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This year's distinguished alumni are (L-R) Chau Pham, John Bockstael, Bruce Miller, Scott Cairns, and David Matas

Recipients of expanded alumni awards announced

Expanded awards celebrate University of Manitoba innovators, trailblazers and visionaries

February 24, 2014 — 

The first recipients of the expanded University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Awards include a former refugee, a chemical weapons inspector, a Manitoba industry leader, an Indigenous community leader and a human rights scholar and advocate.

In 2014, the Distinguished Alumni Award has grown to include four new categories. The new awards recognize University of Manitoba 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.

“Our university is proud to celebrate these exceptional alumni,” says David Barnard, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manitoba. “Each one of them has demonstrated outstanding accomplishment in their professional and personal lives. They have made meaningful contributions to their community at home and around the world and are an inspiration to all of us. This is a fitting first class for the newly expanded format of our Distinguished Alumni Awards.”

The winners are…

David Matas [BA/1964] will receive the University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes graduates who are distinguished in their career and in their contributions to society. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but banned from Russia and denounced by China, Matas’ outspoken stance on violations of human rights around the world has made him one of the world’s leading scholars and advocates of the oppressed.

Bruce Miller [BRS/1999] will receive the University of Manitoba Alumni Community Leadership Award, which recognizes graduates who have significantly contributed to their community at home or abroad, making a difference to the well-being of others. Throughout his career, Miller has sought opportunities to build community and to share stories of his culture and traditions with Indigenous students through education and Aboriginal sport programs.

Scott Cairns [BSc(Maj)/2001] will receive the University of Manitoba Alumni Professional Achievement Award, which recognizes graduates who demonstrate outstanding accomplishment in their field of endeavour. Cairns’ passion for chemistry formed the foundation that resulted in his leading a team of weapons inspectors from a United Nations watchdog organization that won the Nobel Peace Prize into the heart of Syria, and saw firsthand the effects of a brutal regime upon innocent victims of war.

John Bockstael [BSc(CE)/1980] will receive the University of Manitoba Alumni Service Award, which recognizes graduates who have demonstrated superior leadership and service to the University of Manitoba. Bockstael’s name is synonymous with construction in Manitoba; in 2008, he helped establish the Friends of Engineering that partners students with industry leaders in the province.

Chau Pham [BSc/2000, MD/2005, MBA/2013] will receive the University of Manitoba Young Alumni Award, which recognizes graduates who are 35 years of age or under at the close of nominations. Two years in a refugee camp battling tuberculosis was part of the motivation that led Pham to become a doctor and eventually establish Canadians Helping Kids in Vietnam. She works tirelessly to help children with insufficient medical care.

Heather Reichert, president of the U of M Alumni Association, notes: “The University of Manitoba and the Alumni Association felt it was important to expand the Distinguished Alumni Awards to recognize graduates in the five categories of Young Alumni, Community Leadership, Professional Achievement, Alumni Service, and Distinguished Alumni. Graduates of the University of Manitoba change our world at the local, national and international level and these five alumni are true trailblazers who have made a difference in the lives of others.”

“We celebrate our alumni to draw attention to their outstanding accomplishments and to congratulate them on being true role models for all Manitobans,” says John Kearsey, vice-president (external). “In addition to honouring our alumni, the Celebration of Excellence event will feature Juno-nominated and internationally acclaimed University of Manitoba alumni―yet more examples of the wealth of truly inspiring people we are so proud to count among our University of Manitoba family.”

All the awards will be presented at the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence on May 1, 2014. Tickets are $75 and are available at

Past recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award include: Ovide Mercredi, Gerry Price, Howard Pawley, Lila Goodspeed, Janice and Gary Filmon, Robert Silver, Barry Broadfoot, Lesley Hughes, Dr. Allan Ronald, Monty Hall, Ivan Eyre, Israel Asper, William Kurelek, Kathleen M. Richardson and Hon. Mitchell Sharp.


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