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Celebration season

Memorial to hold spring convocation ceremonies, honoraries announced

By Memorial University

After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, spring convocation will return in May and June with 11 sessions in St. John’s and Corner Brook.

Convocation takes place at the Corner Brook Civic Centre on May 19 and at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre from May 30-June 3.

As many as 2,700 students will graduate this spring. Memorial will also recognize 10 people for their leadership in cultural, academic and social spheres with the awarding of honorary degrees.

Honorary degrees will be awarded to Derek Green, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador; neurosurgeon Falah Maroun; Shane O’Dea, long-time English professor and public orator; master furniture maker Michael Paterson; businesswoman Iris Petten, former chair of Memorial’s Board of Regents; Ross Reid, former member of Parliament, democracy advocate and international volunteer; Janet Rossant, eminent biologist and former head of the SickKids Research Institute in Toronto; author and social business innovator Barbara Stegemann; Annette Verschuren, chair and CEO of NRStor Inc., a Canadian energy storage development company; and educator and historian Patricia (Patty) Way.

Dr. Elizabeth Epperly, previously announced to receive an honorary degree on Friday, June 1, is unable to attend spring convocation. Her honorary degree will be conferred at a future date.

Detailed biographies of the honorary graduands follow below.

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

For further information about convocation, please visit the convocation website.

Ceremonies will be broadcast live on www.mun.ca during each session of convocation. The recorded broadcasts will be archived on Memorial’s convocation website for future viewing.

Preparations are also underway to hold postponed convocation ceremonies in St. John’s and Corner Brook. Public health restrictions meant Memorial was unable to hold in-person convocation events for students who graduated in spring 2020, fall 2020 and spring 2021. These graduates, as well as those who were unable to attend the fall 2021 in-person convocation due to COVID-related restrictions, are being invited to participate in special ceremonies in Corner Brook on May 19 or in St. John’s from June 21-22, 2022.


Justice Derek Green

Justice Derek Green
Photo: Submitted

Justice Derek Green is one of the province’s most esteemed legal figures. Born in St. John’s, Justice Green attended Memorial University where he graduated with a bachelor of commerce and received the Birks medal for leadership in student affairs.

As a Rhodes scholar, he attended Wadham College, Oxford University, where he received an honours degree in jurisprudence, a bachelor of civil law degree and a master of arts degree.

He was called to the bar of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1974 and was made Queen’s Counsel in 1987.

Justice Green was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court (Trial Division) in 1992 and to the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in 1996.

In 2000 he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Trial Division). During this time, he sat as a member of the Interdisciplinary Ethics Committee of Memorial University.

He was appointed chief justice of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2009, where he served until 2017. Throughout his judicial career he worked to improve and reform the court system in the province with a view to facilitating access to justice, especially for unrepresented litigants.

His community and professional involvement includes membership of the national council of the Canadian Human Rights Association and trustee of the Waterford Hospital. Additionally, he worked on justice reform projects in China, Ukraine and the Maldives.

He served as chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Constituency Allowances and Related Matters concerning members of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This year, Justice Green will retire as a judge after 30 years of service.

For his outstanding contributions to the law and to civil society in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Canada as a lawyer, justice, judicial leader and scholar, Derek Green will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Dr. Falah Bechara Maroun

Dr. Falah Maroun
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Falah Bechara Maroun was born in Beit-Mery, Lebanon, and attended Hikmat College in Beirut. He graduated from the French Faculty of Medicine, Beirut, and did his postgraduate training at the Montreal Neurological Institute. He obtained his Canadian Fellowship in 1965 and his American Board of Neurological Surgery (Foreign Certificate) in 1966.

He was chief of the Division of Neurosurgery in St. John’s from 1968–2007 and has been actively involved in clinical practice and teaching at Memorial. He was professor and chair of the Discipline of Surgery from 1989–99 and clinical chief of the Surgery Program for the Health Care Corporation of St. John’s from 1996–99. He was president of the Council of the Canadian Neurosurgical Society from 1997–98.

Dr. Maroun produced a movie on epilepsy and wrote a medical book on congenital disease of the spine in children.

