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Best in business

Alumni, entrepreneurial and student leaders to receive top awards

Campus and Community

By Susan White

Entrepreneurs Dr. Greg Roberts and Kim Paddon will be honoured by Memorial University’s Faculty of Business Administration at its 37th annual Partners Celebration on Wednesday, April 24, at the Emera Innovation Exchange, Signal Hill Campus.

The word "partners" is featured on a blue background. The subheading reads "A celebration of alumni, donors, students adn the business community."
Partners is a celebration of alumni, donors, students and the business community.

Business students Precious Dela Cruz and Elizabeth Hanrahan will also receive awards for their contributions to student and university life through volunteerism and their demonstrated ability to apply academic experience in a real-world context.

Career cornerstone

Dr. Roberts (B.Comm.’96, LLD’23), will receive the 2024 Alumni Honour Award.

Gregory Roberts wears a dark zippered coat and stands on a balcony with a white wooden railing behind him. In the far distance is the ocean, trees and land.
Greg Roberts
Photo: Submitted

Hailing from Triton Island, Dr. Roberts started his first business, Pilley’s Island Enterprises Ld., in 1998, and grew his ventures to span health care, real estate, retail and restaurants.

However, it was in restaurants and hospitality that he found his passion. He founded MBI Brands, including Mary Brown’s Chicken, the fastest-growing restaurant chain in Canada, and Fat Bastard Burrito. Together, the restaurants and brands employ more than 6,000 people and open a restaurant every 5-7 days.

“I am very proud to receive this award,” said Dr. Roberts. “I owe a lot to the business faculty. It laid the foundation for my business career. I believe our business school is a cornerstone of Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy.”

Dr. Roberts received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Memorial in 2023.

He’s a hall of fame inductee for Junior Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador and was named one of Atlantic Canada’s top 50 CEOs by Atlantic Business Magazine four times. He won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Atlantic region in 2015 and was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2010.

He’s an active volunteer and philanthropist who has supported Memorial, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, the Janeway Children’s Hospital Foundation, Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Agape Home and local school board and economic development committees.

‘Absolute honour’

Mrs. Paddon will receive the P.J. Gardiner 2024 Newfoundland and Labrador Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Kim Paddon
Photo: Submitted

An award-winning designer and entrepreneur based in St. John’s, she launched Whink in 2010.

After studying graphic design at Holland College, she turned her creative attention to growing Whink’s brand, quickly turning it into a fixture of style and décor in the city.

In 2016 Mrs. Paddon created a jewelry line called Dory Blue by Sparkes Design, featuring designs in the mineral Labradorite. Her creations grace galleries, boutiques and museums across North America.

She purchased The Newfoundland Weavery in 2019, breathing new life and an online presence into a staple of downtown St. John’s, thereby securing its legacy and continuing its support of the province’s finest artisans.

“Receiving this award is an absolute honour,” said Mrs. Paddon. “I’m both humbled and exhilarated to receive this recognition. It stands as a shining milestone in my entrepreneurial journey and a glittering reminder to keep on dreaming big!”

In 2023 Mrs. Paddon acquired The Carpet Factory with her husband, Robert Paddon, and brother, Chris Sparkes.

She’s a member of the Women Presidents Organization and the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs and is a past director with the St. John’s Board of Trade.

Student citizenship awards

Graduate student Precious Dela Cruz will receive the 2024 Dr. Victor Young Graduate Student Citizenship Award.

Precious Dela Cruz
Photo: Submitted

Ms. Dela Cruz is a second-year student in Memorial’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree Program.

Originally from the Philippines, she’s been involved in many Memorial programs such as the Insight Business Consulting Program, Creative Destruction Lab and Work Experience in Social Enterprise program, which allowed her to provide research, marketing and business development support for several local startups.

She’s a member of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship’s Disruptive Thinkers Club and worked with Memorial’s Shad Program as a project mentor to high school students across Canada. Ms. Dela Cruz also volunteers for Again & Again, a social enterprise of Home Again Furniture Bank and Memorial’s Student Experience Office.

Ms. Dela Cruz says her student experiences have instilled in her a sense of responsibility to “pay it forward.”

“I’m incredibly honoured to receive this award,” said Ms. Dela Cruz. “As an MBA student at Memorial, I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by bright minds, having access to generous resources and support and experiencing numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth.

“I believe that as students, by leveraging our skills and dedicating time to actively engage in impactful initiatives and volunteer work, we can address issues and contribute in meaningful ways to the community,” she added.

‘Seize opportunities’

Fifth-year commerce student Elizabeth Hanrahan will take home the 2024 Dr. Robert Crosbie Undergraduate Student Citizenship Award.

Elizabeth Hanrahan
Photo: Submitted

Ms. Hanrahan, from St. John’s, is active in student life. Last month, she was the communications lead and co-moderator of the 59th annual Business Day, a professional development and networking event led each year by the graduating commerce class.

She’s a past member of the Relay for Life recruitment committee and participated in Bombardier’s internship experience committee during one of her work terms.

In winter 2023 Ms. Hanrahan was chosen to participate in a study abroad semester at Memorial’s Harlow Campus, acting as student lead for the business cohort.

Outside of Memorial, she recently began serving on the International Relations Committee for the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association of Canada for NATO.

“I’m deeply honoured and grateful to be this year’s recipient of the Dr. Robert Crosbie Undergraduate Student Citizenship Award,” Ms. Hanrahan said. “My experience at Memorial has been positively shaped through student and community involvement. I encourage all other students to seize opportunities for involvement, as these experiences will have lasting and meaningful impacts on you and the communities we share.”

Celebrating business excellence

Partners is the business faculty’s annual celebration that brings together members of the faculty with students, donors, alumni and the business community to pay tribute to those who have achieved excellence in business while using their skills and expertise to contribute to their peers and communities.

“Partners is an important event for the business faculty, one that provides an opportunity to celebrate those business leaders who have made a significant impact on the province, whether it’s through their innovative entrepreneurial practices, sustained business growth or dedicated community involvement,” said Dr. Travor Brown, interim dean of the Faculty of Business Administration. “It also allows us to recognize future business leaders, those students whose classroom learning has greatly influenced and supported their efforts to make their communities better. We’re proud to have played a role in their success, and look forward to celebrating this year’s honourees.”

Partners is open to the public and tickets are available here or by emailing busipartners@mun.ca by April 19.

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