Nov. 26, 2020

Meet our fall 2020 honorary degree recipients

Recipients will address Class of 2020 at today’s virtual convocation ceremonies
Honorary degree recipients 2020
Honorary degree recipients 2020

This year’s honorary degree recipients will share their personal experiences and advice with the graduating class of 2020 at this evening’s virtual convocation ceremonies, which will be available to view starting at 6 p.m.

The honorary degree is the University of Calgary’s highest academic honour, bestowed upon individuals whose notable achievements and community service merit recognition. Normally, recipients are awarded their degrees and deliver their speeches onstage as part of the live ceremonies, but this year, due to the pandemic, they recorded their convocation addresses from various locations in Canada and the United States. Their videos have been incorporated into the virtual ceremonies.

  • Photo above, clockwise from top left: Jean Grand-Maître, William de Wit, Cindy Blackstock, Timothy Caulfield, Jo'Anne Strekaf, Maria Klawe.

Meet UCalgary’s fall 2020 honorary degree recipients

Madam Justice Jo'Anne Strekaf, BAdmin, LLB, LLM
Addressing convocation for the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, and the Werklund School of Education

The Honourable Madam Justice Jo'Anne Strekaf was appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in 2007 and a Justice of the Courts of Appeal of Alberta, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in 2016, after practising law at Bennett Jones LLP in Calgary beginning in 1980. Prior to her judicial appointment, she was recognized nationally and internationally as one of Canada’s leading competition/antitrust lawyers.

In 1996, concerned that there was no school in Calgary that would meet the needs of her daughter who had been diagnosed with autism, Strekaf joined with several other Calgary families to establish the Janus Academy, which operates a specialized school for children with autism. Strekaf was president of the Janus Academy Society from 1996 to 2005, then remained on the board until 2007. The Janus Academy currently provides specialized education for 63 children on the autism spectrum from Grades 1 to 12.

In 2012, Strekaf worked with a group of other parents, the Janus Academy and the Sinneave Family Foundation to develop a community-based day program for young adults with autism.

Strekaf is the proud mother of three adult children and longtime partner of John Wilson. 

Jean Grand-Maître, C.M.  
Addressing convocation for the Faculty of Arts and the Haskayne School of Business

As the artistic director of Alberta Ballet, Jean Grand-Maître has developed the organization into one of Canada’s premier dance companies, committed to an artistic vision of powerfully exciting live dance. 

Known as one of the most outstanding Canadian choreographers and artistic directors of his generation, Grand-Maître is best known for his contemporary works, though he strongly believes in the traditional ballet repertoire as well. 

In 2007, he premiered a contemporary ballet created in collaboration with singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell — the first ballet in what would become a signature series for Alberta Ballet, featuring close collaborations with Elton John, k.d. lang, Sarah McLachlan, Gordon Lightfoot, and The Tragically Hip.

Grand- Maître was the director of choreography for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. He has created award-winning contemporary ballets for renowned ensembles such as the Paris Opera, La Scala, the Stuttgart Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Munich Opera House and the National Norwegian Ballet.  

In 2018, Grand-Maître was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of his creative contributions as a choreographer and for his leadership as the artistic director of Alberta Ballet.

Professor Timothy Caulfield, BSc, LLB, LLM
Addressing convocation for the Cumming School of Medicine, the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Timothy Caulfield is a Canada research chair in Health Law and Policy, a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. An internationally recognized leader in the areas of health law and science policy, Caulfield is known for his spectacular productivity and ability to engage a wide range of audiences.

Caulfield specializes in legal, policy and ethical issues in medical research and its commercialization. His interdisciplinary research on topics like stem cells, genetics, research ethics, public representations of science, and health policy issues has allowed him to publish more than 350 academic articles.

He is the author of several books and the host and co-producer of A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, an award-winning documentary TV series, which has been shown in over 60 countries and streamed on Netflix. Caulfield has become renowned and internationally respected for fighting the rise and spread of pseudoscience and misinformation in a variety of health and science policy domains.

In recognition of his research’s impact, he has been named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Trudeau Foundation.

Justice William de Wit, LLB
Addressing convocation for the Faculty of Kinesiology and the Faculty of Law

The Honourable Justice William de Wit was appointed as a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in 2017.

Before pursuing the profession of law, de Wit was a heavyweight boxer. His storied athletic career culminated in a silver medal won in heavyweight boxing at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. By the time he retired from active participation in the sport at age 27, he was known as one of Canada's most outstanding amateur boxers.

After finishing law school in 1994, de Wit began his law career working in criminal justice. He was a fierce advocate for all those he represented and was respected for his depth of knowledge and professionalism. To recognize his exceptional performance as a lawyer, in 2014, de Wit was appointed to the Queen’s Counsel.

Throughout his legal career, de Wit has contributed to the training and education of those young lawyers following in his footsteps, and consistently assisted and contributed to national legal training programs. He has continuously given back to his community, working as a member of the board of directors for Calgary’s Inn from the Cold, a volunteer for many of his children’s sporting teams and a regular volunteer on influential committees within the criminal law bar.

Dr. Cindy Blackstock, PhD
Addressing convocation for the Faculty of Nursing and the Faculty of Social Work

A member of the Gitxsan First Nation, Cindy Blackstock is honoured to serve as the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and a professor at McGill University’s School of Social Work. She has over 30 years of experience working in child welfare and Indigenous children’s rights and has published on topics relating to reconciliation, Indigenous theory, First Nations child welfare and human rights. Blackstock was honoured to work with First Nations colleagues on a successful human rights challenge to Canada’s inequitable provision of child and family services and failure to implement Jordan’s Principle. This hard-fought litigation has resulted in hundreds of thousands of services being provided to First Nations children, youth and families.

She recently served on the Pan American Health Commission on Health Equity and Inequity and fundamentally believes that culturally based equity is fundamental to meaningful reconciliation. Blackstock is frequently sighted in the company of the Caring Society’s reconciliation Am-bear-rister, Spirit Bear, engaging children in meaningful actions to implement the TRC Calls to Action.

Dr. Maria Klawe, BSc, PhD
Addressing convocation for the Schulich School of Engineering

Maria Klawe is the president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, a role which represents the culmination and continuation of a long career in science and engineering leadership, excellence in scholarship, and advocacy for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

With research interests extending to multiple areas of mathematics and computer science, Klawe has crossed disciplinary lines throughout her career — from discrete mathematics to algorithm design, from educational technology to human‐computer interaction. Following her friend’s brain cancer diagnosis, Klawe formed the Aphasia Project at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The project resulted in an assist device which allowed greater independence for those with aphasia and inspired a partnership between UBC and Princeton University, where Klawe later became the dean of engineering.

Klawe’s research work has been recognized by the Canadian Association of Computer Science and the Computing Research Association, among others. She was ranked 17 on the Fortune Magazine 50 Greatest Leaders list and received the 2014 Women of Vision ABIE Award and the 2001 Wired Woman Pioneer Award. In 2015, Klawe was inducted into the US News STEM Solutions Leadership Hall of Fame.

Nominations for Honorary Degree and Order of the University of Calgary recipients are open year-round.

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