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Spirit, generosity, compassion: Celebrating Dal's 2015 Alumni Award winners

Recipients presented with awards at this week's Alumni Dinner

- October 15, 2015

Left-to-right: Justine Fedak (MBA’01), Dr. Doug Mackay (BComm’53, LLD’93), Dr. Ian Doyle (DDS’78) and Sara Austin (BA’98).
Left-to-right: Justine Fedak (MBA’01), Dr. Doug Mackay (BComm’53, LLD’93), Dr. Ian Doyle (DDS’78) and Sara Austin (BA’98).

At Thursday night's Alumni Dinner, Dalhousie will be celebrating four outstanding alumni with its Dalhousie Alumni Awards for 2015.

The awards, presented by the Dalhousie Alumni Association, honour members of the Dalhousie community, recognizing their notable achievements and the diverse ways that alumni contribute to the university and to society.

They include four categories: for lifetime achievement, volunteerism to Dalhousie, volunteerism to the community and for early career accomplishment.

Here's a look at each of this year's recipients.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Justine Fedak (MBA ’01)

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes alumni for exceptional accomplishments in career and community service.



When the MS Society approached Justine Fedak (MBA ’01) to be an honoree at its 2013 Women on the Move luncheon in Chicago, she agreed with one condition.

“I said, ‘Only if we raise the most money you have ever raised and we get the most profile for Multiple Sclerosis ever,’” recalls Fedak, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2001.  “It’s the most random, ridiculous disease of all time, so it’s very hard to raise money for something that people don’t understand.”

The luncheon garnered $100,000 in donations that year, thanks in part to Fedak’s efforts and the connections she’s made as senior vice president and head of brand, advertising and sponsorships for BMO Financial Group. “That’s the most money they’ve raised so far,” she notes with some pride. “And we got corporate contributions for the first time, which have continued, so we’ve managed to establish a real foothold for MS in Chicago.”

If anyone exemplifies a woman on the move, it’s Fedak. She may do so now with a Lucite cane (“Wonder Woman had an invisible plane; I have an invisible cane,” she laughs) but this Ontario-born Dalhousie alumna and former long-distance runner has made quite an impact on the Windy City over the past two decades through her community and charitable work. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Gilda’s Club Chicago and Access Living. She is an executive director of Noah’s Arc Foundation, which encourages youth to develop a stronger sense of self and community. And she’s involved in the Chicago Police Foundation, the Chicago Sports Commission, the Magnificent Mile Association and chairs the Municipal Marketing Advisory Council.

It may seem like a lot to balance, but Fedak sounds positively energized by her many commitments. “The more I invest in others, and the more I invest in the world around me, the more happiness I derive personally.”

Each role also offers Fedak another opportunity to apply the invaluable lessons and philosophies learned while earning her MBA from Dalhousie through BMO. “The professors didn’t just teach material. They taught us how to learn, how to approach problem solving, how to apply differences in thinking to arrive at a collaborative result. That focus on contributing and collaborating has 100 per cent influenced my community work, and I think it’s what makes Dalhousie special.”

Although Fedak’s commitments suggest she prefers to contribute where health – personal and community – are involved, she says there’s no vision or mission that determines her choices. “I do it because it’s in front of me and it needs to be done. If someone asks for my help and I think I can do it, I will.”

Fedak is equally proud of the fact that she’s helped raise awareness about MS, even if the decision to do so was initially a reluctant one.
“When I was diagnosed, I went through the classic denial of not wanting people to know, because I thought they would judge me, or treat me differently, and I wouldn’t get the same opportunities at work.

“Of course that didn’t happen,” she continues. “In fact, having the cane is a conversation starter. People often ask me where I got it and why I have it, so I take the opportunity to explain what MS is. It’s allowed me to connect with more people.”

Fedak continues to help where she can, and that dedication has been recognized with several honours over the years, most recently the 2015 Dalhousie Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It’s something that inspires me to ensure that, each and every day, I celebrate and live by the words of Jack Kerouac: ‘Be in love with your life every minute of it,’” says Fedak.

As for her next moves, there’s desire to write more, fueled in part by the responses she’s received to her columns on living with MS in the Chicago-Sun Times’ publication, Splash. She also envisions a day when she and her husband, Conrad Zurini, owner broker, Re/Max Escarpment, start a charitable organization of their own.

In the meantime, she and Conrad are inspiring a new generation to go out into the world and make a difference — her daughter, Alessandra.

“She’s told me that, next year on her birthday, she doesn’t want any gifts from friends, she wants to raise money for something, but she hasn’t determined what that will be.  She is, and I say this often, my greatest achievement. To see how joyful and engaged she is in everything around her, nothing can compare to that.” – Mark Campbell

A. Gordon Archibald Award: Dr. Douglas C. Mackay (BComm’53, LLD’93)

The A. Gordon Archibald Award recognizes alumni for outstanding volunteer contributions to Dalhousie.



He had a spectacular career in the investment business, but Dr. Douglas Mackay is the first to admit that it hasn’t always been an easy ride. In fact, he almost didn’t make it through first-year university.

“I did not get off to a good start at Dalhousie,” he recalls. “I did make the varsity hockey team and we won the Eastern Canadian championships. But I got hooked on Bridge, often playing for six or seven hours a day. And when the government allowed pubs to open for the first time in 1948, I spent many hours at the Lord Nelson Pub, which was always packed with students. As a result, I skipped a lot of classes and nearly flunked my first year.”

Mackay joined Phi Delta Theta fraternity and was the only person living in the frat house that was not a war veteran. “These veterans were trying to make up for four lost years,” he says. “They worked very hard during the week and played hard on the weekends.” Their work ethic had a profound influence on Mr. Mackay’s life. He pulled up his bootstraps, hit the books and fully immersed himself in the university experience.

