Autumn 2013

Up Front

alumni awards medalThere is a secret to the upbeat attitude of Tom Yonge, ’04 BEd, ’04 BPE. He calls it the Green Shake. The energy drink is an ominous-sounding combination of cucumber, avocado, Swiss chard, banana and a few more ingredients that could not possibly go well together. Yonge, a teacher at Strathcona High School in Edmonton, shares this recipe with any student who will listen and more than a few who will not.

I have no doubt that many of his students who roll their eyes in public find themselves privately staring down their Cuisinarts in hopes that the magic recipe will somehow lend them some of Yonge’s charisma and spark. Of course, the man who built Strathcona’s leadership program from 36 students to an army of 350 relies on more than just fruits and vegetables to transform his students into visionaries.

“Mr. Yonge leads by example. He not only asks us to rise to the challenge to combat poverty and injustice but also models what living a selfless life looks like,” writes a former student — one of six people who took the time to fill out the nomination forms that garnered Yonge a U of A Alumni Recognition Award.

The Alumni History and Traditions Committee went through 205 nominations to arrive at this year’s 38 award recipients. As you can imagine, narrowing down the list of inspiring alumni to find this year’s winners was a difficult and humbling task.

Distinguished Award winner Sister Annata Brockman, ’65 MEd, for example, still finds time to greet children at the school named in her honour. Douglas Stollery, ’76 LLB, argued in one of the most important legal decisions in Canadian history. The award nomination letter for Greg Abel, ’84 BCom, came from iconic investor Warren Buffett.

For me, though, one of this year’s most notable stories is an anecdote that Douglas Hamilton, ’80 BSc(ElecEng), ’84 MSc, likes to share when speaking to school groups. Hamilton, who is an engineer, a physician and, until recently, a NASA employee, likes to wave around a stack of rejection letters during his talks. “I tell them that other successful people have a pile like this, too. Just because something has not worked out is no reason to give up,” he says.

Hamilton’s message is a powerful reminder: even the most successful among us fails. It is how we handle failure that dictates whether we ultimately succeed. Meet all of this year’s honourees in

this issue or join us at the Winspear Centre this Alumni Weekend. There will be a bagpiper and applause and champagne, but also friends and family who look on proudly as the awards are handed out. Tickets to the Sept. 25 event are complimentary to both alumni and the general public. You can register here.

Glenn Stowkowy, '76 BSc(ElecEng),
President, Alumni Association