — or, as Riskin puts it, how bats “chew gum and walk.”

When Riskin reflects on his time at the University of Alberta, he remembers that, despite its size, the U of A felt like a community. He also recalls his excitement at meeting John Acorn, ’80 BSc(Spec), ’88 MSc, then TV’s Acorn the Nature Nut, now a U of A instructor. Acorn invited Riskin on a trip to film Mexican free-tailed bats in Texas. It was Riskin’s first real foray into science TV and an opportunity to hang out with the crew and learn about how the process worked with the host, cameraman and sound person.

“This past winter, when I came to Green & Glow Winterfest, I saw John again and that was amazing,” says Riskin.

“He even showed me pictures from that Texas trip. He’s such a legend.”

Riskin has more than a few fans, too. His genuine excitement about science is contagious. He tries to live by some wise advice he heard while studying at Cornell University, during a seminar for grad students on how to become a successful professor. One of the speakers, professor Rick Harrison, said something that Riskin has never forgotten.

“He seemed to be winning at the work-life balance,” says Riskin. “His advice? ‘There’s an inverse relationship between the apparent urgency of things and their actual importance.’ That has stuck with me in a big way. I interpreted that sentence to mean one needs to think long term. I honestly think it’s one of the wisest sentences I’ve ever heard.”

When Riskin isn’t delving into science, he happily puts on his dad hat. He and his wife, Shelby, have three young children.

“My oldest has fallen in love with bike-riding, which is something I’ve always loved,” says Riskin. “And the twins are revealing more and more of their charming personalities to us each day. Shelby and I are really enjoying parenthood.”

Although he lives in Toronto, he never forgets his Alberta roots. “This award is a huge honour. It’s really special to be getting this at home.”


Building the Community

Learning a hard lesson early on and continuing to learn in life were key to success for this real estate developer

Tim Melton

Photo by John Ulan

Tim Melton, ’69 BCom, is a man who learns from his mistakes.

As a freshman at the U of A, he skipped classes and didn’t study. “I fell dreadfully behind and dropped out in my first year,” he says. “Luckily, I was reaccepted, and the second time around I made sure I didn’t fall behind.”

Now a real estate developer and executive chairman of Melcor Developments Ltd. with a career spanning more than four decades and counting, Melton continues to learn from the people and experiences in his life. He thinks of himself as a student of human behaviour, both in his work and his personal life, always looking to better understand people. One of his guiding principles, passed down through his family, is “the Golden Rule” — treat others as you would like to be treated.

“Basically, all people inspire me,” he says. “Everyone has their own issues and they try to do their best given their qualities and circumstances. I try to put myself in their shoes.”

He particularly admires people like Helen Keller, who overcame the tremendous adversity of being blind and deaf to become a well-known humanitarian and journalist. “Also, I admire leaders, in all fields, who graciously handle stress, pressure and criticism while making personal sacrifices.”

Melton has been involved in all aspects of the real estate business. He is proud of having built communities and provided shelter for people and businesses for 45 years. You could say real estate is in his blood. Melcor began in 1923 as Melton Real Estate Ltd., a family real estate brokerage business in which both his grandfather and father have played roles.

Melton believes it’s important to be involved in his community. Helping others gives him personal satisfaction and a sense of purpose, he says. The company also values community service, encouraging its employees to contribute to their communities.

Melton has served on public and private boards, and worked with business and community organizations including Junior Achievement Northern Alberta and N.W.T., the Edmonton Police Foundation, the Edmonton YMCA, the Edmonton Eskimos Football Club and Newman Theological College, among others. His community work has earned him the Northern Lights Award of Distinction from the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, induction into the City of Edmonton’s Community Service Hall of Fame and the YMCA Fellowship of Honour.

Despite his professional achievements and extensive community involvement, Melton says he is humbled to be recognized with a Distinguished Alumni Award. “Considering my [initially] rather mediocre academic record at the U of A, I was pleasantly surprised to receive recognition from this great institution.”


A Life of Leadership

Early involvement in campus life laid the foundation for a future built on hard work and contributing to community

Francis M. Saville

Photo by John Ulan

Francis M. Saville, ’62 BA, ’65 LLB, believes the keys to success in life are energy, hard work and a desire to succeed — not only in the material sense but also by contributing to the world in which you live.

“As Canadians, we occupy a unique position in the world. As individuals we all need to do our part, be it at the community, local, provincial, federal or international level.”

His dedication to community service was evident even before he started a long career in law. During his time at the University of Alberta, he served as president of the Students’ Union, the United Nations Club and the Phi Kappa Pi fraternity. As student union president, he was one of the determined group that championed the construction of the Students’ Union Building on North Campus — a project called unique in an October 1967 Time magazine article because it was initiated, planned, built and operated by students.

