2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence sends enthralled audience into ‘La La Land’
From inspiring stories of helping those in need to well-deserved accolades for innovators and mentors who improve our lives, the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence highlighted amazing graduates who have taken their places as leaders in our community and around the world.
Regarding the evening, President Dr. David Barnard noted: “Tonight, we have shared the stories of people whose lives have been absorbed with contributing to the lives of others. We share them, because they are powerful. They are stories worthy of celebration in Canada’s 150th year, and they are a source of inspiration as we extend the University’s work beyond our 140th.”
Dr. Barnard continued: “These stories beg us to consider who we are, why we’re here and where we’re going. And they remind us that through community engagement, research and outstanding teaching, through scholarly work and creative contributions – the University of Manitoba is shaping the lives of individuals and the future of this province and nation.”
The sold-out crowd of almost 300 at the Metropolitan Theatre in downtown Winnipeg were treated to an incredible evening of music, dance, and visual delights. The audience was witness to the recognition of six outstanding individuals who strive to give back to their community and enhance the lives of others.
To begin the evening’s presentations, following the entrance of Their Honours, The Honourable Janice Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, and The Honourable Gary Filmon, former Premier of Manitoba, the event began with a spectacular performance by students and alumni from the Marcel Desautels Faculty of Music evoking the opening number of the Oscar-winning film La La Land. This Broadway-style opening number set the pace for the celebration to follow.
John Kearsey, Vice-President (External), gave opening remarks, noting: “It’s an incredible time at the University of Manitoba. Sometimes I feel like we’re in ‘La La Land’ in the best of ways. We’re celebrating our 140th anniversary at the same time that Canada marks its 150th.”
He continued: “We’re in the midst of the largest fundraising campaign in Manitoba’s history and we are grateful for the wonderful support we’ve received from around the world! When we launched the Front and Centre campaign we knew our community could make it happen and we thank you for helping to create a transformative change for our students, researchers, faculty and staff.”
The recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Awards are remarkable people who show us what it is like to reach for the stars and inspire us all through their self-sacrifice and determination to become the best they can be. They are alumni who display the best characteristics and traits of all who have graduated from the University of Manitoba.
The 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are:
SERVICE TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA
Isabella Wiebe [BMR(OT)/86]
Presented by His Worship Brian Bowman [BA(Adv)/96], Mayor of the City of Winnipeg
Reva Stone [BA/68, BFA(Hons)/85]
Presented by Robert Houle [BA/72, DLitt/14]
Sr. Lesley Sacouman [BA/75]
Presented by The Honourable Janice Filmon CM, OM [BScHEc/63, LLD/11], Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba
John Patkau, CM [BA/69, BES/69, MArch/72] and Patricia Patkau, CM [BID/73]
Presented by Harvey Secter [BComm/67, LLB/92], Chancellor, University of Manitoba
OUTSTANDING YOUNG ALUMNI
Desiree Scott [BA/16]
Presented by Wilfred Sam-King Jr., Vice-President (External), University of Manitoba Students’ Union
The 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence recognized an impressive array of alumni achievements from the design of the award (by jeweller and alumna Hilary Druxman [BA/85]) to the outstanding entertainment. The night featured inspiring performances by students, alumni and faculty of the Desautels Faculty of Music and the Rady Sings Faculty of Medicine Choir.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CELEBRATION
This year, the award for Service to the University of Manitoba was presented to Isabella Wiebe, an occupational therapist by profession, who mentors students in the university’s Career Mentor Program, helping them find their way in life.
His Worship, Mayor Brian Bowman, U of M alumnus and Past-President of the Alumni Association, introduced Ms. Wiebe. He noted: “Isabella is an inspiring teacher, a devoted mentor, and an enthusiastic ambassador for the University of Manitoba and its students.”
Only a teenager when she came to Winnipeg from Brooklyn, New York, Ms. Wiebe said her time as a University of Manitoba student was the catalyst for the life of service she lives today. She came into her own, discovered who she was, and fell in love with the city that became her home. Years later, Ms. Wiebe found a way to guide other students on their journeys. For more than 20 years, as a mentor with the university’s Career Mentor Program, she has worked with more students than any one of the program’s 700 other volunteers. She works with students who don’t know what they’d like to study and helps them align their values with a fulfilling career.
Accepting her award, Ms. Wiebe said: “When I was six, I had two dreams: to be a mother and a teacher. I am happy to say I have been blessed on both accounts. When I began university, teaching jobs were hard to come by. I was strongly advised against teaching, but I like to help people to achieve their goals.”
She noted: “People do the most amazing things when they have someone who believes in them. I want to create that safe environment, that environment with encouragement that builds confidence and gives them the opportunities to take risks… and just blossom.”
This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement was digital and electronic visual artist Reva Stone.
Ms. Stone’s articulate vision and provoking artworks have helped to define the genre of new media. Her large-scale installations use technology to comment on the constantly changing relationship between human and machine. She also explores science and technology in her artwork while her audience grapples with concepts, such as what it means to be human.
Presenting the award was U of M alumnus, Honorary Degree recipient and winner of a 2015 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, Robert Houle.
Houle noted: “At 72 years old, Reva has been creating thought-provoking and compelling work as a solo artist for three decades. Trust me, that is an enormous accomplishment. She has received numerous awards and grants, including the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2015.”
He added: “She has extended support and mentorship to many aspiring artists as was once done for her. As a professional artist, Reva hasn’t chosen the easiest path—she has chosen to blaze trails.”
