2019 Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence
Over six decades, the Distinguished Alumni Awards have celebrated outstanding University of Manitoba alumni including Olympians, Nobel prize winners, and world-renowned advocates of human rights.
On May 8, 2019, at the University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Awards, five new recipients were welcomed into this list of esteemed individuals: Gemma Dalayoan, Romel Dhalla, Lindy Norris, Marcia Nozick, and Dr. Hersh Shefrin.
This year, the awards celebration returned to the university’s Fort Garry campus, where the Manitoba Room in UMSU University Centre was transformed into a multi-stage event, complete with musical productions and inspiring conversations. A veritable who’s who of more than 300 alumni were in attendance, from elected government officials and prominent members of the philanthropic and business community to acclaimed artists and artisans from across Canada.
John Kearsey, Vice-President (External) of the University of Manitoba, welcomed the crowd by explaining: “Sixty years ago, in 1959, we began honouring U of M graduates with a Distinguished Alumni Award. During those six decades, we have celebrated those who have made our university proud and made their voices heard across Manitoba, Canada, and around the world. Through their outstanding accomplishments, they reflect back the values many of us hold dear.”
The evening began with an opening number from the Golden Globe-winning musical The Greatest Showman, “This is Me.” It was performed by Desautels Faculty of Music student Sikhona Gwintsa, accompanied by the Momentum Aerial and Acrobatic Troupe who wowed the crowd with their aerial prowess under the artistic direction of Monica Goermann [BPE/86].
Following the musical performance, the “voice of storytelling in Manitoba,” host Richard Cloutier [BA(Adv)/87] entered the stage to begin an engaging series of conversations with award recipients, including themes such as the future of leadership, the importance of family, and social change.
The first award of the night was to Lindy Norris for Outstanding Young Alumni, presented by Provost and Vice-President Academic, Janice Ristock.
Ristock lauded Norris for her personal and professional mission to empower more women to become leaders.
“When Lindy Norris noticed a lack of leadership development opportunities for women, she created her own non-profit: Athena Leadership. And, when she recognized that financial hardship can be a barrier to young women on their leadership journey, she and Athena created a scholarship that now totals over $70,000.”
Ristock added: “In a world where inequality exists, Lindy is voice and meaning to break the glass ceiling.”
In conversation with Cloutier, Norris said: “I have been very privileged to have had wonderful mentors and role models who have shown me the way, challenged me and pushed me. I am glad to have been on the tailwind of many others before me, and I hope I am able to do the same for others in years to come.”
To present the award for Community Service to Gemma Dalayoan, His Worship, Mayor Brian Bowman, came on stage.
“Our province’s greatest asset is its people,” said Mayor Bowman. “We celebrate and we embrace newcomers from all walks of life in our multicultural communities. Gemma has made a difference in the well-being of others. She has helped Filipino immigrants adjust to life in Winnipeg and taught her non-Filipino neighbours about Filipino culture though television documentaries, poems, articles, and books.”
As a special surprise for Dalayoan, Bowman introduced several students from the Black Hole Theatre Company who recited poems from gemma (The Bud): A Collection of Poems, published by Dalayoan this year.
One of the poems read was “My Happiness,” which began:
On earth sometimes the search for happiness
But just look down in your heart
and you’ll find the secrets
That will make your life with no regrets.
Dalayoan was visibly moved by the unexpected presentation of her work, saying “Hearing my poetry was a good surprise.”
In the conversation with Cloutier that followed, she said: “Immigrants who are here often think of life ‘back there.’ I want them to realize that they live in a good country, one that is multicultural, where everyone is equal. Community service means a lot to me. I don’t want our Filipino youth to forget their language and culture, so I encourage the teaching of Filipino heritage, language, arts and music.”
President David Barnard came on stage to honour Romel Dhalla with the Distinguished Alumni Award for Service to the University of Manitoba.
Dr. Barnard noted: “As a student, Romel participated in as many extra-curricular activities as he could fit into his schedule. When he saw the opportunity, he even created a few of his own. He helped found and serve as the first chair of the University 1 Student Council. He also spearheaded the campaign for the Iggy Domagalski Award for Student Leadership, encouraging young people to contribute to their community and act as mentors to others. He has served nine years on the Board of Governors; his rebel spirit and deep love for this institution have encouraged us to explore new avenues to better the University experience for future generations.”
