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Dalhousie University celebrates nine extraordinary individuals with honorary degrees at spring convocation ceremonies

Posted by Media Centre on April 20, 2017 in News

(Halifax, NS) – Dalhousie University’s spring convocation ceremonies are a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our students. Each year through the awarding of honorary degrees, Dalhousie also recognizes 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 12, 2017 in Truro and running from May 26 to June 3, 2017 in Halifax. Dalhousie is pleased to recognize the following individuals with honorary degrees:

Dr. Lan Siren
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. 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.

Dr. Lan is also a leader in international cooperation for education and research. In his time as President of FAFU, he has strengthened his institution’s long partnership with Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture through articulation agreements and FAFU’s Overseas Education College.

Dr. Ronald D. Stewart
Dr. Ronald 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 an MD from Dalhousie and is a long-time faculty member at the university. He has devoted much of his career to developing training and standards for paramedics, and designing and implementing systems for emergency medical care.

While working as the Medical Director of Pittsburg’s Department of Public Safety he 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. As Director of Medical Humanities at Dalhousie from 2004 to 2009, 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.

Elizabeth Cromwell
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. Cromwell’s tenacity, vision and determination has ensured the rich story of Black Loyalist endurance and resilience is being told.

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. Under her leadership, the BLHS also won a Race Relations and Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Steve Blank
Author and educator Steve Blank 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 best seller, 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, 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.

Dr. Carol Lillian Richards
One of the first physiotherapists in Canada to earn a doctorate, Dr. Richards 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.

A professor at Université Laval, Dr. Richards 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.

Dr. Nergis Mavalvala
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. In her PhD in Physics at MIT, she developed a theory for and experimentally demonstrated the automatic alignment sensing and control system now used in Initial LIGO detectors. Dr. Mavalvala, who is now Marble Professor of Astrophysics at MIT, describes herself as an “out, queer person of color” and has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting diversity in the sciences. She has received many awards and honours for her achievements including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, a research prize commonly referred to as a “Genius Grant.”

Dr. Kenneth G. Davey
Dr. Kenneth George 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.

In 1974 Dr. Davey began a long and prestigious career at York University. He has held many positions including Chair of the Department of Biology, Dean of Science, Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Fellow of the Institute of Social Research at York University. 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.

Chantal St-Cyr Hébert
Journalist, commentator and author Chantal St-Cyr Hébert is one of the most respected and authoritative figures in the Canadian media landscape. Hébert’s ability to communicate in both official languages affords her a unique perspective on the political and social tides that have shaped recent Canadian politics and history.

Her journalism career began with Radio-Canada 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, Hébert writes for the Toronto Star and L’Actualité, and is a regular member of The National’s At Issue panel on CBC television.

Ferne Downey
A Dal Theatre graduate, Ferne Downey has had a long and productive career as a working actor, playwright, script editor and theatre producer. She also has 25 years of local, national and international labour leadership under her belt.

Downey’s screen credits include numerous feature films and television series. 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) since 2008. Downey has made remarkable progress in collective bargaining, public policy reform, and the advancement of equality, diversity and inclusivity in the screen industry. In 2012, she was elected President of the International Federation of Actors (FIA).

To read each recipients’ full biography, please visit Dal News.

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Media Contacts
Lindsay Dowling
Media Relations Officer
Dalhousie University

Janet Bryson
Senior Communications Advisor
Dalhousie University


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