Defining moments celebrated at 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence
“Tonight is all about those moments in time that define how we have come to be where we are today.”
So declared former U of M Bison and NFL alumnus Israel Idonije to an enthusiastic crowd, as host of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in the grand Metropolitan Entertainment Centre in downtown Winnipeg. Recipients were: Jan Lederman [BA/74, LLB/77], Dr. Shayne Reitmeier [BSc(Maj)/13, MD/17], Tina Jones [BEd/89], Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum [BSc/86, MSc/88, PhD/92], and Paul Soubry [BComm(Hons)/84].
With a theme of Defining Moments, the evening began with a performance of One Moment in Time, by Desautels Faculty of Music student Elena Howard Scott, whose rendition of the Whitney Houston song began with words of aspiration: “Each day I live / I want to be / A day to give / The best of me.”
The recipient of a 2014 honorary degree from the U of M, Israel Idonije is a humanitarian, business leader, philanthropist, and community leader. He opened the evening by welcoming the crowd, stating: “What you must know is that I am a Bison. I am so proud to call the University of Manitoba my home and to be back here in Winnipeg tonight.”
“What you must know is that I am a Bison. I am so proud to call the University of Manitoba my home and to be back here in Winnipeg tonight.” – Israel Idonije
Introducing the evening’s theme, Idonije described his own defining moment, when in his third year of playing football at the U of M, he considered leaving the game to pursue other avenues. But his coaches, teammates, and friends challenged him and encouraged him to continue, and the result was his playing an amazing 11 years in the National Football League, changing his life forever.
Idonije continued: “I love hearing about people’s defining moments: the people who influenced them; the places that shaped them; the experiences that unexpectedly changed the courses of their lives.”
Idonije noted that we are all fascinated by exceptional people and their journey, their collection of defining moments that gave them their abilities and success. He acknowledged that 24 years ago today, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first democratically elected President of South Africa, a premiere example of a defining moment of reconciliation.
The Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize graduates who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in their professional and personal lives, and who have been inspirations to fellow alumni, current students and the community, both close to home and around the globe.
Recipients and presenters of the awards spoke of the defining moments in their lives that moved them and otherwise spurred their passion to lead and be examples for others, making indelible impacts both within our province and around the world.
The event brought together more than 350 enthusiastic supporters of the University of Manitoba for an inspiring evening of music, tributes, and videos in acknowledgment of five outstanding individuals.
Following Idonije’s introductory remarks, Her Honour, The Honourable Dr. Janice Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, acknowledged the former chair of the Board of Governors, Jan Lederman, by noting how Ms. Lederman has been an advocate for the University of Manitoba.
Dr. Filmon explained: “Under her leadership, the University elevated its Respectful Workplace policies and resource management, insight that prepared us for the social and economic conditions of today. It was with her guidance that the U of M sought to secure its future by launching the current Front and Centre campaign and purchasing the Southwood Lands.”
President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. David Barnard presented Ms. Lederman with the the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award for Service to the University of Manitoba.
Accepting her award, Ms. Lederman said: “I didn’t love law, but I loved the process of law, and the way lawyers work. Law is structured, and its bricks are rules while legal principles are the mortar. A lawyer sees a pattern, a series of principles, and builds a new wall to climb over, extracting meaning and patterns. That’s what I do: moving from concrete to the abstract and back. Being on the Board of Governors has allowed me to express my creative need and has been very fulfilling, bringing me real joy. I tried to be a good board member, and I was willing to speak up to help make things better.”
“A lawyer sees a pattern, a series of principles, and builds a new wall to climb over, extracting meaning and patterns. That’s what I do: moving from concrete to the abstract and back.” – Jan Lederman
The Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Young Alumni recipient was Dr. Shayne Reitmeier.
By way of introduction, Cynthia Stewart, one of Reitmeier’s former teachers, came on stage and said “Shayne is the person who notices when someone is struggling and consistently steps in to help. He is the one who will speak up for others who are unable or unwilling to speak up for themselves.”
