Alumni Awards

    In so many fields and in so many ways, these alumni have made their mark on the world

    By Sarah Pratt on August 3, 2016

    Distinguished Alumni Award

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


    Making Flying Safer

    His unprecedented examination of the aviation system saved countless lives and forever changed aircraft safety

    At 16 years old, Virgil Moshansky, ’51 BA, ’54 LLB, was busy typing up land transfers for his notary father, Peter, a farmer and entrepreneur. It was an early and immersive beginning to Moshansky’s legal career.

    As a high school student in Lamont, Alta., he found his other passion: aviation. He was an air cadet during the Second World War and spent summers at Royal Canadian Air Force camps, flying in various aircraft and feeding his hunger for aviation.

    At the U of A, Moshansky’s friends called him a bookworm, and he followed up an arts degree with law school. When he articled at an Edmonton law firm, his focus was liability and personal injury. It was an interest that would carry him into a future of life-changing work.

    A move to Vegreville, Alta., brought three terms as mayor of the town. Moshansky initiated many changes, including the construction of an airport. As a private pilot and aircraft owner since 1965, he understood the importance of an airport for the town. He even flew between his office and courtrooms across the province in his aircraft, or his “time machine,” as he called it.

    Over the years, Moshansky was twice asked to serve on the Supreme Court of Alberta, but he declined because of his work as a lawyer and mayor. In 1976, the federal government called again and he accepted. After 21 years in Vegreville, he and his wife, June, moved to Calgary, where he served on the bench for 28 years.

    In 1989 the government came calling again. On March 10 of that year, Air Ontario Flight 1363 crashed 15 seconds after taking off from Dryden Regional Airport. Moshansky was appointed to head the commission of inquiry into the causes of the Fokker F-28 crash that killed 24 people.

    He assembled a team that spent three years conducting what has been called the most exhaustive aviation system investigation ever attempted. Insisting the inquiry be conducted in the open, he probed the impact of human factors throughout the aviation system. The investigation resulted in a 2,000-page final report with 191 recommendations. The report uncovered a lack of proper de-icing fluids and procedures, which contributed to the Dryden crash. Transport Canada and regulatory authorities worldwide adopted Moshansky’s recommendations, making revolutionary changes to aircraft de-icing and saving countless lives.

    “It was a monumental experience,” says Moshansky, who, among many honours, received the Order of Canada in 2005 and was elected a fellow of the U.K. Royal Aeronautical Society in 2007.

    Soon after the investigation began, he lost his brother in a plane crash near Yellowknife, N.W.T. “If I needed any incentive to do a thorough investigation in the Dryden inquiry, I got it,” he says.

    Helping people is in Moshansky’s blood. He has spent much of his time volunteering for community, civic and aviation safety organizations. He is a life member of the Vegreville Lions Club and a past international director of Lions International.

    “I like to help people as much as I can,” he says. “It’s important.”


    Beyond the Cover

    A lifelong champion of public libraries, she has made EPL far more than a place to borrow books

    She was one of those kids who read under the covers with a flashlight. Linda C. Cook, ’74 BA, ’75 BLS, ’87 MLS, just couldn’t put a good book down.

    It may come as a surprise, then, that this avid young reader had no university ambitions at a young age. Her high school yearbook says she wanted to be a secretary, and this is how she started her career. Her father was a military man and her mother a Scottish war bride, so she grew up learning the value of hard work and practicality.

    Cook soon tired of secretarial work, and because she worked for the University of Alberta, night classes were free. She enrolled in a course called The English Novel with professor George Baldwin, and it changed her life. She fell in love with the class and with Baldwin as an instructor. She eventually left her job and registered as a full-time student, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1974.

    “University changed my life,” says Cook. “It opened up new possibilities.”

    The next year, she earned her bachelor of library studies and began her first library job at the Misericordia Community Hospital. She was 25 years old, happy and in love with her job and her hometown of Edmonton.

    Cook 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 in 1997 as chief executive officer of the Edmonton Public Library.

    For 19 years, until retirement in 2015, she championed the public library as it grew to 19 branches. In that time, the library implemented 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 the Safe Communities Innovation Fund, which employs outreach workers to help high-risk customers use the library.

    “Libraries are an essential service,” says Cook. “They are preventive to drugs and crime. We have to offer something to [people at high risk].” She recalls one library patron, once homeless, who is now studying at the U of A to become a social worker.

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

    As she settles into retirement, Cook continues to work to make a difference by volunteering with the Primary Care Networks Health Board, Legal Aid Alberta, the Telus Edmonton Community Board and the Edmonton Police Foundation board. She has won the U of A’s Library and Information Studies Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award, both the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Canadian Library Association’s Outstanding Public Library Service Award. She was the first recipient of MacEwan University’s Gold Medal.

    When Cook thinks back to her university days, she remembers them as the best time of her life.

    “In university I learned how to be a better person,” she says. “It opened doors in my mind.”


