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Applauding our alumni

Memorial graduates recognized for exceptional achievements

Campus and Community

By Lisa Pendergast and Heidi Wicks

Memorial University has announced the recipients of its 39th annual Alumni Tribute Awards.

The awards recognize alumni who have achieved distinction in their chosen fields, are committed to their alma mater and have made outstanding contributions to their communities. The 2020 recipients are Lisa Browne (BA’91, MBA’93); Geoff Emberley (B.Eng.’74, MBA’83); Aatif Baskanderi (B.Eng.’08, MTM’15); and Courtney Clarke (BA’12, MIPGC’15).

“It was a different selection experience this year due to COVID-19 and the committee having to meet virtually,” said Bob Dowden (BA’90), chair, Alumni Tribute Awards selection committee. “However, there was no difference in the number of exceptional and deserving nominees put forward. The 2020 recipients are all highly accomplished graduates who have put their Memorial University degrees to good use in their communities, province and around the world.”

Alumna of the Year Award

Lisa Browne
Photo: Submitted

Lisa Browne (BA’91, MBA’93) is the the 2020 Alumna of the Year.

She is CEO of Stella’s Circle, a community organization with a mission to transform lives by offering housing, counselling and employment services. Ms. Browne is driven by the life and memory of her twin brother, who ended his life after suffering from depression for many years.

Prior to joining Stella’s Circle in January 2015, she worked with Eastern Health. She was a director responsible for a number of portfolios, including Health Information Services, Planning, Policy, Access and Privacy.

Ms. Browne continues to have strong connections to her alma mater. She serves as an ambassador to the MBA-Social Enterprise program and is an associate with the Harris Centre. Moreover, she has been a member of the Board of Regents and has served on the advisory committees of the School of Social Work and the Centre for Social Enterprise. In addition, she has been a lecturer in the Faculty of Business Administration.

Ms. Browne is a past participant and regional co-chair of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference and has served as the deputy mayor of the Town of Clarenville and as a community violinist with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. She is currently a board member of several organizations, including The Rooms, Food First NL, Mental Health Research Canada and the National Gallery of Canada.

As a result of her hard work, Ms. Browne has been named one of the Top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada in 2017 and 2018 by Atlantic Business Magazine and received the P.J. Gardiner 2019 N.L. Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Ms. Browne and her partner, Tim Hollett (B.Eng.’95), enjoy travelling and hiking. Their adventures have included the Lycien Way in Turkey, GR11 in Andorra and Salkantay Trail in Peru. And there aren’t many trails on the island portion of the province that they haven’t hiked.


J. D. Eaton Award

Geoff Emberley
Photo: Submitted

Geoff Emberley (B.Eng.’74, MBA’83) is this year’s recipient of the J.D. Eaton Award, which recognizes outstanding volunteer contributions to Memorial University. He graduated from Memorial’s very first co-operative education engineering class in 1974, furthering his education with a master of business administration in 1983.

His 35-year career with Newfoundland Power coincided with the beginning of his ongoing volunteer career. He has served on a school board, on the board of the East Coast Trail Association and most notably with the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists Newfoundland and Labrador (PEGNL), the regulatory body for engineers and geoscientists.

Since his involvement began in 1988, he has served on a number of committees and the board of directors. He became president of the board in 1996 and served as its CEO from 2010-19. He is also involved with Engineers Canada, the national body co-ordinating the activities of the provincial engineering regulatory bodies.

Mr. Emberley is a strong advocate of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and, as the faculty’s dean Dr. Greg Naterer says, “Through his leadership roles at PEGNL, he has had a significant contributing role in the quality and reputation of our engineering programs. He has contributed in the areas of professional development and working with government on changes to the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists Act, which impacted our faculty members and alumni.”

Due to this ongoing relationship, Mr. Emberley was asked to be on the planning committee for the faculty’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2019. The event featured keynote speaker Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman and the world’s first neurologist astronaut. His network and contacts ensured the celebration was successful and well-attended.

In short, enhancing Memorial’s reputation worldwide is a hallmark of Mr. Emberley’s career. Through the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s championship teams, his position at PEGNL, member of the advisory council and more, he has helped guide important policy changes and helped dictate initiatives and implementations that have strengthened the program.