One of Saville’s early mentors and role models was Cliff Prowse, a lawyer and later a justice of the Alberta Court of Appeal, with whom Saville worked as a junior in the Calgary law firm of Fenerty Robertson Fraser & Hatch. He was inspired by Prowse’s dedication and perseverance and says he never met another lawyer who worked so hard. “After the Second World War, where he was shot down, lost his leg and ended up a PoW, Cliff returned to the U of A to get his law degree — an impossible act to follow,” says Saville.

Saville spent his early career as a litigator. He eventually turned to energy and environmental law, thriving on the challenge of helping develop new projects in oilsands, pipelines and other industrial development. In the 1990s, he branched out into the business world, serving as a director of Nexen Inc. from 1995 to 2013, and as a director for Mullen Group from 1993 to 2005.

He was also a founding member, director and chair of the Canadian Institute of Resources Law at the University of Calgary.

His volunteer work has included serving as Canada Olympic Park volunteer chairman for the 1988 XV Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, as trustee and chair with the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific (now Pearson College UWC), and in roles with the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) board. He still serves as an adviser with the Global Leadership Foundation, an international non-profit group that allows former leaders to confidentially share experiences with today’s national leaders.

Since retiring from law five years ago and from corporate director roles in 2013, Saville and his wife, Linda (whom he met in the Rutherford Library in 1961), have been enjoying their children and grandchildren, as well as their motorhome.

“We love the outdoors but at this stage of our lives we prefer ‘roughing it smoothly,’” he jokes.

Looking back over his university years, Saville says, “It was a life-forming experience that became the foundation for the future.”


50 Years a Champion

He has devoted his career to protecting and serving the mentally ill and disadvantaged

Harold Eist

Photo by Len DePas

Colleagues have called Harold Eist, ’61 MD, the Winston Churchill of American psychiatry. As a forceful, eloquent advocate for the mentally ill during 50 years of practice, he has been a leader and an agent of change in the medical community.

Eist was director of a mental health clinic in one of Washington, D.C.’s, most deprived communities, where for 25 years he treated “ill and dangerous patients,” both children and adults. His work earned him the honour of Washingtonian of the Year in 1979. The clinic became a major private resource for people living with mental illness in the D.C. area, receiving the American Psychiatric Association’s Gold Award.

He now works in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychoanalysis in Bethesda, Md., and continues to be driven by a desire to help the disadvantaged. He says he’s motivated by the unfairness of life.

“We have to try to make it more fair,” he says. “My patients inspire me to work hard, to learn and constantly challenge myself to find more creative ways to help.”

His drive to help the less fortunate was sparked when he was a young university student and travelled to the Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis with the non-profit group World University Service of Canada. At the time Nevis, a small island, had no doctor, he recalls, and people would have to cross the water to Saint Kitts for medical attention. He planned to return to help the people there, but then he moved to D.C. and “realized there were severely disadvantaged people in [America’s] capital,” says Eist. “There were people that needed help right there, so I ended up staying.”

Former colleagues credit Eist for his role in protecting the confidentiality of patient records in American psychiatric medicine, risking his medical licence for his conviction. He was recognized with a courage award from the American Psychiatric Association, as well as other honours, for his actions.

Over the course of his career, Eist has served as president of the American Psychiatric Association and as the North American representative on the board of the World Psychiatric Association. He wrote hundreds of journal articles, newspaper columns and book chapters, was called upon to testify before senate and congressional committees and provided commentary for Washington Post, New York Times, 60 Minutes, 20/20 and CBS Evening News.

When Eist thinks back on his time at the U of A, he remembers the friends he made, working as a columnist for The Gateway and founding the Student Philosophical Society. But his best campus memory is meeting his wife, Ann.

“I don’t know how a wonderful woman like that has put up with me all these years,” he says.


Alumni Honour Award

Recognizing the significant contributions made over a number of years by University of Alberta alumni in their local communities and beyond

Alan D. Fielding

Alan D. Fielding, ’65 BA, ’69 LLB

Fielding is a founding partner of Fielding & Co. LLP and a longtime Rotarian who received a Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award in 2014.


Todd Hirsch

Todd Hirsch, ’89 BA(Hons)

This chief economist with ATB Financial and contributing writer for the Globe and Mail was honoured with Canada’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.


Frank Jenkins

Frank Jenkins, ’66 BEd, ’71 MEd, ’87 PhD

Jenkins is a multi-award-winning science educator who has travelled the world to work on projects that inspire teachers and students.


Oryssia Lennie

Oryssia Lennie, ’69 BA

After 35 years in constitutional and public policy development, Lennie devotes time to the United Way and the Alberta Research and Innovation Authority.


Shar Levine

Shar Levine, ’74 BA

Levine is an award-winning writer and designer of children’s science books. She sits on national literary and literacy boards.