Reitmeier created LGBTTQI* Interest and Mentorship Groups that have been integral support groups for many students and staff, and which have altered misperceptions of LGBT people in health care.
John Kearsey, Vice-President (External) presented the award to Dr. Shayne Reitmeier, noting the award celebrates exceptional graduates who are at the beginning of their life’s work but are already changing lives.
Dr. Shayne Reitmeier came on to accept the award, saying: “Justice Murray Sinclair identified four questions as part of his work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Where do you come from? Where are you going? Why are you here? And who are you? With the help and support I received, I can answer these questions by saying that it’s okay to have dreams. It’s okay to ask for help when you are struggling. As for who I am, I am a leader, advocate, husband, physician, friend, grandson, and a proud member of the LGBTTQI* community.
He added: “When I was vulnerable, the U of M offered support. When I wanted to help develop support programs, the U of M listened. I am proud to be a U of M alumni.”
“When I was vulnerable, the U of M offered support. When I wanted to help develop support programs, the U of M listened. I am proud to be a U of M alumni.” – Dr. Shane Reitmeier
Recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service was Tina Jones. Dayna Spiring, CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, advised the crowd that the majority in the room at one point in their lives had said “yes” to Tina Jones.
“The arts, education, health care, and children’s charities have all benefited from Tina’s involvement,” Spiring explained. “Her total fundraising efforts exceed $15 million, with more than 1,000 volunteer hours given and $7.2 million raised for the Health Sciences Centre alone.”
She continued: “When Tina asks, we say ‘yes.’ Because we want to. Because we see how she is bringing to life a better future for our community, and we are only too honoured to be asked to help.”
Mayor Brian Bowman said: “At the University of Manitoba, we celebrate those who place themselves before others; who seek out and abolish disparity with goodwill. People like Tina Jones.”
Tina Jones came onstage to accept the award, quoting Robert Louis Stevenson who once said: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest your reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
Ms. Jones continued: “Over the years I have learned to dream big, to persevere and take risks. My aspiration never stops. In the Faculty of Education, I learned how to work with others, and communicating differently and effectively, with compassion. I want to use my energy to help others and really make a difference.”
“Over the years I have learned to dream big, to persevere and take risks. My aspiration never stops.” – Tina Jones
This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement was Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum. His colleague Dr. Allan Ronald honoured him, saying: “In hindsight, this North End boy’s journey from fixing TVs and VCRs in his dad’s electronics shop to tinkering with human genes and heart cells seems almost a natural evolution.”
Dr. Ronald described Kirshenbaum’s outstanding medical research, noting: “While every other researcher was trying to find ways to grow new heart cells after they die, Lorrie wanted to stop them from dying in the first place. He did, and his discovery has sent shockwaves throughout the scientific community. Cardiac patients, as well as those with cancer or vascular disease could soon find life-saving treatments developed from Lorrie’s research.”
Dawn Nedohin-Macek, President of the University of Manitoba’s Alumni Association, explained that Dr. Kirshenbaum explores the unknown, seeing possibilities where others see none, and has revolutionized the treatment of human health.
In accepting his award, Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum said: “Like the song which began tonight’s celebration explained, it’s all about one moment in time. My meeting with Dr. Harvey Weisman 35 years ago launched me into a scientific career. After graduate work in Texas, I came back to the University of Manitoba because I wanted to be here. In partnership with the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation, the U of M has a program like no other in Canada, or all around the world.”
“I came back to the University of Manitoba because I wanted to be here. In partnership with the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation, the U of M has a program like no other in Canada, or all around the world.” – Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum
He added: “I was asked by a reporter today what I thought of getting this award tonight. I replied, ‘I was just doing my job.’ But it has been only through standing on the shoulders of giants and the support of the University of Manitoba.”
