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Dalhousie University celebrates spring 2016 honorary degree recipients

Posted by Media Centre on April 25, 2016 in News


(Halifax, NS) – Dalhousie University’s May Convocation ceremonies are a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and, through the awarding of honorary degrees, acknowledge extraordinary individuals who’ve demonstrated service to society, made significant contributions to their field or have made significant contributions to the university.

This year nine individuals will be celebrated at Convocation ceremonies starting on May 13, 2016 in Truro and running from May 30 to June 4, 2016 in Halifax. Dalhousie is pleased to recognize the following individuals with honorary degrees:

The Honourable Mayann Francis: The Honourable Mayann Francis was the first African Nova Scotian to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, the first employment equity officer for Dalhousie University and the first Black woman to serve as assistant deputy minister to the Ontario Women’s Directorate. She was the first woman to hold the position of Nova Scotia provincial ombudsman and the first African Nova Scotian woman to serve as director and CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Dr. David Rhys Williams, OC: Dr. David Williams was chief resident physician in Emergency Medicine at the University of Toronto, Sunnybrook, when he told his superiors he intended to become an astronaut. In space, Dr. Williams conducted important experiments on the effects of microgravity on the brain and peripheral nervous system. The the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA, he has spent nearly 18 hours walking in space—a Canadian record. On Earth, Dr. Williams has also had a far-reaching impact on the practice of emergency medicine, with a formative influence on Nova Scotia’s emergency health system.

Alanis Obomsawin, OC: Alanis Obomsawin is one of the most respected, accomplished and prolific filmmakers in Canada. A member of the Abenaki Nation, her more than 30 documentaries capture the past and present of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, shining a spotlight on the historical and social conditions in which they live. She started her career as a professional singer, and joined the National Film Board of Canada in 1967.

Dr. Sallie W. Chisholm: Dr. Chisholm is perhaps best known for showing us that big things come in small packages. In 1988, she co-discovered Prochlorococcus, the Earth’s smallest and most abundant photosynthetic microorganism. Since 1976, Dr. Chisholm has been a faculty member at MIT, where she has earned the rank of institute professor, a position held by only one per cent of MIT faculty.

Jen Gehl: A world-renowned architect and urban design expert, Jan Gehl studies how we use public spaces, and working to re-establish human beings as the centre of city life. His philosophies for transforming urban public spaces are known as “Copenhagenization,” after the revolutionary work he did in turning that city’s high street into Europe’s longest pedestrian thoroughfare. Mr. Gehl’s work has touched cities all over the world including Stockholm, Rotterdam, London, Sydney, New York, Seattle and Moscow.

Professor Emeritus John H.V. Gilbert: Dr. John Gilbert’s career has two distinct chapters. In the first, he was a groundbreaking researcher and advocate in the field of speech language pathology and audiology. In the second, he has been a visionary leader in the field of interprofessional health education, pushing forward concepts that are now central to team-based collaborative patient-centred practice and part of health sciences training in universities, colleges and institutes across Canada. 

Marjorie A. Lindsay: As both a philanthropist and a lifelong volunteer, Marjorie Lindsay’s tremendous contributions to the social fabric of Nova Scotia have touched tens of thousands of lives. In the last few years, Mrs. Lindsay and her family have been responsible for some of the most substantial charitable contributions in Halifax, including a transformative 2014 donation in memory of her husband that will make the new John W. Lindsay YMCA a reality.

Matthai Mammen, MD, PhD: A gifted chemist, medical doctor, and researcher, Dr. Mathai Mammen is the co-founder and former senior vice-president of Research and Development of Theravance Biopharma in California. Dr. Mammen has called openly for increased cooperation amongst pharmaceutical companies and for regulators to look at new and more collaborative ways of developing drugs and promoting innovation. A proud Dal alumnus, Dr. Mammen is currently a senior vice-president at Merck.

David F. Sobey: As leader for many decades of the Sobey group of businesses, David Frank Sobey has had an enormous influence on the business community, higher education and charitable causes in Atlantic Canada. Mr. Sobey is a committed philanthropist and supporter of community projects. Through the private David and Faye Sobey Foundation, he and his wife support arts and culture, education and medical research.

More information on Dalhousie University’s Honorary Degree recipients may be found at:

Note: Dr. Sallie W. Chisholm (marine scientist, teacher and environmental advocate) was originally scheduled to be received an honorary degree this June. Unfortunately, due to unexpected circumstances, Dr. Chisholm is unable to attend Spring Convocation. Her degree presentation will be rescheduled for a future Convocation ceremony.



Lindsay Dowling
Communications Officer
Dalhousie University

Janet Bryson
Senior Communications Advisor
Dalhousie University









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