Introducing Dal's honorary degree recipients for Spring Convocation 2017

- April 20, 2017

Dal's Spring Convocation 2017 honorary degree recipients.
Dal's Spring Convocation 2017 honorary degree recipients.

They've made their mark — in science, the arts, public affairs, business, health care, local communities and more.

And now, as Dalhousie prepares to celebrate thousands of new graduates this spring, the university is also preparing to celebrate these nine outstanding individuals with honorary doctorates — the highest honour Dalhousie can bestow. 

Honorary degrees recognize people who've demonstrated inspirational leadership in, or in service to, society, outstanding contribution to a field or discipline, and/or outstanding contributions to the university.

Honorary degree presentations will take place at nine of the 16 convocation ceremonies at Dalhousie this spring. Proceedings begin on Friday, May 12 with the ceremony for graduates of the Faculties of Agriculture and Graduate Studies on the Agricultural Campus. Ceremonies then resume in Halifax on Friday, May 26 and run through Saturday, June 3.

For more information, visit the Convocation website.

Dr. Lan Siren

A transformative force in international agricultural education.
Friday, May 12 (2 p.m. ceremony – Truro)

An internationally renowned landscape architect and expert in forestry development, national forest parks, wetland parks, and urban landscape planning and design, Dr. Lan Siren is President of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China (FAFU) — an institution with which Dalhousie has had a long and valued relationship.

Dr. Lan completed a Bachelor of Agriculture at the Fujian College of Forestry, then qualified as a senior engineer. He holds a Master of Economics from Xiamen University and a Doctor of Agriculture from Beijing Forestry University. Since taking over as President in 2010, he has transformed the FAFU property into a haven of innovative landscape architecture that helps reduce pollution and makes the campus a living classroom. FAFU has grown from just 4,000 students in 1998 to around 40,000 today, much of that during Dr. Lan’s tenure as President.

Dr. Lan is also a leader in international cooperation for education and research. In his time as President of FAFU, he has enthusiastically embraced and strengthened his institution’s long partnership with Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture through articulation agreements and FAFU’s Overseas Education College. Dr. Lan is also Vice Chairman of the Forest Park Branch and Bamboo Branch of the Chinese Society of Forestry, Chairman of the Fujian Forestry Society, and Distinguished Research Fellow of the Fujian Government Economic Development Research Center. He has held a series of prestigious government appointments and won numerous awards and honours for his research in China.

Dr. Ronald D. Stewart

One of Nova Scotia’s shining lights in health policy, practice and education
Friday, May 26 (9 a.m. ceremony)

Dr. Ronald D. Stewart is a gifted clinician, administrator, and educator known for building solutions to difficult public health challenges. Originally from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, he earned a BA from Acadia University and an MD from Dalhousie. He has devoted much of his career to developing training and standards for paramedics, and designing and implementing systems for emergency medical care.

Dr. Stewart has worked in emergency medicine in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Halifax, making lasting contributions to the field in each. In Pittsburgh, for example, he was not only Medical Director of the city’s Department of Public Safety, but established the Center for Emergency Medicine, now the largest institution of its kind in North America. He also shaped Nova Scotia’s health-care system as Minister of Health (1993-1996), including creating the Emergency Health Services (EHS) system we depend on today.

After first coming to Dalhousie as a faculty member in 1990 (Professor of Anaesthesia and Emergency Medicine), Dr. Stewart later served as Director of Medical Humanities from 2004 to 2009. In that role, he integrated the arts and history into medical study to promote creativity and empathy in the medical profession, in particular through the Music-in-Medicine initiative. Now Professor Emeritus of Medical Education, he is an Officer of the Order of Canada, has received Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals and the Order of Nova Scotia, and has been presented with honorary degrees from Acadia and Cape Breton Universities.

Ms. Elizabeth Gallion Cromwell

An inspiring advocate for Black Loyalist history and heritage
Friday, May 26 (12:30 p.m. ceremony)

For more than 30 years, Elizabeth Cromwell has been on a mission to bear witness to Black Loyalist history and culture and make it accessible to Nova Scotians and Canadians. Thanks in large part to Ms. Cromwell’s tenacity, vision and determination, the rich story of Black Loyalist endurance and resilience is finally being told.

