Alumni shine at Celebration of Excellence
With the recitation of a poem that invoked the night’s themes of leadership, wonder and praise, David Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba, opened the Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence to a sold-out crowd at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Auditorium.
More than 300 people attended the celebration on May 12, 2015, to honour five outstanding individuals who have been making a tangible and meaningful difference in our world and local community through their dedication, passion and perseverance, guided by truths and principles gained through training and education at the University of Manitoba. Among those attending the event were His Worship Mayor Brian Bowman and Manitoba Lieutenant-Governor-Designate Janice Filmon, who presented awards to DAA recipients.
- Lifetime Achievement: Marion Meadmore, CM [LLB/77], a lawyer and advocate for Indigenous Peoples who is a voice for her people;
- Professional Achievement: Nick Logan [BA/71, BComm(Hons)/73], a business and community leader who changed the rules for corporate culture;
- Community Service: Wayne Davies [BEd/91, PB DipEd/07], a teacher whose design for a better world inspired students and a “really rocking” charitable project;
- Service to the University of Manitoba: Juliette (Archie) Cooper [BOT/79, MSc/82, PhD/87], a passionate post-secondary educator and researcher whose love of teaching continues to be expressed in the classroom; and
- Outstanding Young Alumni: Tito Daodu [MD/13, BSc(Med)/13], a doctor who followed her heart to serve young people in her home Nigeria and became a role model for inner-city youth in Winnipeg.
In keeping with the night’s theme of honouring those whose dedication and passion benefited so many in our community, the evening began with a dedication to the late Dr. Patricia Martens, Distinguished Professor in the College of Medicine, senior scientist and former director at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, distinguished member of our alumni community and leader, mentor and a beloved friend to many colleagues and students.
The 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) to the entertainment. The night featured inspiring music by performers such as: Winnipeg music icon Ron Paley with Desautels Faculty of Music alumni Neil Watson, Glenn Radley and Sean Burke accompanying the children of West Broadway Youth Outreach; U of M student Jason Buchanan with Aaron Shorr and Cole Moreau performing Prairie Town; fourth-year Desautels Faculty of Music student Justin Odwak; and Colleen Furlan of the Desautels Faculty of Music, who is currently in rehearsal for Rainbow Stage this summer.
“The self-sacrifice and dedication displayed by our alumni who are honoured tonight are inspirational,” said Barnard. “These individuals are representative of the remarkable talents and passion of so many of our graduates and community leaders, who make a difference in people’s lives in Manitoba and around the world.”
“Alumni of the University of Manitoba have been instrumental in virtually every advancement in this province. They have used their University of Manitoba education and experience to carve their own paths toward achievement, impacting their communities and the world around them,” noted John Kearsey, Vice-President (External). “The excitement of everyone in the auditorium is something that is tangible and seeing these inspiring award recipients makes our hearts beat with pride.”
Kearsey: ‘seeing these inspiring award recipients makes our hearts beat with pride.’
“Our province and community thrive on the service of volunteers. University of Manitoba alumni participate on boards, connect with students through career and mentorship programs, and have a genuine love for their alma mater and want to help nurture its success,” said Jeff Lieberman, president of the Alumni Association of the U of M. “It is right that we should take time to honour these exceptional individuals tonight.”
Highlights from the Celebration
Click each recipient to read more about their portion of the evening.
For the first award of the evening, Dr. Tito Daodu [MD/13, BSc(Med)/13] was presented with the University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Award, Young Alumni.
Former Alumni Association President, His Worship Mayor Brian Bowman came on stage to laud Daodu, who grew up in the inner-city where she developed a desire to help those most in need. When she joined the West Broadway Youth Outreach Program, her commitment to community took shape, and when she began pursuing her medical degree at the University of Manitoba, Tito returned to her native Nigeria, joining frontline medical efforts to reduce the number of child deaths from pneumonia. Today, she still provides mentorship from afar, inspiring the children who live in her old neighbourhood.
She said: “When I realized that my dreams of tomorrows were possible, it was amazing. Starting at the University of Manitoba with big dreams, I was encouraged by people who helped me achieve my dreams. So many people made an impact on my life. Thank you so much, but I have no distinguishment without you.”
As a touching tribute to Daodu, children from West Broadway Youth Outreach, accompanied by Ron Paley and Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music alumni Neil Watson, Sean Burke and Glenn Radley, performed and spoke on how Daodu was inspiring them.
“We will make a difference―just like Tito,” they said together.
Concluding her acceptance speech, Daodu gestured to the children and said, “These are our future.”
Alumni Association President Jeff Lieberman was invited on stage next to present the Distinguished Alumni Award for Service to the University of Manitoba.
“Service is defined as ‘an act of helpful activity,’” he said. “It’s something anyone can do. But it takes a distinct person to make service a part of everything they do.”
Lieberman introduced this year’s recipient of the award, Juliette Cooper, affectionately known as Archie. He noted: “Archie is well known on campus and knows that we can accomplish more together than we can individually. She believes in the University of Manitoba. For more than forty years, she has dedicated herself to her beloved alma mater as a tireless volunteer. Archie generously volunteered her time to philanthropic efforts, including chairing the campaign for the Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library.”
Accepting her award, Cooper said: “This really a humbling moment for me – a real honour. I’m incredibly proud to be able to give back to an institution that has given me many opportunities to do so. It has given me the opportunity to learn, to be inquisitive, to work with outstanding staff and cherished colleagues, and to be mentored by many people. I will continue to do more for this university, as much as possible.”
