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Richard G. Henriquez and Elder Mary Elizabeth Courchene

Richard G. Henriquez and Elder Mary Elizabeth Courchene

Honorary Degree Recipients, June 7, 2018

Richard G. Henriquez and Elder Mary Elizabeth Courchene

June 7, 2018 — 

Each year, the University of Manitoba bestows honorary degrees upon individuals who have achieved preeminence in the advancement of culture, communications, education, administration, scholarship, leadership, philanthropy, mentorship and business.

During the 139th annual Spring Convocation of the University of Manitoba on June 7, 2018, honorary degrees will be awarded to a Canadian architect who has greatly influenced contemporary urban design, and a distinguished Indigenous leader and inspirational role model in the field of public education:

Richard G. Henriquez, C.M., B.Arch.(Manitoba), M.Arch.(MIT), LL.D.(SFU)
Honorary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at 9:30 AM

Few Canadian architects have influenced contemporary urban design more than Mr. Richard Henriquez. Over the past 50 years, his imaginative approaches have shaped the architectural character of Vancouver and drawn worldwide attention.

Born in Jamaica, Mr. Henriquez came to Canada as a young man to study architecture at the University of Manitoba. He quickly distinguished himself, winning the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada Student Medal and the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture thesis prize. After graduation in 1964, he then continued his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where three years later he received a master of architecture degree specializing in urban design.

After moving to Vancouver, he launched the practice that is now Henriquez Partners Architects. He soon began a prolific evolution beyond the modernist style so prevalent in the 1960s. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is his influence on the development of Vancouverism, a distinctive form of high-density urban design that combines slim towers, lowrise buildings, parks and view corridors to create intimate, livable neighbourhoods. Vancouverism is now widely regarded as one of the reasons the city is consistently rated as one of the best places to live in the world.

Vancouverism originated at a time of growing opposition to tall buildings. The turning point came in 1984 with the construction of The Sylvia, the first of four residential highrises designed by Mr. Henriquez for Vancouver’s West End. With its slim proportions and thoughtful relationship to the site, The Sylvia overcame public resistance to towers, enabling these structures to become one of the defining features of Vancouver’s urban landscape. In 1999, Canadian Architect magazine named this highrise one of the most influential Canadian buildings of the twentieth century.

The Sylvia was also an artistic breakthrough for Mr. Henriquez. He became a storyteller, combining functional forms with a more complex range of expression and meaning. An accomplished visual artist in his own right, he has continued to blur the lines between art and architecture, introducing elements of painting, sculpture, geometry and surrealism to his work. Planners and designers from all over the world now flock to Vancouver for inspiration.

Mr. Henriquez has also become one of Canada’s foremost crusaders for public architectural awareness. He has been the driving force behind the Vancouver Urbanarium Society, a platform for engaging citizens in conversations about urban development.

His achievements have been recognized with many honours, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the most prestigious award for lifetime achievement in Canadian architecture.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to Mr. Richard G. Henriquez for his outstanding contribution to the craft and culture of architecture in Canada and beyond.


Elder Mary Elizabeth Courchene, B.T.(Brandon), B.A., B.Ed.(Manitoba)
Honorary Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at 3:00 PM

A distinguished Indigenous leader and inspirational role model in the field of public education, Elder Mary Courchene generously offers her guidance and courage on our shared journey toward truth and reconciliation.
Drawing from her own painful experiences as a Residential School Survivor, she seeks to build understanding that brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together to learn, heal and grow.

She was born in Sagkeeng First Nation, where she enjoyed a happy childhood until she was sent to the Fort Alexander Residential School at the age of five. Isolated from her family, she endured years of devastating loneliness. A bright light emerged in Grade 7 when a supportive teacher instilled within her a confidence in her academic abilities. She began to see her own potential, and gained a love of learning.

Years later, following marriage and seven children, this love of education would be rekindled. Although she hadn’t completed high school, she reached out to Brandon University to apply for a special program. Her dream of a university education was fulfilled when she received her acceptance letter. She would go on to become one of the first Indigenous students to pursue multiple degrees from both Brandon University and the University of Manitoba.

She was soon at the forefront of Indigenous programming in the public school system. During a career that spanned more than three decades, she was the first Indigenous administrator in Winnipeg School Division, the inaugural principal of Children of the Earth School (the first Indigenous-focused, urban high school in Canada) and the first female dean of Aboriginal education at Red River College. She also co-founded Aboriginal Circle of Educators in 1987 and the Manitoba First Nations Educational Centre in 1998.

Over the years, she has earned numerous awards and honours, including the YM-YWCA Women of Distinction Award, Aboriginal Community Educator of the Year, Aboriginal Circle of Educators Innovator Trailblazer Award and Aboriginal Educator of the Year (Canadian Teachers Federation). She is an honored grandmother of Keep the Fires Burning, and has been awarded a sacred shawl and community recognition.

In 2008, she was among the 100 survivors invited to the House of Commons to witness the Canadian government’s historic apology for its role in Residential Schools. Today she continues to speak about the intergenerational impacts of residential schools, often with her daughter and granddaughter at her side.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Elder Mary Elizabeth Courchene, an innovator and role model who has left a positive imprint on the landscape of public education in Manitoba.


Each session of Convocation will be streamed online. Follow #umanitoba2018 on Twitter and Instagram  to see more.

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