Born in Shelburne, Ms. Cromwell studied at the Halifax Vocational School, graduated in 1969 as a social welfare worker, and spent her career working with the Children’s Aid Society of Shelburne County. She is a founding member of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society (BLHS) and served as President until 2002 and again from 2008 until 2016. Through her efforts, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre opened its doors in Birchtown in 2015, commemorating the lives and experiences of Black Loyalists in what was once the largest settlement of free Blacks outside Africa.

Ms. Cromwell was determined that Black Loyalist history be recognized as a key building block of our provincial and national identity. For her tireless efforts, she has been awarded an honorary degree by Mount Saint Vincent University, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Multicultural Volunteer of the Year Award from Volunteer Nova Scotia. Under her leadership, the BLHS also won a Race Relations and Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Steve Blank

Global leader in entrepreneurship theory and education
Tuesday, May 30 (9 a.m. ceremony)

Author and educator Steve Blank literally wrote the book on modern startups. He sparked the experimental, evidence-based Lean Startup movement with his 2003 book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, informed by his more than two decades as an early employee or founder of eight different high-tech startups. The book, which began as notes for an entrepreneurship course and went on to become a global bestseller, posited the revolutionary idea that startups are not just smaller versions of big companies — they need their own tools and processes to move from idea to execution to product.

In 2011, Mr. Blank created the Lean LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship class that puts customer development and lean business model design principles together in a fast-paced, real-life environment. The model has been adopted at more than 75 universities around the world; has become the standard for the commercialization of science in the U.S.; is driving defense innovation in the U.S.; and is firmly embedded at Dalhousie in the form of the university’s Starting Lean course and Launch Dal entrepreneurial programming. A number of enterprises have sprung from this multidisciplinary initiative on campus — including biomedical, big data and innovative product design companies — and many of the program’s students have stayed in Nova Scotia and become part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem helping drive the province’s economy.

A prolific writer and speaker who is widely recognized as a thought leader on startups and innovation, Mr. Blank teaches entrepreneurship at the University of California Berkeley, Columbia University, New York University and Stanford University. Named to the Thinkers50 list of top management thinkers and recognized by the Harvard Business Review as one of 12 Masters of innovation, Steve is also Senior Fellow for Entrepreneurship at Columbia University. This is his first honorary doctorate.

Dr. Carol Lillian Richards

Trailblazer in stroke research and care
Wednesday, May 31 (12:30 p.m. ceremony)

Dr. Carol Richards has always been ahead of her time. One of the first physiotherapists in Canada to earn a doctorate, she led the charge to position physiotherapy as a valid contributor to basic and clinical research, greatly advancing the field as an academic discipline and improving the lives of stroke survivors in Canada and worldwide.

Dr. Richards has a BSc in Physical Therapy from McGill University, an MSc in Rehabilitation Science from the University of Saskatchewan and a PhD from McGill in Experimental Surgery. She was founding director of two Québec rehabilitation agencies: the Québec Rehabilitation Research Network (REPAR) and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS). Her work has revolutionized the way patients and families are treated, placing knowledge translation at the heart of stroke care research in Canada.

Today, she is a Professor at Université Laval, researcher at CIRRIS and the Québec Rehabilitation Institute and holds the Université Laval Research Chair in Cerebral Palsy. She is a past Canada Research Chair in Rehabilitation. Among her many honours are the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Edith Aston Memorial Lectureship at McGill in 2013 and the exceptional contribution award from the Quebec Foundation for Heart and Stroke. She is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, an Officer of the Order of Canada and holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Ottawa and Sherbrooke.

Dr. Nergis Mavalvala

Pushing the boundaries of human knowledge — and for greater diversity in the sciences.
Friday, June 2 (9 a.m. ceremony)

Physicist Dr. Nergis Mavalvala has been a key part of the team at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) for more than two decades. Recently, the ultrasensitive LIGO telescope captured one of the most significant scientific discoveries of our time: the first observation of the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

From Karachi, Pakistan, Dr. Mavalvala came to the United States to study at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she earned a degree in Physics and Astronomy and graduated Magna cum Laude. This was followed by a PhD in Physics at MIT, were she developed a theory for and experimentally demonstrated the automatic alignment sensing and control system now used in Initial LIGO detectors. Dr. Mavalvala joined the faculty at MIT in 2002 and today is Marble Professor of Astrophysics.

