Introducing Dal's honorary degree recipients for Fall Convocation 2017

- September 21, 2017

Left to right: Fall 2017 honorary degree recipients Dr. Susan Sherwin, Michael Burns and Dr. Michael I. Posner. (Provided photos)
Left to right: Fall 2017 honorary degree recipients Dr. Susan Sherwin, Michael Burns and Dr. Michael I. Posner. (Provided photos)

Another class of impressive Dalhousie graduates are set to walk across the stage of the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. Dalhousie Fall Convocation 2017 takes place on Monday, October 2 and Tuesday October 3 at the Dalhousie Arts Centre in Halifax.

More info: Convocation website

Joining Dal's new graduates will be three exceptional individuals who will receive the highest honour the university can bestow: an honorary doctorate. As outlined by the Dalhousie Senate, the degrees honour "both the individual and the University and contributes to the recognition and celebration of excellence in society in a manner that reflects the University's character and values within the community and the world."

Read more about each of this fall's honorary degree recipients below.

Dr. Susan Sherwin

A celebrated philosopher and trailblazer in feminist health ethics
Monday, October 2 (12:30 p.m. ceremony)

Dr. Susan Sherwin, Dalhousie Professor Emerita, is one of Canada’s preeminent women philosophers. Her groundbreaking 1992 book, No Longer Patient: Feminist Ethics and Health Care, has been described as a “landmark event,” credited with helping define the entire field of feminist bioethics.

Following her doctoral studies at Stanford — where she wrote the first philosophy dissertation in the U.S. on the ethics of feminism — she arrived at Dalhousie as the Department of Philosophy’s first ever female faculty member. Through the celebrated career that followed, her work took weighty issues such as abortion, reproductive technology, and paternalism in the patient-physician relationship and recast them from a feminist perspective. Her research highlighted the impact of discrimination and was defined by a feminist commitment to redressing all forms of oppression.

Dr. Sherwin has been a leader on campus and in the community. The first woman to serve as Chair of the Department of Philosophy, she was instrumental in developing Dal’s Women’s Studies program (now Gender and Women’s Studies), twice serving as its Coordinator. She was the first woman President of the Dalhousie Faculty Association and was a founding member of the Dalhousie Women Faculty Organization. She served on the Board of Directors of Halifax Transition House, was part of the first equity committee of the Canadian Philosophical Association, and was a founding member of the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy.

In 2006, Dr. Sherwin received the prestigious Killam Prize in the Humanities from the Canada Council for the Arts. She is a fellow in the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Bioethics Society. In 2004 she was named a Distinguished Women Philosopher by the American Society for Women in Philosophy, and in 2015 Dr. Sherwin was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Michael Burns

A business leader with a passion for supporting soldiers and veterans
Tuesday, October 3 (9 a.m. ceremony)

Canadian business leader Michael Burns has spent years working to help lighten the load for soldiers and military veterans and their families. His philanthropic leadership as co-founder of the True Patriot Love Foundation has resulted in millions of dollars raised to improve the health and well-being of military personnel and veterans. And as CEO of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, Mr. Burns has provided an even bigger platform for celebrating the spirit, drive and determination of soldiers and veterans from around the world.

Mr. Burns has more than 20 years of leadership experience in marketing, financial services, entrepreneurship, and technology, having served as president of two investment management companies, in vice-presidential roles at others, and as a co-founder of firms in both the wealth management and e-commerce sectors. Most recently, Mr. Burns worked as Vice-President, Corporate Development of AudienceView, an industry leader in intelligent ticketing and e-commerce.

Mr. Burns took a leave of absence from AudienceView to serve as CEO of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, the largest international adaptive sport competition in the world for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans. His work with the True Patriot Love Foundation has raised more than $23 million to support soldiers and veterans’ programs for mental health, physical rehabilitation, career transition, and family services.

Mr. Burns is Chair of the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation Board (formerly the Toronto East General Hospital Board Foundation) and helped lead the team that secured the largest gift ever made to a Canadian community-teaching hospital. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Toronto venues Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall. Among the awards and honours Mr. Burns has received are the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service.

Dr. Michael I. Posner

Helping unlock the mysteries of the mind and brain
Tuesday, October 3 (12:30 p.m. ceremony)

Dr. Michael Posner’s contributions to experiential psychology and cognitive neuroscience have had a seminal influence on generations of brain scientists, dramatically improving our understanding of the mind and brain.

After completing his PhD in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 1962 and a brief stint University of Wisconsin, Dr. Posner joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon in 1965. His early work revolutionized the understanding of some of our most important cognitive capabilities—research that set the stage for an expansion of this approach to nearly every aspect of human cognition. Later, Dr. Posner’s collaborative research illuminated the information-processing steps people take in pursing cognitive goals and provided a way to map these “mental operations” onto the physical brain.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Posner served as a visiting professor at several universities and was founding director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in 1998, a leader in the investigation of how brain development results in growing cognitive capabilities. Now Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon, Dr. Posner has continued his research, exploring how types of instruction and meditation may affect the development of self-control, attentional and other intellectual processes in young children and adults.

Dr. Posner has has made his way to Dalhousie several times over the years for various lectures and symposia, including delivering the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience’s annual D.O. Hebb Memorial Lecture in 2000. Dr. Posner has 10 honorary degrees from institutions around the globe, was awarded the Medal of Science in 2009 by U.S. President Barack Obama, and received the 2017 Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science.


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