After accepting the award, in conversation with Cloutier, Dhalla said: “I’ve been inspired by many people in my life, from my mother, so full of sweetness, to the success of my father, who was just inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. And at the U of M, presidents Szathmáry and Barnard taught me so much, and I learned about giving back.”
Next to come on stage was Dawn Nedohin-Macek, Chair of the University of Manitoba Alumni Association. She introduced Marcia Nozick, the 2019 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement.
Nedohin-Macek said: “When Marcia received her masters degree in city planning from the U of M, she became a voice for social change. She founded EMBERS, a multi-million-dollar social enterprise that finds employment for over 2,000 people each year, helping to break the cycle of crime and addiction while transforming the lives of those less-fortunate.”
Receiving the award, Nozick explained: “The measure of a city is how we care for the most vulnerable. There are people who have been left behind who want to get back and join the world. It used to be that doing good was giving to charity, but there is a real shift in focus now. Entrepreneurs are starting social enterprises, so that you can do business and do good all at the same time.”
Following the award to Nozick was a musical performance by Desautels Faculty of Music student Camryn Dewar, a Métis woman who holds the Royal Conservatory of Music’s all-time record for the most gold medals in Manitoba. Dewar sang another selection from The Greatest Showman, “A Million Dreams,” the lyrics of which, appropriately for the night, note:
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
Holding true to those words, next to enter the stage was recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award, former president of the University of Manitoba Alumni Association, Her Honour, The Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, The Honourable Janice Filmon.
Her Honour came to introduce the next presenter, Harvey Secter, the Chancellor of the University of Manitoba. But because Mr. Secter is stepping down this year, Her Honour gave a moving tribute to him, saying: “Harvey’s wisdom and vision have made him one of the most influential voices in our university’s governance. His philosophies, ideas and perspectives have become woven into the fabric of this institution and this community.”
Her Honour added: “Harvey, you are an outstanding human being. You listen with your eyes as well as your ears, you speak the language of inclusivity and respect, and you have a grateful heart, valuing friendships and building community. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Entering to thunderous applause and a standing ovation, Mr. Secter thanked Her Honour for her kind words.
He noted: “One of the highlights of my experience and my role as Chancellor has been working with wonderful people on the Distinguished Alumni Award selection committee. I thank you all.”
He then began his introduction of the final recipient of the evening, Dr. Hersh Shefrin.
A prominent economist, cited by Nobel laureates, Dr. Shefrin received the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement for defying the classical notion that we always make optimal choices when it comes to finance.
Mr. Secter noted: “Hersh was a pioneer in the field of behavioural economics. He is a regular contributor to Forbes, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, where he effortlessly translates complex data into practical advice for academics, professionals and the public.”
Accepting the award, Dr. Shefrin spoke briefly about his work in behavioural finance and how he came to focus in that area. He then said: “I had world class mentorship at the University of Manitoba, which I have tried to emulate at the University of Santa Clara. My dad regularly told me that my time at the University of Manitoba would shape my life. I am profoundly grateful for the way that the U of M has shaped me, and I’m proud to be a Bison!”
Finally, to conclude the evening, John Kearsey came onstage to introduce the Chancellor-elect of the University of Manitoba, Anne Mahon, who will assume the role from Mr. Secter next month.
Ms. Mahon told the crowd: “I look forward to hearing, sharing, and—most importantly—celebrating stories of accomplishments by alumni in the years to come, and I have been inspired tonight.”
Following the event, attendees enjoyed a dessert reception while mingling with award recipients, alumni, and supporters of the University of Manitoba community.
The 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are:
Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Lindy Norris [BA/07, BComm (Hons)/09]
Presented by Janice Ristock [BA(Hons)/83]
Community Service Award
Gemma Dalayoan [BEd/83, MEd/90]
Presented by His Worship Mayor Brian Bowman [BA(Adv)/96]
Service To The University Of Manitoba
Romel Dhalla [BA/99, BComm(Hons)/04]
Presented by Dr. David T. Barnard, President & Vice-Chancellor
Professional Achievement Award
Marcia Nozick [BA/75, MCP/88]
Presented by Dawn Nedohin-Macek, P.Eng. (BScCompEng/02), Chair, University of Manitoba Alumni Association
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Hersh Shefrin [BSc(Hons)/70]
Presented by Chancellor Harvey Secter [BComm/67, LLB/92]
The Distinguished Alumni Awards 2019 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 entertainment.