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Convocation approaches

Six honorary degrees to be awarded during spring ceremonies

Campus and Community


An annual rite of passage, Memorial’s spring convocation will see some 2,500 degrees, including around 600 graduate degrees, awarded during 12 sessions at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre on May 17 and at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre from May 29-June 1.

While spring convocation highlights Memorial’s newest graduates, it is also an opportunity to recognize leading cultural, academic and social influencers with the awarding of six honorary degrees.

Degrees honoris causa will be awarded to Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Indigenous children’s rights advocate; Marion Bogo, social work scholar; Newfoundland playwright Robert Chafe; cultural leader Peter Herrndorf; acclaimed historian and author Margaret MacMillan; and Birgitta Wallace, archaeologist of the Norse settlements in North America.

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.

Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Memorial’s president and vice-chancellor, will address all sessions of convocation and will be joined by other members of Memorial’s senior administration who will speak at various ceremonies.

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.


Birgitta Wallace

Birgitta Wallace
Photo: Submitted

Archaeologist emerita of Parks Canada, Birgitta Wallace has been a tireless advocate for Newfoundland and Labrador’s rightful place in Viking history.

Born and raised in Sweden to Swedish and Danish parents, Ms. Wallace received her degree in Scandinavian archaeology and anthropology at the University of Uppsala.

Ms. Wallace began her career at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where she also served as adjunct professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. At this time she undertook an exhaustive survey of all alleged Norse sites in North America.

She also continued field work in Sweden, co-directing excavations with a staff of American graduate students funded by the American-Scandinavian Foundation. In 1964 she was seconded to the excavations led by Anne Stine Ingstad at L’Anse aux Meadows and worked there in 1964 and 1968. The Norwegian expedition led by Drs. Stine Ingstad and Helge Ingstad proved beyond a doubt that the site was Norse and dated from the 11th century, leading to its designation as a National Historic Site of Canada.

Excavations by Parks Canada from 1973-76, in which Ms. Wallace participated, greatly added to the analysis of the site. After her move to Canada in 1975, she became a full-time employee of Parks Canada, first as a staff archaeologist, and later as a senior archaeologist for the Atlantic region, a position she held until her retirement in 1997. Following retirement, Ms. Wallace has continued researching, writing and lecturing on the Norse in North America and on other research.

Among her responsibilities as an Atlantic region archaeologist was directorship of the final excavation season at L’Anse aux Meadows and the subsequent analysis of the results. Innovative and comprehensive, the results have been lauded throughout the archaeological world, and have led Ms. Wallace to conclude that L’Anse aux Meadows is indeed the main site Leif Eriksson described in the Norse Vinland sagas.

Ms. Wallace is the author of Westward Vikings: The Saga of L’Anse aux Meadows and more than 80 articles and chapters in books.

In 2015 she was the first female archaeologist to receive the Smith-Wintemberg Award of the Canadian Archaeological Association for outstanding contributions to Canadian archaeology.

For her major contribution to the understanding of the activities of the Norse on this continent and the spread of that understanding, Birgitta Wallace will be awarded a doctor of laws honoris causa at the 3 p.m. session of spring convocation in Corner Brook on Thursday, May 17.

Margaret MacMillan
Photo: Rob Judges

Margaret MacMillan
An historian of international acclaim, Dr. Margaret MacMillan was educated at the University of Toronto and the University of Oxford. She was a member of Ryerson University’s history department for 25 years, provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto from 2002-07 and warden of St. Antony’s College and professor of international history, University of Oxford, from 2007-17.

Dr. MacMillan currently serves as professor of history at the University of Toronto, where she is also the Xerox Foundation distinguished scholar at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a distinguished fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Her research specializes in British imperial history and international history of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Her publications include Paris, 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, Nixon in China: The Week that Changed the World, The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 and History’s People: Personalities and the Past. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a companion of honour (U.K.).

Paris, 1919 received wide recognition and multiple awards, including the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction and the New York Times Editors’ Choice in 2002 and the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction in 2003.