In accepting her award, Ms. Stone said: “My degree from the School of Art made the biggest impact on me, as it changed the direction of my life. I felt like I was at home. When I was a young woman in my thirties, I struggled to find my place in the world. While at the School of Art, I pushed boundaries. I discovered I was comfortable taking big risks. I observed the world, which was the source of my ideas.”
She explained: “In my work, I talk about how technology and cultural systems are changing over time. I’m very interested in the impact it has on us being human.”
The 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service was then presented to Sister Lesley Sacouman.
Sr. Lesley Sacouman co-founded Rossbrook House as a safe place for children to gather during evenings and weekends. In 2004, she opened the Holy Names House of Peace to provide immigrant and refugee women in Winnipeg a home and sense of family. She also helped found an education and employment training program for Indigenous youth, and Esther House, a safe home for women dealing with addiction.
Presenting the award to Sr. Sacouman was Past-President of the Alumni Association, Honorary Degree recipient, Distinguished Alumni Award recipient and The Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, The Honourable Janice Filmon.
Her Honour said: “When Sister Lesley Sacouman was completing her arts degree at the University of Manitoba, she had already entered Sisters of the Holy Names. I can just picture her, in habit, running to classes on campus and back home again to the inner city where she lived, already pursuing her life’s work, giving people security and affection.”
Her Honour added: “Sister Sacouman said that at the university she gained the confidence to become the founder and leader of Rossbrook House, Anishinaabe Oway–Ishi, Esther House, and the Holy Names House of Peace. And in turn, she has shared confidence, kindness, help and hope with Winnipeg’s homeless, addicts, refugees and new immigrants.”
Sister Sacouman came onstage to accept the award, speaking about how her experience at the U of M shaped her later life.
Regarding her founding of the Holy Names House of Peace in Winnipeg, she said: “I don’t think any of us heal in chaos and filth. This place is a home that is peaceful and that’s the atmosphere women need, especially our immigrant and refugee women who have left their home, left their families, and are hurting deep inside. When we walk out of the building, we’re far more prepared to create a world community because we live together.”
She added: “I accept this award on behalf of my distinguished teachers and mentors, and the children of Rossbrook House with their trusting eyes and courage, who defied me to walk with them. And the newcomer women at the House of Peace here tonight who daily dare me to taste their pain and to touch their joy.”
The next presentation was for this year’s recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement, Patricia and John Patkau.
The Patkau’s chose to pursue projects that reflect and support society. Since establishing Patkau Architects in 1978 they have brought their juxtaposition of culture, connection and community to high-profile and meaningful projects across the globe—from schools, colleges and universities to galleries, community centres and bridges.
Introducing them, Chancellor Harvey Secter said: “I enjoy a good love story; the University of Manitoba is where the Patkau’s began building their magnanimous connection and career. Married 43 years, they demonstrate a rare commitment to both personal and professional success. Their own lifestyle—one that promotes creative freedom, opportunity for risk, a love of nature and time to refresh—reflects the same principles they espouse in design.
Secter noted that the Patkau’s are arguably Canada’s preeminent architects, shaping skylines, designing small, intimate spaces like skating shelters on Winnipeg’s Red River and cocoons in Tokyo, and grand projects like the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, and the U of M’s Taché Arts Project, all contributing to their international reputation for excellence.
John Patkau began by talking about his family’s struggles to emigrate to Canada from Russia. He noted: “Today, we are able to enjoy rewarding lives and careers, given our modest origins. This was only possible through the generosity of Canadian society, whose virtues can never be taken for granted, especially in times such as these.”
Patricia Patkau explained how their shared life experience shaped their professional work: “Our practice is very interested in form, light and space, and how they can enrich people’s daily lives. We look at the relationships between things and consider the interests of communities and politics, including the relationship of the environment, which is a very complex situation.”
Next on stage was Wilfred Sam-King, Bison athlete, aspiring Olympian, and University of Manitoba Students’ Union Vice-President, External. He introduced the Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Young Alumni, which went to Olympic athlete Desiree Scott.
Ms. Scott is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and has played in more than 100 games internationally. Known as “The Destroyer,” she is adored by fans for her tenacity on the field. Scott is the U of M’s most esteemed soccer player and continues to hold the record for most points and assists in a Bison career. She is an enthusiastic ambassador for KidSport Winnipeg and hosts an annual soccer camp for young girls.
Sam-King explained: “Desiree challenges athletes, and fellow Bison, to push ourselves, to compete and excel in our sport. She inspires us to nurture talent and believe in dreams—both others’ and our own. Elite athletes can often become obsessed with every aspect of our performance and success. Desiree reminds us that we don’t have to compromise competitiveness to change course and give back.”
Desiree Scott accepted the award, saying: “This is truly an honour. I have so much pride for where I come from. The U of M has been a big part of my journey, even though books were not always for me. Soccer was much more my forte.”
She continued: “My years at university went by very quickly, with a full course load and training full time. But those years on and off the soccer pitch were the best of my life. Sport University taught me so much about life balance. That struggles are part of success, and that hard work truly does pay off if you have enough fire and passion.”
She concluded by saying: “I’m proud to be a University of Manitoba Bison, a graduate and part of a community of distinguished alumni who truly are the greatest.”
Following the award presentation to Ms. Scott, the evening concluded with an uplifting performance of The World’s Greatest by R. Kelly, with singers on stage and throughout the theatre, combining with a choir comprised of 30 students, alumni and faculty, culminating in a grand finale. Confetti cannons signalled the conclusion of the celebratory evening, leaving the audience anticipating next year’s awards event as they enjoyed the reception that followed.