He is a true advocate, mentor and supporter of Memorial’s students and graduates.

Horizon Award

Aatif Baskanderi
Photo: Submitted

Aatif Baskanderi (B.Eng.’08, M.Tech.Mgmt.’13) is this year’s Horizon Award recipient, a recognition of exceptional achievement by a Memorial graduate 35 years of age and younger.

His career trajectory spans from engineering to social policy to innovation to filmmaking. But no matter the field, one common denominator motivates his work: serving the greater good of humanity through activism and creativity.

After failing out early in his engineering studies, he returned to graduate near the top of his class. He also completed a M.Sc. (social policy and development) at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a master of technology management at Memorial with a 4.0 GPA.

He helped design one of Blackberry’s most popular smartphones and published research to inform federal departments on policy opportunities for emerging technologies in Canada. From there, he led innovation efforts at the British High Commission and now heads up Startup Edmonton, the city’s early-stage technology startup incubator. He has completed dissertation research in Palestine, managed a malaria prevention project in Sierra Leone and continually works to amplify social impact through innovative business models.

Raised in outport Newfoundland as one of very few Muslims in his community, his advocacy for inclusivity of marginalized people and his promotion of acceptance to develop equitable communities has turned heads.

Along with his wife and health equity advocate, Dr. Nazia Sharfuddin, he co-created the documentary Salaam B’y – A Story of a Muslim Newfoundlander. As a result, he has opened the minds of many through his speaking tour across the province and country, crowdfunded from 272 donors in 19 countries and produced a national radio documentary on CBC’s The Sunday Edition. The film has been an official selection at 23 film festivals with 10 award nominations and five awards across the globe, including the United Nations Global Migration Film Festival. It has screened on Parliament Hill and was hosted by three lieutenant-governors. To date, there have been 54 screenings in 32 cities globally who have seen his inspirational story connecting welcoming communities to thriving innovation. His work was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II, being just the third Canadian to receive her Commonwealth Points of Light Award.

Outstanding Community Service Award

Courtney Clarke
Photo: Submitted

Courtney Clarke (BA’12, MI’13) is the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Community Service Award. She has been uniting and enriching the communities around her since her childhood growing up in Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.

While at university, she helped provide financial stability to the Memorial University History Society. Similarly, as a project manager with Enactus Memorial, her entrepreneurship program helped veterans transition to civilian life.

As a manager with TD Bank, she went above and beyond expectations. For instance, she was disheartened by the number of clients losing money from scams, after a divorce or a home break-in. This led her to create materials to educate and protect citizens against situations that could leave them financially vulnerable. She led Newfoundland and Labrador’s TD Community Committee for the Avalon Peninsula, co-ordinating events to plant more than 1,500 trees, and hosting events to raise thousands of dollars for United Way.

Ms. Clarke created Let’s Talk PRIDE, a fundraiser where all proceeds went to St. John’s Pride. She connected TD with the Single Parents Association of Newfoundland, leading an initiative that sent thousands of dollars of school supplies to single parent families.

In 2017 Ms. Clarke’s life took a tragic but important turn. She was physically attacked. This led her to Violence Prevention Avalon East, where she expanded their website and developed a social media marketing campaign. Consequently, she now serves on their board of directors. At the beginning of the pandemic, she created the successful “Unsafe at Home” domestic abuse support platform for people experiencing violence during COVID-19. Ms. Clarke was recently elected to the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union board of directors and is the 2019 and 2020 Youth Accessibility Leader for Newfoundland and Labrador with Employment and Social Development Canada. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-N.L. and Equal Voice N.L.

‘Incredible accomplishments’

“Congratulations to these incredible alumni who have distinguished themselves through their careers and commitment to community,” said Mr. Dowden. “I look forward to celebrating them and their incredible accomplishments at the awards ceremony in October.”

The 39th annual Alumni Tribute Awards ceremony will take place Monday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. at the Signal Hill Campus in St. John’s. This year’s awards ceremony will be an intimate gathering in accordance with current public health measures and will be by invitation only.

The event will be livestreamed.

For additional inquiries, please contact the Office of Alumni Engagement.

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