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University of Manitoba innovators, trailblazers and visionaries honoured with music and awards

Expanded alumni event at Winnipeg Art Gallery celebrates outstanding graduates

April 30, 2014 — 

On May 1, the first recipients of the expanded University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Awards will be honoured at a special celebration of music and invited guest presentations. Honorees 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 grew 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 achieved outstanding recognition in their professional and personal lives. They have made meaningful contributions to their community at home and around the world and are certainly an inspiration to all of us. This is indeed a fitting first class for the newly expanded format of our Distinguished Alumni Awards.”

David Matas [BA/1964] will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, Lifetime Achievement, 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 Distinguished Alumni Award, Community Leadership, 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 Distinguished Alumni Award, Professional Achievement, 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 Distinguished Alumni Award, Service to the University of Manitoba, 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 Distinguished Alumni Award, Young Alumni, which recognizing 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.”

“There is simply no part of our daily lives in Manitoba, in Canada and in the communities where we live, learn and work around the world, that hasn’t benefitted in some way from University of Manitoba alumni,” says John Kearsey, vice-president (external) at the University of Manitoba.

Past recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award include: Ovide Mercredi, Howard Pawley, Gerry Price, 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.

The awards will be presented at the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration of Excellence on Thursday, May 1, 2014, beginning at 7:00 pm. The exciting evening will include performances by Juno-nominated and internationally renowned alumni. Tickets are $75 and are available at


For more information, contact John Danakas, director, marketing and communications, University of Manitoba, at: 204-474-8551, or email: John [dot] Danakas [at] umanitoba [dot] ca



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