    A Life of Public Service

    As a minister of several federal departments and as an advocate for tourism, he worked for the people

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

    In university, Buchanan was a sociable student who loved history and languages but didn’t attend classes regularly, again because of his work life. “I wasn’t a very good student because I had a job with the post office,” he says. “I went to class when I could squeeze it in.”

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

    “My first Liberal convention was in 1944 at the Masonic Temple on 100th Avenue,” he says.

    Buchanan launched his own political life serving on the board of education in London, Ont. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1968 and appointed to the cabinet in 1974 by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, ’68 LLD (Honorary). Buchanan served as minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, where he put together the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975, the first modern treaty signed. Buchanan also worked as minister of Public Works, minister of state for science and technology and president of the Treasury Board.

    In the late 1950s, he used his experience in public speaking to help form one of the earliest Toastmasters clubs in Canada: the Forest City Toastmasters in London. “It was a great confidence builder,” he says. “People learned to stand on their hind legs and speak in front of an audience.”

    Buchanan enjoys working with people, and his early days serving travellers at CP Rail foreshadowed things to come. He became the first chair of the Canadian Tourism Commission, and his report on ways to improve the industry, known as the Buchanan Report, was recommended by then-prime minister Jean Chretien, ’87 LLD (Honorary). Buchanan served as chairman until he retired in 2002.

    His post-politics career in tourism extended to investing in Silver Star Mountain Resort near Vernon, B.C. “Skiing is a wonderful business,” he says with a chuckle. “If you start with a reasonable fortune, it’s a great way to lose it all.”

    Buchanan was also the first chair of the group that built the Wickaninnish Inn, a well-known 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. In recognition of his public service, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.


    Helping Hands

    Leading with heart as an ophthalmologist and bishop, he welcomed the LGBTQ community into his church

    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 and never changed his mind.

    Fletcher wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. His dad, Calvin Fletcher, ’44 BSc, ’46 MD, was a U of A-trained anesthesiologist who loved life and his chosen profession. Donald Fletcher also recognizes his Grade 4 teacher, Roy Wilson, ’65 BEd, ’70 MEd, ’75 PhD, as an inspiration.

    “Roy changed my life dramatically,” says Fletcher. “He lit a fire in me, turned me into an academic geek, and I never looked back.”

    Growing up in Edmonton’s Windsor Park neighbourhood near the U of A campus meant Fletcher was closely connected to the school throughout his life. Nothing came close to the U of A in his mind.

    He considered going into obstetrics but decided he wanted to be of service while enjoying a good night’s sleep regularly. Ophthalmology appealed to him, and he was good with his hands, so he thought doing fine surgery would be the right fit.

    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 visually impaired patients and has worked on technologies to help low-vision patients be able to read.

    One of his proudest professional contributions was to incorporate occupational therapists and a team approach into 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.

    “No one was doing an occupational therapy approach,” he says. “I think using a team approach with the therapists made my field so much more effective.”

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

    Fletcher is dedicated to his medical career, his wife Terri Fletcher, ’78 BEd, their five children and eight grandchildren, and also to his faith, serving in leadership roles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was once a bishop for a San Francisco congregation. In that time, one of his closest relatives shared that he was a member of the LGBTQ community. Fletcher says his eyes were opened, and he welcomed that community into the church.

    “There were a lot of gay Mormons not attending church,” he says. “I wanted the members to know they were welcome, so we sent out snail-mail letters letting people know everyone was welcome. There is a place there for everyone.

    “I think this is one of the sweetest and 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.”


    One Life, One Goal

    His work in orthopedics has helped improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest, neediest patients

    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, known as Rhodesia at the time, and his father, Cherer, was a missionary doctor. Penny wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, helping those in need and giving back to the world rather than just taking from it.

    “Being a doctor has been the main motivation of my whole life,” says Penny, an orthopedic surgeon. “My dad was my biggest hero.”

    With political problems brewing in Rhodesia, his father moved the family to the Northwest Territories. Migrating from Africa to northern Canada was a wonderful adventure, says Penny.

    The next stop on the map was Edmonton, where Penny started at the U of A when he was 16. He became captain of the swim team, an experience he says helped him develop into a confident young man and led to his future in pediatrics. While a lifeguard at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Penny met children with physical impairments. It was an influential experience and reinforced what his father taught him about helping those in need.

    Being an ambitious young man, Penny wanted to swim faster, so he studied musculoskeletal anatomy and physiology. This led him into orthopedics. After medical school, Penny set up Vancouver Island’s first sports medicine clinic in Victoria in 1978 and was a consultant at various competitions, including the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. After serving as chief medical officer of the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994, Penny felt he had done what he could in that role and wanted to contribute elsewhere.

    “I turned to my lingering concerns for Africa and the sense of inequity and injustice because of the lack of doctors there.”

    He and his family, including his wife, Anné, and daughters Rebecca, Bethea and Genevieve, travelled to Uganda, where they lived from 1996 to 2002. Penny worked 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 and started with nothing but a Land Rover and a small set of instruments in a tool box.

    “The target was to reach the poorest children in the poorest village in the most remote place,” he says.

    Penny changed lives and made a difference, just as he always wanted. Young girls with polio who could only crawl along the ground were, after surgery, able to stand and walk, meaning they could go to school, work and get married.