His many honours include the medal of Merite Libanais in 1958 and a Knight of the Order of Cedars of Lebanon in 1974. He was awarded the Medaille de l’ordre de Merite of France in 2001 and the Order of Canada in 2002. He received the Prix d’excellence Award from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 2007 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Dr. Maroun is an honorary lifetime member of the Surgical Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and received the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. He is the lifetime honorary president of the World Association of Lebanese Neurosurgeons and received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Canadian Neurosurgical Society/Charles Drake Medal in 2018.

For his exceptional, life-saving surgical skill and his commitment to advancing neurosurgical expertise in Newfoundland and Labrador and throughout the world, Falah Bechara Maroun will receive the degree of doctor of science, honoris causa.

Shane O’Dea

Shane O’Dea
Photo: Submitted

Shane O’Dea was, for 50 years, a teacher of English at Memorial University. While his background is in Victorian literature, his research area became architectural history, which he taught in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science from 1975-89.

Given Memorial’s first Distinguished Teaching Award and made Canadian Professor of the Year in 1988, he was awarded a 3M Teaching Fellowship in 2002. His publications include two books of building histories and a number of articles in refereed journals. He also organized seven exhibitions and delivered over 40 papers on Newfoundland’s material history and architecture.

Since the early 1970s, Professor O’Dea has been a leader in preservation activity in Newfoundland. As president of the Newfoundland Historic Trust (1973–75) and chair of the Community Planning Association (1977–79), he was one of a group responsible for the promotion and development of the St. John’s Neighbourhood Improvement and Heritage Conservation Areas. From 1977–92, he was vice-chair of the city’s Heritage Advisory Committee. Later he served on the board of governors of Heritage Canada (chair 1996–98), the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (1985–92) and was also a founder, board member (1984–92) and chair (1989–92) of the Newfoundland Heritage Foundation.

In 1982, at the invitation of the renowned George Story, he became one of Memorial’s university orators. In 1995 he succeeded Dr. Story as the public orator and, over time, presented more than 100 candidates for honorary degrees at Memorial’s convocations. In 2005 he was inducted into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador and, in 2016, into the Order of Canada.

For the extraordinary impact he has had on intellectual life within and beyond Memorial, and for the sustained work he has done to communicate about and advocate for the architectural and cultural heritage of this province, Shane O’Dea will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Michael Paterson

Michael Paterson
Photo: Submitted

Born in Toronto in 1957, Michael Paterson relocated to rural Ontario in 1977. He worked in general carpentry, sawmilling and woodworking before moving with his wife, Lorie, and their three children to Upper Amherst Cove on the Bonavista Peninsula in 1988. There, he built a workshop and established Paterson Woodworking, specializing in wooden furniture, architectural millwork and restoration of historic buildings.

For more than 25 years he employed full-time workers and often provided specialized training for other tradespeople. He taught heritage carpentry at the College of the North Atlantic Bonavista Campus for a couple of years, after the cod moratorium.

Mr. Paterson focused on his passion for Newfoundland and Labrador’s built heritage, traditions and related culture; it became a template for the evolution of his work. Through research, study of resource materials, workshops, close work with mentors and examination of artifacts, he acquired an appreciation for and understanding of early Newfoundland and Labrador construction techniques.

His shop produced convocation furniture for Memorial University; ceremonial furniture for the Nunatsiavut Government House of Assembly meeting chambers; commissions for Le Patrimoine de Saint-Pierre; assisted in the development and production of furniture for Shorefast Foundation, Fogo Island; and restored and reproduced church windows and architectural components from Hebron, Labrador, to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon and most areas of the island.

Mr. Paterson served on the board of the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador and on the board of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

He received a Southcott Award in 2015 and a Manning Award in 2010.

For being a true master of the vernacular style, for seeing the value in what many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were no longer treasuring and for rejuvenating and reawakening local and rural cultures and economies, Michael Paterson will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Iris Petten

Iris Petten
Photo: Submitted

Iris Petten was born and raised in Port de Grave, Newfoundland and Labrador. As an entrepreneur, a corporate executive and a community volunteer, Ms. Petten has remained true to her roots in rural Newfoundland and its lifeblood, the fishery, while taking a special interest in promoting and supporting women in leadership positions.