The final presentation was for this year’s recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement, Paul Soubry. Dr. Susan Glass lauded Mr. Soubry, saying: “Like his father, Paul is committed to the pursuit of excellence. He sees every challenge as an opportunity and reaps the benefits of hard, honest work. Two of Canada’s international success stories have Soubry at their hearts: StandardAero, and New Flyer Industries which he transformed from a struggling, antiquated factory into today’s darling of the TSX. Although, knowing Paul, he is too humble to take the credit.”
Glass continued: “Paul demonstrates the very best qualities of our business community’s leadership, and applies them, liberally, to the benefit of many industry and communities boards. The U of M, in particular, is honoured to have him as Chair of the Front and Centre Campaign.”
Dr. Harvey Secter, Chancellor of the University of Manitoba, said Paul Soubry received this year’s award for Lifetime Achievement: “For daring to dream big, whether it’s securing nearly 50 per cent of the North American bus market or chairing a $500 million campaign. For elevating Manitoba on the world stage, and showing up, as Mark Chipman would describe him, as one of the most talented CEOs in Canada.”
Paul Soubry entered the stage to accept his award, saying: “I’m the luckiest person In this room. I wish this award was a company achievement award because both New Flyer and MCI inspire people to do their jobs because they want to do their jobs, creating an environment for success. My dad taught me that it’s important to give back more than you take in.”
As chair of the Front and Centre Campaign, Mr. Soubry said: “The campaign is not just about raising money but about fundamentally transforming Manitoba. We don’t need to go anywhere to get things done; we’re doing it right here in Winnipeg.”
“The Front and Centre Campaign is not just about raising money but about fundamentally transforming Manitoba. We don’t need to go anywhere to get things done; we’re doing it right here in Winnipeg.” – Paul Soubry
Additional musical presentations during the evening included “L’amero” from Mozart’s Il Re Pastore, and “Sull’aria… che soave zeffiretto” from The Marriage of Figaro, performed by the University of Manitoba Opera Theatre. Later, the University of Manitoba Strings Ensemble presented a Beatles medley and “Le Jazz Hot” (from Victor/Victoria) was performed by the University of Manitoba Jazz Ensemble.
Following the award presentation to Paul Soubry, the celebrations continued with a Gala After Party that included watching the final period of the Winnipeg Jets playoff game against the Nashville Predators, on the giant Met movie screen. While cheering on the Jets, guests mingled and noshed on delicious treats while having the opportunity to congratulate award recipients.
Recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards were individuals who joined the esteemed list of past recipients such as: Olympian Desiree Scott; Nobel prize winner Scott Cairns; medical researcher Dr. Edward Lyons; and Indigenous advocate Marion Meadmore.
The 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are:
SERVICE TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA
Jan Lederman [BA/74, LLB/77]
Introduced by The Honourable Janice Filmon CM, OM [BScHEc/63, LLD/11]
Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba
Presented by David T. Barnard, President & Vice-Chancellor, University of Manitoba
OUTSTANDING YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD
Dr. Shayne Reitmeier [BSc(Maj)/13, MD/17]
Introduced by Cynthia Stewart [BA/81, BEd/83, MEd/00]
Presented by John Kearsey, Vice-President (External), University of Manitoba
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Tina Jones [BEd/89]
Introduced by Ms. Dayna Spiring [BA/98, LLB/01], CEO, Economic Development Winnipeg
Presented by His Worship Mayor Brian Bowman [BA(Adv)/96]
PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum [BSc/86, MSc/88, PhD/92]
Introduced by Dr. Allan Ronald [BSc/61, MD/61, DSc/11]
Presented by Dawn Nedohin-Macek, P.Eng. [BScCompEng/02], President, University of Manitoba, Alumni Association
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Paul Soubry [BComm(Hons)/84]
Introduced by Dr. Susan Glass, C.M. [BComm/67, LLD/15]
Presented by Harvey Secter [BComm/67, LLB/92], Chancellor, University of Manitoba
The Distinguished Alumni Awards 2018 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 inspiring entertainment.