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Innovators, Philanthropists, Leaders, Educators and Activists: ‑“ Dalhousie University bestows honorary degrees to eight extraordinary individuals

Posted by Media Centre on April 19, 2018 in News

(HALIFAX, N.S.) – Each spring Dalhousie University celebrates the accomplishments of its students during its convocation ceremonies. From May 28 – June 2, at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium at Dalhousie University in Halifax, the university will also present honorary degrees to eight extraordinary individuals who have demonstrated service to their community and made significant progress in their fields.

Dalhousie is pleased to recognize the following individuals with honorary degrees:

Dr. Thomas J. Marrie
Accomplished physician, researcher and university leader
Monday, May 28 – 9 a.m. ceremony

From humble beginnings as a family physician in his home province of Newfoundland, Dr. Thomas J. Marrie has crafted a truly illustrious career as a medical researcher, teacher, administrator and clinician. A graduate of Memorial University and Dalhousie Medical School, Dr. Marrie spent more than two decades at Dalhousie, becoming Professor of Medicine and founding the Division of Infectious Diseases before leaving for the University of Alberta in 2004 to serve as Dean of Medicine and Dentistry. He returned to Dal in 2009 to become the university’s 12th Dean of Medicine, and during his tenure (which ran until 2015) his leadership secured the integrity of the medical school and revised its curriculum to a leading standard in North America. Dr. Marrie coordinated the opening of Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick in Saint John and was instrumental in establishing the J.D. Irving Ltd. Chair in Occupational Medicine.


Dr. Cindy Blackstock

A global force in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights
Monday, May 28 – 12:30 p.m. ceremony

A member of the Gitxsan First Nation in northwest British Columbia, Cindy Blackstock has made an unparalleled contribution to the advancement of human rights for Indigenous children and families in Canada. She is best known as the driving force behind a 2007 complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act charging that Canada discriminates against Indigenous children by underfunding child and family services on reserves. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found the complaint had merit, and ordered the federal government to cease its discriminatory practices.

Dr. Blackstock is Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Professor in the School of Social Work at McGill University. She has contributed to several UN initiatives, including collaborating with other Indigenous leaders to support development of a General Comment on the Rights of Indigenous children, and is a Commissioner for the Pan American Health Organization Commission on Health Equity and Inequity.

Dr. Jack D. Gerrow

A lasting legacy in dentistry education
Monday, May 28 – 4 p.m. ceremony

Dr. Jack D. Gerrow has made a profound and lasting mark on how dentistry is taught and evaluated, both in Canada and abroad. As the Chair and Registrar of the National Dental Examining Board (NDEB) for 24 years, he used scientific methods to increase the quality and fairness of evaluations and licensing exams, developing techniques that have been adopted internationally. As a Dalhousie professor, Dr. Gerrow was instrumental in implementing a zero-based curriculum review, a process which involves starting with a blank slate and rebuilding the curriculum from the ground up. He tirelessly advocated for the evaluation of dental competencies, the specific skillsets that dental students must demonstrate before becoming independent practitioners.

S. I. Rustum Southwell
Supporting Black entrepreneurship and community leadership
Tuesday, May 29 – 9 a.m. ceremony

A passionate community leader, S. I. Rustum Southwell is best known as the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Black Business Initiative (BBI), an organization that addresses the specific needs of the Black business community in Halifax. He has shepherded the creation and expansion of hundreds of Black-owned and operated businesses. From 1996 to 2012, Mr. Southwell led the BBI, taking it from a fledgling organization to an integral part of the economic and entrepreneurial landscape of this province. Two years ago, he returned as Interim CEO.

Mr. Southwell came to Halifax more than 45 years ago from the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, and studied at Dalhousie before starting a career in food service. He became one of the first Black franchisees in Nova Scotia as the owner-operator of a Harvey’s restaurant in Halifax. He has chaired the board of Hope Blooms Youth Ventures Inc., vice-chaired the Caribbean Association of Nova Scotia, co-chaired the African Heritage Month Committee, and has been involved with the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, the Black Cultural Society and the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children Strategic Planning Workgroup.

Lynn Clark Irving
A transformative leader in business and philanthropy
Wednesday, May 30 – 4 p.m. ceremony

As chair of the medical research capital campaign for Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, Lynn Clark Irving made it possible for all medical students at Dalhousie to learn best practices in workplace health and safety and occupational wellness. Of the incredible $15 million raised by this campaign, $5 million was earmarked to fund the J.D. Irving Ltd. Chair in Occupational Medicine, Canada’s first fully endowed chair in this field. Mrs. Irving’s extensive service to Dalhousie includes sitting on the Board of Governors from 2003 to 2012, during which she was an integral part of the Bold Ambitions Leadership Council that helped raise $280 million for the university. She also has served on Board of the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation since 2016.

Dr. Robert H. Frank
Renowned economic scholar and commentator
Friday, June 1 – 9 a.m. ceremony

As a clear-eyed commentator, accomplished scholar and gifted teacher, Robert H. Frank has advanced economic thought by combining insights from evolutionary biology, psychology and economics. His work reminds us that we have the power to turn back the tide of rising economic and democratic inequality.

Dr. Frank has authored more than a dozen books, including The Winner-Take-All Society. Co-authored with Philip Cook, it has garnered several awards, including the New York Times Notable Book of the Year and the San Francisco Review of Books Critics Choice Award. His writing has appeared hundreds of times in professional journals and popular publications, including the New York Times, where his “Economic View” column appeared every five weeks for more than a decade.


Dr. Peter William O’Hearn
Innovation that has transformed programming theory and practice
Saturday, June 2 – 9 a.m. ceremony

Innovation has been and continues to be the hallmark of Dr. Peter William O’Hearn’s academic career. His research in the areas of programming languages and mathematical logic led to the invention of Separation Logic, and more recently Concurrent Separation Logic—theories that underlie programs to automatically check other software for errors and have opened up entire fields of research. He has also been a leader in putting theory into practice: his software analysis tool, Infer, has been used to improve and find errors in software used by companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Uber. In 2009, he co-founded software development company Monoidics Ltd., which developed the Infer Static Analyzer and was later acquired by Facebook. Staying on as a manager engineering, in 2015 Dr. O’Hearn and his team made Infer open source software free to developers everywhere.


Dr. John Ralston Saul
Prolific Canadian author and advocate
Saturday, June 2 – 12:30 p.m. ceremony

Dr. John Ralston Saul is a prolific writer, thinker, public intellectual and advocate for active and engaged citizenship. He has deeply influenced how we consider issues of history and identity. Dr. Ralston Saul has published 14 books of fiction and non-fiction alongside dozens of other essays, reports, and contributions to anthologies. He is General Editor of the Penguin Extraordinary Canadians project, served as president of PEN International from 2009 to 2015, and is the founder and Honorary Chair of French for the Future. He co-founded and now co-chairs the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a national charity that inspires Canadians to be inclusive, embrace fresh thinking and practise active citizenship. He considers the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to be the defining question of our time.


More information on Dalhousie University’s Honorary Degree recipients may be found on Dal News.


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Media Contact:

Lindsay Savelle

Media Relations Officer

Dalhousie University

902-494-4189



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