He moved to Toronto, where he embarked on a 40-year career in the investment business. Starting as a salesman, he was quickly promoted to branch manager and later general sales manager. He moved on to take over the new issue department and was responsible for managing and launching some of the largest and most innovative securities achieved in Canada. At the time he retired, he was Vice Chairman of RBC Dominion Securities, the largest investment firm in Canada.

Throughout, Mackay has solidified his reputation as one of Dalhousie’s greatest friends. He served for years on the School of Business Advisory Board, and played a key role in several of Dalhousie’s fundraising campaigns. His monetary gifts have funded a Chair in Finance, supported more than 100 students, and created a stellar speaker series that brings in the best and brightest financial minds in the country to help keep the School of Business up-to-date and relevant in a very fast-moving sector.

For all these contributions, Mackay was awarded an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from Dalhousie in 1993. “I was delighted to be recognized in this way,” he says. “But what they didn’t tell me when I accepted, was that I would be giving the convocation address to 1,100 people. I was in shock.”

As for the A. Gordon Archibald Award for which he’s being honored today, there’s no speech required. This time, he can relax and let others take the floor as we celebrate his contributions to Dal. – Joanne Ward-Jerrett

Volunteerism Award: Dr. Ian Doyle (DDS’78)

The Volunteerism Award recognizes alumni for outstanding volunteer contributions to the community.



From dental missions around the world to the four-hour commute he makes each month from Sydney to teach at Dalhousie’s Dental School, Dr. Ian Doyle goes to great lengths to give back.

“I look at volunteering as a way to contribute to my community, and the world, for the mutual benefits that result from helping others,” says the 2015 Dalhousie Alumni Association Volunteerism Award winner. “When I sold my practice six years ago, I soon realized I had the flexibility to do things that required more time off and more travel.”

Dr. Doyle has certainly taken advantage of that, participating in missions that are helping to establish preventative dental care for communities in Peru, Nicaragua and Guyana.

“I’ve been travelling to Amerindian communities in a remote area of the Pakaraima Mountains of Guyana since 2007.  We’ve gone from relieving pain and treating infection through oral surgery and antibiotics to training local technicians who will be able to provide comprehensive dentistry using donated equipment.”

Even while home in Sydney, Dr. Doyle is constantly on the go, contributing where he can. This long-time blood donor and member of the Cape Breton Chordsmen participated in the launch of a free dental day for homeless and underserved populations. He volunteers with his church, The Rotary Club and Talbot House, a treatment facility for men with addictions. And he’s helped advance the quality of dental care as an executive member of the Nova Scotia Dental Association, the Nova Scotia Dental Board and Cape Breton Island Dental Society.

“Community involvement was constantly encouraged while I was at Dalhousie. I remember instructors and upperclassmen saying you have to get involved or dentistry will not be as fulfilling. And that’s absolutely true.”

As incoming president of the International College of Dentists in Canada, Dr. Doyle continues to set an example for young dentists and alumni alike. He wants to encourage more dentists to volunteer at home, or around the world, and he’s planning missions to Haiti and Cambodia, which could turn into family affairs.

“My son, Ian, Jr., and his wife, Kylene, are graduating physicians who plan to come to Haiti. My wife, Anne (BA ’76), has been on all but one mission, while my daughter, Patricia (BSC ’05, MD’09), has accompanied me to Nicaragua. I wouldn’t be the volunteer I am without the support of my family, and feel that Anne is as deserving of this award as I am.” – Mark Campbell

Christopher J. Coulter Award: Sara L. Austin (BA’98)

The Christopher J. Coulter Award recognizes recent graduates for innovative accomplishments and notable contributions to society, the community or Dalhousie.



What do you do when you’ve led the development of a United Nations law that gives children around the world access to international justice when their rights are denied or violated? If you’re Sara Austin, you find new ways to make a difference in the lives of young people.

The former director of the president’s office for World Vision in Toronto is currently doing that as a lecturer in the department of Child and Youth Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“We moved here earlier this year, and this was an opportunity for me to continue my passion for empowering children and youth,” says the 2015 Dalhousie Alumni Association Christopher J. Coulter Award recipient.
“Many young Canadians are unaware that they have rights. Through this program, we’re equipping early childhood educators and child and youth care counsellors with an understanding of those rights and how to apply that knowledge in their work so they can raise awareness. I’m excited to support this new generation of role models.”

Austin also is involved in the University’s Centre for Child Well-Being, an initiative dedicated to investigating, promoting and enhancing the factors that determine the happiness, security and health of children. And she’s building momentum to launch a nationwide movement to address issues such as inequality and poverty for kids across Canada.

“We have a national poverty epidemic with one in six children living in poverty. That rises to one in four among Aboriginal children and one in three in some of our urban areas. By engaging government, non-profits and the private sector in solutions to this situation, I believe we can make Canada the best nation on earth for kids to grow up.”

That determination, first fostered by Austin’s parents, came into full bloom at Dalhousie where she studied International Development and Women’s Studies.

“The university provided the academic training and practical life experience through the Cuban semester program to start me on this path,” says Austin. “That the Dalhousie community continues to encourage and celebrate the work that I’ve done is a huge honour for me. An award like this gives me the energy to keep doing what I’m doing.”

As for long-term plans, Austin is open to any opportunities that allow her to put her theories and practices for protecting and empowering children to good use. And that includes her five-year-old son.

“I want to support and encourage him to achieve his potential, whatever that might look like. But I also want to help kids across the country and around the world to experience a better life.” – Mark Campbell


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