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Convocation set

Memorial University to confer five honorary degrees during spring ceremonies

By Memorial University

An academic highlight, Memorial University’s spring convocation ceremonies will see more than 2,900 degrees, including more than 800 graduate degrees, conferred.

Convocation takes place at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre on May 16 and at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre from May 28–31.

Honorary degree recipients

Memorial will also recognize five people for their leadership in cultural, academic and social spheres with the awarding of honorary degrees.

Honorary degrees will be awarded to architect Harriet Burdett-Moulton, entrepreneur Boyd Cohen, artist and activist Marlene Creates, visual artist Jerry Evans and journalist Pauline Thornhill.

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 contributions to society or the university or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.

Professor emeritus

In addition, a distinguished retired faculty member who was recently accorded the title professor emeritus by the university’s Senate will be recognized at spring convocation.

Dr. Ian G. Warkentin, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus, will be honoured.

The distinction professor emeritus/emerita is open only to retired members of the faculty. To be eligible, a person must have served at least 10 years as a regular full-time faculty member at Memorial and must have held the rank of professor upon retirement. The prime criteria for nomination are sustained, outstanding scholarly work and/or service to the university.

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.


Harriet Burdett-Moulton

Harriet Burdett-Moulton was born in Cartwright, Labrador, and has Inuit, British and Montagnais roots. She spent her early life in a traditional nomadic lifestyle, as her mother was determined that she would not go to a residential school.

Harriet Burdett-Moulton, a Metis woman in her early 60s, is pictured side on in a studio portrait.
Harriet Burdett-Moulton
Photo: Submitted

Ms. Burdett-Moulton graduated from Memorial University with a bachelor of education degree in 1969. She graduated from TUNS, now Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture, in 1976.

After becoming the first registered Indigenous woman architect in Canada in 1979, she and her husband moved to then Frobisher Bay, N.W.T., now Nunavut, where the couple started the first architecture firm in the eastern Arctic.

For more than 40 years — and with 200 design projects in her portfolio — Ms. Burdett-Moulton has had a distinguished career in architecture with a special focus on Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Arctic.

A project of great significance to Ms. Burdett-Moulton is the Piqqusilirivvik Inuit Learning Facility in Clyde River, Nunavut. Piqqusilirivvik, which roughly translates as “a place to keep the things we’ve learned,” is the first cultural learning facility built in North America. Other projects of significance are the new community plan for Natuashish, Labrador, and the Mushuau Innu School in Natuashish.

In 2016 she was made a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. She is also a member of the institute’s Indigenous task force. In 2017 she was awarded a Labradorian of Distinction medal. In 2018 Ms. Burdett-Moulton was one of the representatives of Canada at the Architectural Venice Biennale. She has received honorary degrees from Carleton University and the Ontario College of Art and Design.

For her remarkable career in architecture that has celebrated and centred Indigenous Peoples and the North, Harriet Burdett-Moulton will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, on Thursday, May 16, at 3 p.m. during spring convocation ceremonies in Corner Brook.

Boyd Cohen

Boyd Cohen was born in St. John’s, N.L. His family’s business, S. Cohen’s and Sons in the Town of Windsor, started as a general store in 1919.

Boyd Cohen, a white man in his late 80s, is pictured in a black and white photo.
Boyd Cohen
Photo: Submitted

Mr. Cohen attended Mount Allison University for a year but was called back to work at S. Cohen’s and Sons.

He started selling furniture out of the store in 1953, expanding it in 1956 and opening locations in Gander, Springdale, Baie Verte and Clarenville. Cohen’s Home Furnishings was among the largest shippers by rail to Newfoundland, with boxcars coming from Canada and the U.S. In 1985, when he sold the business, there were 13 Cohen’s stores throughout the province.

He led the creation of many initiatives, such as an inventory system that enabled fast delivery to customers, financing of furniture purchases on a non-interest basis and a consortium of the largest independent furniture dealers from across Canada for which he served as president. Cohen’s Home Furnishings is still thriving today.

Mr. Cohen has been a dedicated mentor to independent businesses and a driving force behind many ventures in central Newfoundland, including the launch of Central Cable Systems, and significant commercial real estate holdings.

He served as president of Grand Falls-Windsor’s Lion’s and Rotary clubs and was a founding member of the town’s Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club.

He was inducted into the Grand Falls-Windsor Business Hall of Fame and the Junior Achievement N.L. Business Hall of Fame in 2006. He was honoured with the N.L. Seniors of Distinction Award in 2012.

His defining characteristic is his devotion to his home province and his compassionate and selfless mentoring.

For his commitment and contribution to the people and economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, Boyd Cohen will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, on Wednesday, May 29, at 3 p.m. during spring convocation ceremonies in St. John’s.