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

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

    “My father gave his life to help the poor in Africa,” he says. “I am also here to make the world a better place.”


    Alumni Honour Award

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


    Bob Aloneissi

    Bob H. Aloneissi, ’84 BA, ’87 LLB
    One of Alberta’s leading criminal lawyers, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2012 and devotes much of his personal time to philanthropic causes.


    Carla Cuglietta

    Carla Cuglietta, ’01 BEd, ’01 BPE
    As an educator with Edmonton Catholic Schools, Cuglietta is known for her commitment to youth leadership, gender equity and community service.


    Joel Cohen

    Joel Cohen, ’88 BSc
    Cohen is best known as an award-winning writer and executive producer for The Simpsons, a wildly popular and oft-quoted animated sitcom.


    Julius Csotonyi

    Julius T. Csotonyi, ’98 BSc(Hons), ’02 MSc
    You can find this natural history illustrator’s work in the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum and on numerous stamps and coins.


    Margaret Epoch

    Margaret Jean Epoch, ’77 BPE, ’97 BEd, ’02 MEd
    A teacher, Epoch is involved in many student and community activities, including UNESCO projects, the Terry Fox Run, Wigs for Kids and victim services.


    Pat Kiernan, ’90 BCom
    As news anchor for New York’s NY1, he’s so well known that he has played himself in movies. He is active in many charity, community and alumni events.


    Bud Steen, ’76 BA, ’79 BA(SpecCert), ’82 LLB
    Steen distinguished himself as a lawyer and as a Canadian Football League referee and helped rescue CKUA Radio through a fundraising effort.


    Alumni Horizon Award

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


    Leanne Brown, ’07 BA
    Brown has helped thousands of low-income families serve low-cost, nutritious meals. Her book, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, has been downloaded more than one million times.


    Koren Lightning-Earle, ’00 BA(Rec/Leisure), ’04 BA, ’07 LLB
    Lightning-Earle, Blue Thunderbird Woman, is Cree from Samson Cree Nation, a leader in the local and national Aboriginal communities and a role model for her peers and the younger generation.


    Duane Linklater, ’03 BA(NativeStu), ’05 BFA
    An artist and filmmaker of Omaskêko Cree heritage, Linklater has shown his work around the world. He received the 2013 Sobey Art Award for an artist under 40.


    Jason Lee Norman, ’06 BA
    Norman is a storyteller, editor and publisher who created 40 Below, anthologies of winter-themed works. He also supports other writers through Wufniks Press and Monto Books.


    Alumni Centenary Award

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


    John Bocock

    John Bocock, ’57 BSc(Ag)
    This dairy farmer has been a lifelong advocate for farmers, the environment and Albertans. He is committed to building global racial harmony and has volunteered in many countries.


    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


    Poppy Barley

    Poppy Barley

    During a trip to Bali, Justine Barber, ’06 BCom, (right) had boots made to fit. She was inspired and set out to give North American customers the capability to buy made-to-measure footwear created by craftspeople with fair salaries and healthy working conditions.

    In 2012, Barber and her sister, Kendall, created Poppy Barley, the first company in North America to sell custom fashion boots online. The company opened a shop, office and showroom on Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue in February 2015; a flurry of media attention followed, from Flare and Glamour to the Globe and Mail. The company currently ships custom leather footwear across North America and creates 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, share a passion for gardening and food security, and decided to reclaim vacant urban land by using the space to grow food. 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 both 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. Reclaim shares its produce with its partners and supplies the City Market Downtown, retail locations and several Edmonton restaurants.


    Sports Wall of Fame

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


    Murray Cunningham, ’97 BSc(CivEng)
    Cunningham helped bring the Bears to their first national basketball championship in 1994. He also played Bears football and was drafted by the Eskimos. He is now COO of Scott Builders.


    Toni Kordic Gass, ’86 BCom
    Kordic Gass has played basketball for more than 30 years and is a three-time CIS All-Canadian and four-time Canada West First Team All-Star. She also competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics.


    When Carlo Panaro, ’99 BSc, ’03 MD
    Panaro, a two-sport athlete, won a Grey Cup with the Edmonton Eskimos and was an Olympic alternate wrestler in 2000. He is an orthopedic surgeon.


    What Jeffrey Zorn, ’08 BMedSc, ’09 MD
    As a Golden Bears hockey player, Zorn was named CIS All-Canadian four times and CIS Academic All-Canadian five times. He is a urologist whose volunteer work has recently taken him to Guatemala.


    The Honourable Dr. Lois E. Hole Student Spirit Award

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


    Andrea Johnson, ’16 BMedSc
    This medical student supports inclusivity and mentorship and encourages healthy living. She co-founded the Medical Students’ Association Dance Club to help fellow students network, be healthy and relieve stress.


    Michael A. Tessier Tessier is a leader, an ambitious competitor and a compassionate student with an affinity for business. He co-founded the U of A’s Entrepreneurship Club, Good Roots Landscaping and NoLemon Automotive.