Ms. Petten was the first member of her family to attend Memorial University, receiving a bachelor of arts and bachelor of vocational education. She began her career in the fishing industry with Fishery Products International as a financial analyst and then as a trawler department manager. In 1992, when the historic ground fishery collapsed, Ms. Petten suddenly found herself out of work along with thousands of others. Rather than leave the industry, she took a position with the Marine Institute delivering community-based vocational training programs.

By 1998, Ms. Petten was a founding shareholder and the vice-president of a processing company wholly owned by fish harvesters, Grand Atlantic Seafoods, which in 2000 was amalgamated into Ocean Choice International. She was a vice-president there until 2008; since then she has remained in a consultancy role.

She is currently a director of Canship Ugland Ltd. and is a member of the International Women’s Forum.

Active as a community volunteer with a wide range of local and national organizations including Easter Seals, the Port De Grave Peninsula Heritage Society and the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Petten most recently served as a member of the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team.

From 2013–22 Ms. Petten served three terms as the chair of Memorial University’s Board of Regents.

For a career as an entrepreneur and executive navigating the rocky waters of the fishing industry, and for her steady hand at the helm of Memorial’s Board of Regents, Iris Petten will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Ross Reid

Ross Reid
Photo: Submitted

Ross Reid was born in St. John’s, N.L. He has been involved in government and politics in Canada since 1975.

Mr. Reid served as a member of Parliament, minister in the Government of Canada, chief of staff to the minister of Finance and as an advisor to the prime minister.

In the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, he has been chief of staff in the office of two premiers and deputy minister to another. He served as deputy minister in two other branches of the Executive Council.

He has participated in and led municipal, provincial and federal election campaigns in Canada. He also served as the national director of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1997–99.

In addition to serving in high-ranking levels of provincial politics and government for a decade, Mr. Reid has served with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Ukraine, Ghana, Kosovo and Afghanistan since 1994. He has advised on and conducted democratic development programs in more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe with a focus on political parties, elections, parliaments and civil society.

He is a director of the Parliamentary Centre and a member of the Advisory Council of the Heart of Asia Society.

He was also the director of the St. John’s community organization, The Gathering Place.

Mr. Reid has been exceptionally helpful to many members of Memorial’s political science department over the years, having delivered multiple guest lectures and assisting professors and students with their research.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario (now Western University), in London, Ont.

For his commitment to democracy provincially, nationally and internationally, Ross Reid will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Dr. Janet Rossant

Dr. Janet Rossant
Photo: Submitted

Born in Chatham, Kent, U.K., Dr. Janet Rossant is an internationally recognized developmental and stem cell biologist, exploring the biology of the early embryo and its stem cells and their applications to understanding and treating human disease.

Dr. Rossant studied zoology at the University of Oxford, obtaining a first class honours bachelor of arts (master of arts) in 1972. She then studied for her doctorate under Richard Gardner at the University of Cambridge obtaining her PhD in mammalian development. She moved to Canada in 1977 and a faculty position at Brock University.

In 1985 she was recruited to the newly established Mount Sinai Hospital Samuel Lunenfeld (now the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum) Research Institute. She was appointed as chief of research at the Hospital for Sick Children’s Research Institute in Toronto in 2005 and led the Research Institute there until 2015.

She is currently senior scientist emeritus at the Hospital for Sick Children, University Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and president and scientific director of the Gairdner Foundation.

Her expertise in stem cell biology helped inform the scientific and ethical debate surrounding cloning and human embryonic stem cell research in Canada and the U.S. She also had a major role in establishing guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research in Canada and beyond.

She has received many honours and recognition for her work, including six honorary degrees, and election to the Royal Societies of London and Canada and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

In 2018 she received the North American L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Award and in 2021 the ISSCR Achievement Award.

For her exemplary career in developmental biology and stem cell biology, and for her work advancing research programs for children’s illnesses, Janet Rossant will receive the degree of doctor of science, honoris causa.

Barbara Stegemann

Barbara Stegemann
Photo: Submitted

Barbara Stegemann is a bestselling author, social business innovator and keynote speaker whose success on CBC Television’s Dragon’s Den and philosophies of “retail activism” have made her one of WXN’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, among numerous other distinguished awards.

