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Celebratory day

Honorary degree recipients for fall convocation announced

Campus and Community

Memorial University has announced the names of two people to whom it will award honorary doctorates at fall convocation ceremonies in October.

Mary Jacqueline (Jackie) Sheppard, a trailblazer in business, and Timothy Laverne McNeill, deputy minister of education and economic development, Nunatsiavut Government, will receive honorary doctor of laws degrees on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Biographies of the honorary degree recipients follow below.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen by the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, after careful examination of the grounds for their nomination. The honorary doctorate is designed to recognize extraordinary contributions to society or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.

The awarding of honorary doctorates, an important feature of Memorial’s convocation, serves to celebrate both the individual and the university as well as to inspire graduates, their families and guests. Nearly 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students will receive degrees during three sessions of convocation on Oct. 17 in St. John’s.

Distinguished retired faculty members who were recently accorded the title professor emeritus/emerita by the university’s Senate will also be recognized at convocation.

Jacqueline Sheppard

Jacqueline Sheppard was born and grew up in St. John’s, N.L., and received a foundational education at Memorial University that would launch a remarkable career.

Jacqueline Sheppard
Photo: Submitted

Following the completion of a bachelor of arts (honours) in 1977, she became Newfoundland and Labrador’s first female Rhodes Scholar. Ms. Sheppard excelled at Oxford, completing the degrees of honours jurisprudence, bachelor of arts and master of arts in 1979, and followed up with the degree of bachelor of laws (honours) at McGill University in 1981.

The next two decades saw Ms. Sheppard distinguish herself in the corporate legal field with a particular focus on the energy sector. After just four years following admission to the bar in Alberta, she joined the national firm of Blake, Cassels & Graydon to lead its energy practice in the province.

In 1993 Ms. Sheppard left private practice and joined Talisman Energy as executive vice-president, becoming a key player in the company’s global expansion. She joined Emera Inc.’s board of directors in 2009 and was appointed the first female chair in 2014. With her involvement, the company grew from holding $5 billion in assets to $32 billion, led the transition to cleaner energy in Canada and set an award-winning standard of corporate governance.

To these professional accomplishments, she added an outstanding record of community service and volunteerism, through which she has been a powerful advocate for women in business and a champion for innovation throughout the corporate world and at Memorial.

At Memorial particularly, Ms. Sheppard’s volunteer work with the Calgary Affinity organizing committee and board helped raise almost $700,000 for student scholarships; as the volunteer regional co-chair of Memorial’s Dare To 2011-12 fundraising campaign, she helped raise more than $67 million for student support, infrastructure and academic excellence.

Emera Inc.’s $7-million investment in Memorial University is largely the result of Ms. Sheppard’s leadership. As chair of the board, she was the champion of the Emera Innovation Exchange at Memorial’s newly opened Signal Hill Campus. The landmark contribution is specifically directed to support innovation for student programming designed to inspire and support the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.

For smashing ceilings in historically male-dominated industries and professions, and for her dedication to Memorial and to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mary Jacqueline (Jackie) Sheppard will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, during the 3 p.m. session of fall convocation on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Timothy McNeill

Timothy McNeill
Photo: Submitted

Timothy McNeill was born and raised in the Labrador Inuit community of Makkovik. He attended residential school in North West River and studied at Memorial University and Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, N.S.

After finishing his post-secondary education, Mr. McNeill worked as an outreach worker with the Labrador Friendship Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and as a health career counsellor with the Labrador Inuit Health Commission. In 1990 he joined the Labrador Inuit Association as an education advisor and continued in that role until 2005, helping the fight for recognition of Inuit rights and benefits during that period.

Mr. McNeill assisted with the self-government portion of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, in particular areas around education and training. Upon the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government in 2005, Mr. McNeill was appointed deputy minister of the Department of Education and Economic Development, a position he continues to hold today.

Throughout his career, Mr. McNeill has been instrumental in creating training opportunities for Inuit with respect to Voisey’s Bay mining project, and more recently the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project and the Voisey’s Bay mine expansion through the Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership, where he sits as a board member.

Mr. McNeill has consistently demonstrated strategic vision in his support of Inuit education. He has redefined the way in which post-secondary education is offered in Labrador. In his capacity as education advisor and over the course of many years, he successfully leveraged and enhanced the development of Labrador Inuit education funding.

He was key in the design and implementation of the Inuit Northern Nursing Program, the Inuit Bachelor of Social Work Program and, most recently, the Inuit Bachelor of Education Program. The latter includes an Inuktitut language training component; graduates of the program have a better understanding of the language, something that is unique in the country.

As a direct result of Mr. McNeill’s leadership, Labrador Inuit are among some of the most educated Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

He has also been influential nationally and internationally. He was an inaugural member of the National Committee on Inuit Education, which led to the creation of the National Strategy on Inuit Education and he has been a strong advocate in advancing economic development and education.

For his unparalleled and steadfast leadership in promoting and advancing Indigenous education, training and capacity building, and building partnerships and programs for a sustainable Inuit future, Timothy Laverne McNeill will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, during the 7:30 p.m. session of fall convocation on Thursday, Oct. 17.


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