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Dr. Graham Sher, Marion Ironquil Meadmore, The Honorable Anita Neville, Dr. Xiaohua (Shawn) Qu.

Four people to be given highest honour at Spring Convocation 2024

Honorary degree recipients have transformed health care, championed ideas of Indigenous nationhood, advocated for equality and inclusion and innovated the solar industry.

May 15, 2024 — 

This Spring Convocation the University of Manitoba celebrates the achievements of over 4,300 graduands and recognizes the distinguished achievements of four honorary degree recipients who have made our province and country better.

The honorary degree is the highest honour UM can bestow upon an individual for achieving pre-eminence in science, culture, scholarship, or public service. This year’s recipients have transformed health care, championed ideas of Indigenous nationhood, advocated for equality and inclusion and innovated the solar industry. They are Dr. Graham Sher, Marion Ironquil Meadmore, The Honorable Anita Neville, and Xiaohua (Shawn) Qu.

Dr. Graham Sher
May 16, 10 a.m. ceremony

Dr. Graham Sher is a health-care visionary. Under his innovative leadership, Canadian Blood Services has developed into an organization that is internationally respected for its safe, reliable management of blood, blood products and stem cell therapies, as well as organ donation and transplantation.

When the national, non-profit Canadian Blood Services was established in 1998 following the Krever Inquiry into Canada’s tainted blood scandal, Dr. Sher became its first vice-president of medical, scientific and clinical management. He was appointed to his current role as chief executive officer in 2001.

His first priority was rebuilding Canadians’ trust in the blood supply by implementing rigorous safety and testing systems. He then led the transformation of Canadian Blood Services into a state-of-the-art manufacturer of biologic products, including plasma and stem cells, with a core focus on safety, quality, innovation and productivity.

In 2021, he was appointed to the Order of Canada for his contributions to public health and for being instrumental in the development of Canada’s national blood system.

Marion Ironquil Meadmore
June 6, 9:00 a.m. ceremony

Marion Ironquil Meadmore has spent her life championing ideas of Indigenous nationhood, while creating organizations that inspire Indigenous Peoples to regain equality and economic independence in the wake of colonialism.

This journey began when she was a University of Manitoba student, new to the city, far from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan where she grew up. She went to an “Indian conference” at the Legislature and heard white social workers complaining about Indigenous Peoples. Frustrated and upset, she and others decided to create the Urban Indian Council of Winnipeg.

Soon after, she co-founded the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre and the National Indian Council of Canada, which has since split to become the Assembly of First Nations and what is now the Métis National Council. She also organized a conference that led to the formation of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood and the Manitoba Métis Federation.

In 1970 she co-founded Kinew Housing, Canada’s first non-profit housing corporation that has brought safe, affordable housing to urban Indigenous Peoples. Around this time, she studied law at Robson Hall and upon graduating, opened the first all-female law firm in Winnipeg with three others. While practicing law, she organized conferences and workshops to educate new lawyers, students and Indigenous leaders about the constitution and new ideas of “nationhood.” She also founded the Indian Liberal Caucus and what is today called the Indigenous Bar Association.

A member of the Order of Canada, Ironquil Meadmore also received the Distinguished Alumni Award (Lifetime Achievement) from UM in 2015.

The Honorable Anita Neville
June 6, 2:30 p.m. ceremony

The Honourable Anita Neville has spent her life advocating for equality and inclusion. She has used her voice to drive change, and has always encouraged and supported youth and women in doing the same.

Ms. Neville graduated from political science and used her UM degree to drive change–first as a Trustee and Chair of the Winnipeg School Division, and then as an elected Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre, during which time she served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for the Status of Women. She also served on numerous committees, parliamentary associations, and parliamentary groups.

In government, she fought for same sex marriage, addressing systemic issues related to missing and murdered Indigenous women, and for parliament to establish a Holocaust Memorial Day. She also worked tirelessly to have more women enter politics, giving a great deal of her time and energy to Equal Voice, an organization that promotes the election of more women to all orders of Canadian government.

A born-and-raised Winnipegger, Ms. Neville has remained dedicated to this community through her professional and volunteer work. She served as director of Workforce 2000 and the Winnipeg Core Area Initiative and Employment Training Program, and she has volunteered for Winnipeg’s Jewish Child and Family organization, the Law Society of Manitoba, Rossbrook House, the City of Winnipeg’s Community Race Relations Committee, Manitoba’s Public Utilities Board, and the Institute for International Women’s Rights.

Dr. Xiaohua (Shawn) Qu
June 7, 9:30 a.m. ceremony

Xiaohua (Shawn) Qu often refers to himself modestly as a “boring engineer,” yet he is globally recognized as one of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs in the solar industry, dedicated to steering the world away from its reliance on fossil fuels.

Dr. Qu was among the pioneering group of students to venture to Canada when China eased restrictions on studying abroad in 1987. He secured a scholarship to study physics at the University of Manitoba and his drive, creativity, and talent quickly caught the attention of his thesis advisor, Professor Peter Loly.

In 2001 he founded Canadian Solar Inc (CSIQ) and with the support of some federal grants he brought small-scale solar panels to villages in China and Tibet. These panels could power only two lightbulbs and a radio, yet the profound impact on the lives of local people catalyzed Dr. Qu’s vision for the broader potential of solar technology.

Five years later, CSIQ became one of the first Canadian solar companies to list on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Today, it stands as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of photovoltaic solar panels and energy storage systems, with facilities in five countries and products reaching over 160 countries, including regions previously without electricity access.

Dr. Qu continues to drive innovation in the field, contributing to scholarly articles in leading academic journals and, in 2011, even becoming a visiting professor at Tsinghua University—one of China’s top universities. In 2019, he was honored as a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

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