Krista Monson

Krista Monson, ’91 BA

Monson is a stage director for Cirque du Soleil and a choreographer who was featured in a 2012 CNN series titled Leading Women.


Thomas E. Morimoto

Thomas E. Morimoto, ’49 BSc(ChemEng), ’52 MSc

Morimoto is a pioneer of the energy industry. He brought his engineering expertise to Dubai as manager of an international-scale gas project.


Alfred Nikolai

Alfred Nikolai, ’73 BPE

After a career in education and government, Nikolai moved on to Habitat for Humanity and is dedicated to building homes and hope for low-income families.


Alumni Centenary Award

Celebrating alumni who have made an uncommon gift of time, self and energy to the University of Alberta

Helen Kwan Yee Cheung

Helen Kwan Yee Cheung, ’13 MA

Cheung is a dedicated U of A volunteer who curated a historical exhibition at the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library and helps collect archival material.


Edmond Levasseur

Edmond Levasseur, ’67 BEd

Levasseur has spent his life as an educator. He served on the U of A Senate, helped introduce U School and works to promote Campus Saint-Jean.


Trevor Mak

Trevor Mak, ’82 BCom, ’84 MBA

Mak is a senior banking executive developing private banking business for Greater China in Hong Kong. He leads the Alumni Association’s Hong Kong chapter.


Alumni Innovation Award

Recognizing alumni who have significantly influenced their profession, community, the U of A or society at large by developing an innovative program, process or product

Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk

Ray Muzyka, ’90 BMedSc, ’92 MD, and Greg Zeschuk, ’90 BMedSc, ’92 MD, parlayed their passion for video games into a billion-dollar business. As freshly minted University of Alberta-trained doctors in 1995, they co-founded BioWare. Initially operated out of Zeschuk’s basement, the company evolved into an award-winning juggernaut. At the invitation of LucasArts, founded by filmmaker George Lucas, the company created Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which won Game of the Year at the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2004. Muzyka and Zeschuk were inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2011 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2013. They are both involved now in other ventures — Zeschuk with The Beer Diaries and Muzyka with ThresholdImpact.


Sports Wall of Fame

Recognizing the contributions of alumni as athletes and builders of university sport

Debra Barnett (Covey)

Debra Barnett (Covey), ’83 BPE, ’89 MA

Barnett is a field hockey player and coach who competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games. She is head coach of the Newtown City Hockey Club in Australia.


Jenny Benkie (Cartmell)

Jenny Benkie (Cartmell), ’03 BPE

Benkie is a national volleyball champion and former captain of the Pandas volleyball team. In 2011 she was inducted into the Alberta Volleyball Hall of Fame.


Doug Bruce

Doug Bruce, ’01 BA

After multiple awards as a varsity volleyball player, including oustanding male athlete of the year, Bruce went on to play professionally around the world.


Dale Schulha

Dale Schulha, ’72 BPE, ’74 MSc, ’74 Dip(Ed)

A national varsity football champ who became U of A director of athletics, he won the Austin-Matthews Award for contribution to interuniversity sport in 2014.


The Honourable Dr. Lois E. Hole Student Spirit Award

Recognizing undergraduate students who demonstrate a spirit of caring and community service

Bretton Hari

Bretton Hari, ’12 BSc

Hari is a U of A medical student who also spends time as a fundraiser, musician and volunteer for non-profit groups.


Blue Knox

Blue Knox

Knox has travelled the world to work, study and volunteer as a play worker in Cambodia and with Leadership Africa USA in Washington, D.C.


Alumni Horizon Award

Celebrating the outstanding achievements of University of Alberta alumni early in their careers

Saleem Khaldoon Al-Nuaimi

Saleem Khaldoon Al-Nuaimi, ’09 BMedSc, ’10 MD

A child and adolescent psychiatrist who is helping Syrian refugees with mental health care, he also volunteers with an international relief group.


Vera Caine

Vera Caine, ’98 BScN, ’02 MN, ’07 PhD

An associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing, Caine works with community organizations such as the Mustard Seed and HIV Edmonton.


Mary Pinkoski

Mary Pinkoski, ’99 BA, ’06 BEd

Edmonton’s former poet laureate is an award-winning spoken-word educator and slam poet who created the city’s youth poet laureate position.


Kristopher Wells

Kristopher Wells, ’94 BEd, ’03 MEd, ’11 PhD

Wells is an award-winning researcher and human rights advocate for sexual and gender minority youth. He helped create Camp fYrefly and other initiatives.


Cary Williams

Cary Williams, ’03 BCom

An associate private wealth counsellor, Williams is a business leader who started the charitable group 100 Men YEG.


Come meet our award-winning alumni Sept. 24 at Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium. Pre-register for this complimentary event at ualberta.ca/alumni-weekend/alumni-awards.