Dr. Mavalvala describes herself as an “out, queer person of color,” and has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting diversity in the sciences. She is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and of the American Physical Society, which awarded her the Joseph Keithley Prize in 2013. She won the MIT School of Science Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2012, and the Edgerton Award for Faculty Achievement at MIT in 2007, and was co-recipient of the 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. And in 2010, she received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, a research prize commonly referred to as a “Genius Grant.”

Dr. Kenneth G. Davey

A prolific insect researcher who has shaped Canada’s research landscape
Friday, June 2 (4 p.m. ceremony)

Dr. Kenneth G. Davey is a Canadian biologist who for the past 60 years has exercised a prolific and profound influence on his own field of insect physiology and on how research is funded, organized and shared in Canada. He is known worldwide for his contributions to the fields of biology, entomology, endocrinology and physiology.

After earning both a BSc and an MSc in zoology from the University of Western Ontario, and a PhD in insect physiology from Cambridge University, Dr. Davey became Director of the Institute of Parasitology at McGill University. In 1974 he moved to York University, becoming Chair of the Department of Biology, Dean of Science, Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Fellow of the Institute of Social Research. Since 2000, Dr. Davey has been a Distinguished Research Professor of Biology Emeritus. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and mentored more than 60 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. He has served extensively as an advisor and committee member for NSERC, CIHR, the Networks of Centres of Excellence and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and his contributions as an editor at the Canadian Journal of Zoology span 30 years.

Dr. Davey is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. He has won three Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medals, is an Officer of the Order of Canada and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Western Ontario.

Ms. Chantal St-Cyr Hébert

Nationally-renowned journalist, political commentator and author
Saturday, June 3 (9 a.m. ceremony)

Journalist, commentator and author Chantal St-Cyr Hébert is one of the most respected and authoritative figures in the Canadian media landscape, contributing her razor-sharp intellect and astute analysis to her work in newspaper, television and radio. Ms. Hébert’s ability to communicate with equal precision in both official languages affords her a unique perspective on the political and social tides that have shaped recent Canadian politics and history.

Ms. Hébert earned a BA in Political Science from York University. Her journalism career began with Radio-Canada, CBC’s French language service, and eventually led to covering federal politics on Parliament Hill. She has also served as Parliamentary bureau chief for Le Devoir and La Presse. Today, Ms. Hébert writes for the Toronto Star and L’Actualité, and is a regular member of The National’s At Issue panel on CBC television. She has written two books: French Kiss: Stephen Harper’s Blind Date with Québec and The Morning After: The 1995 Québec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was.

Chantal Hébert’s awards include the 2005 Public Service Citation of the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX), a 2014 National Magazine Award (gold) and the 2006 Hy Soloman Award for Excellence in Public Policy Journalism. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has been awarded several honorary doctorates, including from Bishop’s, York, Concordia, Mount Saint Vincent and the University of Western Ontario. She is also a Senior Fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto.

Ms. Ferne Downey

Achievement on stage and screen and in labour leadership behind-the-scenes
Saturday, June 3 (12:30 p.m. ceremony)

Achieving a long and productive career as a working actor, playwright, script editor and theatre producer is impressive. When you combine that career with more than 25 years of local, national and international labour leadership — as Dal Theatre graduate Ferne Downey has — it’s extraordinary.

Ms. Downey’s screen credits include numerous feature films and television series, and she has specialized in producing new Canadian plays and musicals, notably Dream a Little Dream: The Nearly True Story of The Mamas and The Papas. She has served as President of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the union representing performers working in English-language recorded media in Canada, since 2008. The first person to ever serve four consecutive two-year terms in her role, Ms. Downey has made remarkable progress in collective bargaining, public policy reform, and the advancement of equality, diversity and inclusivity in the screen industry.

Ms. Downey was elected President of the International Federation of Actors (FIA) in 2012 (re-elected in 2016), which represents more than 100 performers’ unions in 75 countries. She is the first North American to hold this position. She has also been Vice-President on the Executive Council of the Canadian Labour Congress since 2011, and in 2012 graduated from the Harvard Trade Union Leadership Program. This is Ferne Downey’s first honorary degree.


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