Ms. Stegemann’s entrepreneurial vision was formed after her best friend, a soldier, was severely wounded in Afghanistan. Understanding that supporting Afghanistan’s economy is key to building stability for its people, she created The 7 Virtues, a company that sources organic, fair trade essential oils from countries experiencing turmoil, such as Afghanistan, Haiti, the Middle East and Rwanda. Despite addressing complex global matters in her talks, Ms. Stegemann uses humour to explain how individuals can use business for good and effect change, both at home and worlds away.

Her film, Perfume War, has been named best feature documentary, audience choice, best humanitarian film and more at several film festivals.

She is also paving the way for women. She was the first woman from Atlantic Canada to secure a venture-capital deal on Dragon’s Den (and to be named the top game-changer in the history of the show for social enterprise). She is also the first woman honorary colonel in the history of 14 Wing Greenwood base, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Ms. Stegemann is the best-selling author of the empowerment book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen. The book is in its eighth edition and has empowered women (and men) to launch companies, end bullying and run for office. Her beauty brand is the top selling “Clean at Sephora” perfume in 15 countries globally.

For being an inspiration to women, a transformational force for good in Canadian business and a leader in using business to effect positive global change, Barbara Stegemann will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Annette Verschuren

Annette Verschuren
Photo: Submitted

Annette Verschuren was born in Cape Breton, N.S. She is a world-renowned Canadian businesswoman who established herself as one of the foremost corporate minds in the country, with a keen sense of innovation, a willingness to take risks to succeed and a strong vision for the future.

She is chair and chief executive officer of NRStor Inc., an energy storage development company. From 1996 to 2011, Ms. Verschuren was president of The Home Depot Canada, where she oversaw the company’s growth from 19 to 179 Canadian stores and led its entry into China.

Prior to joining The Home Depot, Ms. Verschuren was president and co-owner of Michaels of Canada, a chain of arts and crafts stores. Previously, she was vice-president, corporate development, of Imasco Ltd., and executive vice-president of Canada Development Investment Corporation.

Ms. Verschuren is a director of Air Canada, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group and Saputo Inc., and is chair of MaRS Discovery District and chair of Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

She serves as chancellor of Cape Breton University. In 2011 Ms. Verschuren was made an officer of the Order of Canada for her contribution to the retail industry and corporate social responsibility. She is also a companion of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. Ms. Verschuren holds honorary doctoral degrees from 11 universities, including St. Francis Xavier University, where she earned a bachelor of business administration degree.

She wrote the book Bet On Me, about succeeding in business and in life. She and her husband, Stan Shibinsky, live in Toronto, Ont., and often return to her familial home in Cape Breton.

For setting a shining example as a Canadian woman in business, and for the innovative corporate vision she has shown throughout her career, Annette Verschuren will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Patricia (Patty) Way

Patty Way
Photo: Submitted

Patricia (Patty) Way was born in Labrador and has been a significant educator and historian for more than 50 years, establishing the groundwork for comprehensive genealogies for many in Southern, Central and Northern Labrador.

Her early education began in Happy Valley-Goose Bay; she graduated from Yale School in North West River in the residential school system. Post-secondary was begun in 1965 at Memorial University, where she later received a bachelor of education, and a bachelor of arts. She also completed a certificate in Newfoundland studies. Her personal life goal has been to uncover and better understand the backgrounds and history of the people of Labrador.

The Labrador family histories are now a significant body of work, and are still being compiled. Building on existing knowledge and oral tradition, Ms. Way interviewed hundreds of elders and knowledge holders, pored over archival records and used any available means to piece together stories previously unknown. Published work by others provided further pieces of these “people puzzles.”

In retirement, she has worked in a community research partnership with NunatuKavut Community Council and Memorial University, culminating in a published work around Labrador’s first permanent settler. Following this, Ms. Way participated in Traditions and Transitions, a five-year partnership project with the Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial University, and completed extensive research on the survivors of Okak.

Ms. Way has been involved in many committees, including Smart Labrador, as well as development associations and zonal boards. Them Days, Labrador’s historical quarterly, has been especially appreciated and a valued partner, with numerous contributions of her work published there. She edited several books on Labrador and has been acknowledged as a Labradorian of Distinction.

For a lifetime dedicated to unravelling and honouring the stories of Labrador’s people, Patricia (Patty) Way will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

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