Vice-President (External) John Kearsey then introduced Laura Loewen, on faculty in the Desautels Faculty of Music, who performed Alexina Louie’s Memories in an Ancient Garden. This was followed by a monologue by U of M MBA student Brian Chipman describing how mentorship and vision defines Nick Logan, the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Professional Achievement award.
President David Barnard returned to the stage to introduce Logan, whose citation noted, among many other accomplishments, that he had the ability to bring innovative business ideas to life. Logan did so with the help of an engaged and committed team—a team that embodied his personal business philosophy of mentorship, collaboration and respect. As president and CEO of National Leasing, Logan inspired others with his humility and led by empowering his team, believing in their potential to achieve great things not only within the company but in the community.
Business entrepreneur Evelyn Jacks noted via video: “You know, when Nick becomes involved in a community project, he believes in it and he wants to make a difference – because he can.”
Nick Logan accepted his award by saying: “I’m not done yet. There’s more I can do. When I was a youngster, I had it in my mind that the University of Manitoba was a very influential institution. When I finally made it, I realized there were all kinds of people backstage supporting me as I went through university. I’m thrilled to work with people in many groups and organizations that are helping young people become successful, and the university is doing that. Thank you all.”
Wayne Davies was this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service. Davies founded the Building On Students Success (BOSS) Guitar Works Program at Ecole Selkirk Junior High, where students built custom guitars, and then recruited musicians, athletes, even former U.S. presidents, to autograph them. The guitars were auctioned off to support local charities. Indeed, the introductory music was played on some of these BOSS guitars.
As a way of introducing the award for Davies, music student Jason Buchanan and former students Aaron Shorr and Cole Moreau performed on guitar a rocking version of Prairie Town set against a backdrop of Manitoba and Winnipeg imagery.
Davies was praised by peers such as philanthropist and community leader Gail Asper, who said: “Building On Student Success dovetailed perfectly with the Human Rights Museum message which is really about how one ordinary person – one young person – can transform the world.”
To present the award, Janice Filmon, former Alumni Association President, a past recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award, an Honorary Degree recipient, and Manitoba’s Lieutenant-Governor Designate came to the stage. Filmon spoke on how Davies challenges us all to give back, to engage young people and make a difference to the well-being of others. “Volunteers find a way to achieve their goals, “ she said. “Wayne Davies challenges all of us to give back.”
Davies accepted his award, thanking “every person I share this community with.” He explained: “I am the one who has benefited the most from all my community work. I’ve been heartened that each of the community projects that I’ve been involved with has done what it was intended to do.”
Davies added: “To do more, we need to embrace each others’ spirit of community. We need to put our own individual desires aside, because together, we can achieve more.”
Before the next award, student Justin Odwak sang the moving solo selection, You Raise Me Up, noting that by doing so, “I can become more than I can be.” This was so true tonight, given the wealth of dedicated individuals receiving awards.
The Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement was then introduced with a recitation about justice and equality by U of M student Jessica Barlow. This was truly poignant, as the recipient was Marion Ironquill Meadmore, who did not let her experience as a Residential School Survivor extinguish her passion for education. Instead, she earned her law degree from the University of Manitoba in 1977, becoming the first female Indigenous lawyer in Canada. Most recently, Meadmore founded the National Indigenous Council of Elders, an organization that seeks to find ways to achieve economic equality and independence for Indigenous people.
On video, Honoured Indigenous leader Ovide Mercredi noted: “She never gave up. She’s still pursuing the dream of a better country, better society and a better place for Aboriginal people.”
University of Manitoba Chancellor Harvey Secter came onstage to present the Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement. Secter explained: “Marion Meadmore has shown us just how much you can accomplish in one lifetime. One idea at a time, she has worked to achieve equality and bring promise to so many in Manitoba and beyond. She has invested the best of herself and asked little in return.”
Meadmore came on stage to a roar of applause in recognition of her many achievements. She accepted the award with dignity and grace, saying: “I will accept this award on behalf of all the people I have worked with. When we 400 Indigenous people came to Winnipeg 62 years ago, there was nothing for us. No Friendship Centre, no resources. We were lost when we came off our reserves. Back then, I had no idea what a city was all about – and with all due respect to Brian Bowman, I did not know what a mayor was, either.”
Meadmore continued, talking of her efforts to help Indigenous People reclaim their resources, capital and land: “What has been accomplished since then was done by many people – that 62 years of work – of crawling out of the colonial system; we want to become self-sufficient and self-supporting, ways of creating wealth. When we put our resources together, it’s amazing what we can do. I want us to partner with the University of Manitoba, focusing not on the past, but focusing on the future.”
To close the evening, Colleen Furlan of the Desautels Faculty of Music sang a beautiful rendition of Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked.
A reception in the Winnipeg Art Gallery foyer followed the program.
The Alumni Association and the University have a long history of celebrating the wonderful accomplishments of alumni. The Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize University of Manitoba alumni who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in their professional and personal lives, and who have been an inspiration to fellow alumni, current students and the community.
In 1937, the Alumni Association established the Alumni Jubilee Award to commemorate the University’s 60th Anniversary and to honour a student, from any faculty, for outstanding extracurricular contributions. The Jubilee Award was redesigned and reintroduced in 1959 to honour an alumnus/alumna whose contributions to society were outstanding; it was renamed the Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA) in 1996.
In 2012, the Alumni Association, together with the University of Manitoba, recognized the importance of expanding the awards program to acknowledge more than one graduate per year. As a result, in 2014, five awards were presented, including the DAA.