Among Dr. MacMillan’s many fans, Madeleine Albright, former American secretary of state, said, “The War That Ended Peace tells the story of how intelligent, well-meaning leaders guided their nations into catastrophe. These epic events, brilliantly described by one of our era’s most talented historians, warn of the dangers that arise when we fail to anticipate the consequences of our actions. This is one of the finest books I have ever read on the causes of World War I.”

Dr. MacMillan’s honours include honorary degrees from the University of Toronto, University of Calgary, University of Western Ontario, Ryerson University, University of King’s College and Royal Military College.

She has served as senior fellow, Massey College, and fellow, Royal Society of Literature, both since 2003. In 2006 Dr. MacMillan was invested as an officer of the Order of Canada and in 2015 became a companion.

For her analyses of our past and observation of our present, Dr. Margaret MacMillan will be awarded a doctor of letters honoris causa at the 10 a.m. session of spring convocation in St. John’s on Tuesday, May 29.

Peter Herrndorf
Photo: V. Tony Hauser

Peter Herrndorf
A cultural leader in Canada for the past five decades, Peter Herrndorf was born in Amsterdam. He holds a BA in political science and English from the University of Manitoba, a law degree from Dalhousie University and an MBA from Harvard University.

Mr. Herrndorf was appointed in 1999 as president and CEO of the National Arts Centre, a posting he holds today. Previously he worked for the CBC (1965-83) in various positions, including vice-president and general manager of English language radio and television networks, where he created the news shows the fifth estate and The Journal.

He later served as publisher of Toronto Life magazine (1983-99) and served as chairman and CEO of TVOntario (1992-99) where his leadership led to many awards and accolades, including 11 Geminis in one year.

Mr. Herrndorf currently serves on the board of directors of Luminato, Toronto’s Festival of Arts and Creativity. He was previously a member of the honorary committee of the Power of the Arts National Forum and the honorary leaders council of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in Vancouver.

He is the founding president of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation and has served on the boards of numerous other cultural organizations, including the Banff Television Festival, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History), the CBC, the Performing Arts Center Consortium, the Stratford Festival, the Canadian Stage Company, the Canadian Arts Summit and the Toronto Arts Awards Foundation.

He is a former member of the governing council of the University of Toronto and the board of the University of Ottawa.

Mr. Herrndorf is a companion of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of Ontario. He is a national champion of the Trans Canada Trail, and the recipient of the inaugural Peter Herrndorf Arts Leadership Award (2015), presented by the national Business for the Arts organization in Toronto.

For his extraordinary contribution to the administration and development of the arts in Canada, Peter Herrndorf will receive the degree of doctor of laws honoris causa at the 3 p.m. session of convocation in St. John’s on Tuesday, May 29.

Robert Chafe
Photo: Shin Sugino/NAC

Robert Chafe
Alumnus Robert Chafe has distinguished himself as a writer in theatre, dance, opera, radio, fiction and film. His stage plays have been seen in Canada, the U.K., Australia and in the U.S., and include Oil and Water, Tempting Providence, Afterimage, Under Wraps, Between Breaths and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (adapted from the novel by Wayne Johnston.)

In addition to a bachelor of arts in philosophy from Memorial University, he holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Guelph University. He is the playwright and artistic director of the theatre company Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.

In 1998 he won the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s Emerging Artist Award and has since been shortlisted twice for their Artist of the Year Award. He has been shortlisted for the Winterset Award (for his first book of fiction, Two Man Tent) and the Siminovitch Prize, Canada’s largest award for theatre honouring the body of work of a mid-career artist. He has also been shortlisted three times for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, Canada’s highest honour for playwriting, and he won the award for Afterimage in 2010. That same year, he received the Governor General’s Award for English Drama.

In 2016 his first opera, Ours (with composer John Estacio), premiered for Opera on the Avalon.

He has been writer-in-residence at Artistic Fraud, Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre, Playwrights Workshop Montreal, Forest Forge Theatre (Hampshire, U.K.) and Memorial University, and a guest instructor at Memorial’s Grenfell Campus and the National Theatre School of Canada.

Collaborator and former Artistic Fraud director Dr. Jillian Keiley said of Mr. Chafe: “For the last 25 years Robert has been an essential voice in the furthering of Newfoundland and Canadian storytelling. Robert’s plays have run the gamut from naturalism to absurdist, hilarious to heartbreaking. They have elevated Artistic Fraud to a company that is known not only for its unique style of theatre, but for the sanguine, fierce and funny stories Robert tells.”

For his major contribution to Newfoundland theatre and culture, Robert Chafe will be presented the degree of doctor of letters honoris causa at the 3 p.m. session of spring convocation in St. John’s on Wednesday, May 30.

Marion Bogo
Photo: Submitted

Marion Bogo
Marion Bogo is known for her remarkable achievements in the field of social work as a scholar and teacher, and for advancing the practice in Canada and abroad. Born in Montreal, she holds a bachelor of arts and a master of social work from McGill University.

Prof. Bogo worked in social welfare and mental health services as a frontline social worker in Montreal, Cincinnati, Ohio and Toronto before completing an advanced diploma in social work at the University of Toronto in 1975.

In 1979 she joined the Faculty of Social Work at Toronto where she has held roles as field practicum director, associate dean and dean, and was appointed as the inaugural chair in social work. Throughout her career she has provided leadership in the development of pedagogy for social work. Her empirical studies have illuminated innovative approaches to educating social workers for professional practice. She aims to instil professional values and develop knowledge and competence in future practitioners who will serve society’s vulnerable populations. Her recent studies involve the use of human simulation to teach and assess students’ competence.

Prof. Bogo has shared her work widely through authorship of seven books and more than 120 book chapters and peer-reviewed articles on social work education and practice. Her work has attracted international attention and she provides extensive consultation to schools of social work throughout the world as they transform their curriculum to develop effective practitioners.

She received a President’s Teaching Award and held the Sandra Rotman Chair in Social Work at the University of Toronto from 1998-2003.

In 2013 Prof. Bogo was awarded the Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education Award from the Council on Social Work Education (U.S.), the first Canadian to receive this esteemed honour. The award recognized “unwavering dedication to advancing and improving social work education.”

In 2014 Prof. Bogo was appointed as an officer of the Order of Canada.

For her contribution to the development of social work education and to recognize the 50th anniversary of the founding of Memorial’s School of Social Work, Marion Bogo will receive an honorary doctor of laws at the 10 a.m. session of spring convocation in St. John’s on Thursday, May 31.

Cindy Blackstock
Photo: Submitted

Cindy Blackstock
Dr. Cindy Blackstock’s promotion of culturally based and evidence-informed solutions has been widely recognized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Frontline Defenders and many others.

A member of the Gitxsan First Nation, Dr. Blackstock has 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights. She holds a bachelor of arts from the University of British Columbia, a master’s degree in management from McGill University, a master’s degree in jurisprudence from the Faculty of Law at Loyola University and a PhD from the University of Toronto.

She is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, a faculty member in social work at McGill University and an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta.

Dr. Blackstock’s most widely acclaimed work was a case heard before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which took nine years to resolve. In 2016 the tribunal found that Canada was discriminatory in its funding of child welfare services and did not provide equivalent services for First Nations children as it did elsewhere. This was a watershed moment in Canadian history, and it positioned Dr. Blackstock as a national leader in the fight for equality and justice.

Her commitment and detailed preparation on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society contributed to the case’s success. It is now the subject of We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, a documentary film by Alanis Obomsawin, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016.

An author of more than 50 publications and a widely sought after public speaker, Dr. Blackstock has collaborated with other Indigenous leaders to assist the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in the development and adoption of a General Comment on the Rights of Indigenous Children.

In 2016 Blue Quills First Nations University presented Dr. Blackstock with an honorary doctor of Iyiniw Kiskeyihtamowinq Asonamakew (Passing Knowledge On).

She has honorary degrees from the University of Northern British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University, University of Saskatchewan, Western University, Waterloo University, Mount Saint Vincent University, University of Winnipeg, Ryerson University, Osgoode Law School, and St. John’s College, University of Manitoba, and this spring will receive honorary degrees from the University of Toronto, University of Ottawa and Dalhousie University.

For her fearlessness and persistence in the face of governmental and bureaucratic discrimination and intimidation, Dr. Cindy Blackstock will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the 3 p.m. session of spring convocation in St. John’s on Friday, June 1.

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