Marlene Creates

Marlene Creates was born in Montreal, Que., and has lived in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1985. She is an internationally renowned mixed media environmental artist, poet, arts advocate and educator.

Marlene Creates, a white woman in her mid 60s, looks off camera and is in front of an out of focus green toned background.
Marlene Creates
Photo: Bernard Fougères

One of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most significant and influential visual artists, Ms. Creates’s projects explore the complex and layered relationships between people and the natural world. Since the 1970s, her work has been presented in more than 350 exhibitions and screenings in galleries and museums across Canada and the world.

She remains dedicated to Newfoundland and Labrador not only as an artist, but also as an educator, environmentalist and community arts activist. She contributes to the advancement of visual arts through her extensive teaching in the province and abroad. Her place-based art practice has lent itself to creating meaningful art experiences for almost 3,000 schoolchildren through the ArtsSmarts program.

Ms. Creates has contributed to the province through her many volunteer roles, some of which include co-founding the artist-run Eastern Edge Gallery and serving on its board; advocating for artists’ rights while on the board of the provincial visual arts organization, VANL-CARFAC; and serving on the National Council of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

She has received many provincial, national and international awards, including the Grand Jury Award at the 2014 Yosemite International Film Festival. In 2019 she was the first Newfoundland and Labrador artist to receive a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. In 2021 she was invested into the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.

For a renowned career honouring nature and creating beauty as an environmental artist and advocate, and for constantly using Newfoundland and Labrador as a touchstone in her work, Marlene Creates will receive the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa, on Tuesday, May 28, at 10 a.m. during spring convocation ceremonies in St. John’s.

Jerry Evans

Jerry Evans was born in Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland), is of Mi’kmaw and settler ancestry and is one of the province’s most significant visual artists.

Jerry Evans, who is a Mi'kmaw man in his late 50s, is pictured in an artist's studio holding a bright blue conical object.
Jerry Evans
Photo: Dermot Carberry

He graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1986 and from Memorial University with a bachelor of education degree in 1992.

For more than 30 years, his art practice has been dedicated to the preservation, reclamation and continued growth of Indigenous communities across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Working primarily as a painter and master printmaker, in addition to curation, film, design and traditional hand poke tattooing, the predominant theme in Mr. Evans’ art is his Mi’kmaw heritage.

His practice comes alive in the creation of his regalia powwow dancing regalia and in his commitment to sharing and learning with communities all over Mi’kma’ki. Notably, Mr. Evans’ story and artwork have been part of the provincial curriculum for K-12 students since 2010.

He has been fundamental in bringing Indigenous culture to light as a curator and advocate. In 1996 he curated First, a groundbreaking exhibition of contemporary works by 46 Indigenous artists from Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 2018 he curated a group exhibition of Indigenous artists titled Reclamation that was presented at Government House in St. John’s.

His 2023 solo exhibition and publication, both titled Weljesi, was presented at The Rooms in St. John’s and will tour nationally next year. This month, his solo show, Place of Life, is exhibiting at the Owens Gallery in Sackville, N.B.

For his extraordinary contributions to Indigenous visual art in the province and country through a rich body of work that explores Mi’kmaw identity and heritage, Jerry Evans will receive the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa, on Friday, May 31, at 3 p.m. during spring convocation ceremonies in St. John’s.

Pauline Thornhill

Pauline Thornhill was raised in outport Newfoundland in Bay L’Argent, on the island’s Burin Peninsula.

Pauline Thornhill, a white woman in her late 50s, is pictured against a white backdrop.
Pauline Thornhill
Photo: Submitted

She studied at Memorial University for two years before moving on to the University of King’s College’s journalism program in Halifax, N.S. Upon graduating with honours in 1986, she moved to St. John’s to begin working for CBC Television as a news reporter.

In 1993 she moved on to the position of host and producer of Land and Sea, the CBC’s iconic and longest-running regional program. For 29 years, Ms. Thornhill showcased the distinctive way Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deal with the pleasures and challenges of living on the East Coast. Upon her retirement in 2022, she had produced 250 episodes of television, receiving numerous awards for her work.

In 2004 she was honoured with the Gracie Allen Award for the Land and Sea episode, “Built from Scratch,” a story about a woman and her bakery. It is one of two “Gracies” Ms. Thornhill owns. The award recognizes exemplary programming created by women, for women and about women in all facets of media and entertainment.

Ms. Thornhill knows the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador in a unique way. She earned the confidence and deep respect of folks through her warmth and down-to-earth understanding that radiated out from her to her participants and their communities. She appeared equally at home chatting on the edge of a wharf in a secluded cove or yarning with a cabin owner somewhere in the interior — making people feel at ease everywhere she went.

For an adventurous body of journalistic work that now stands as a vital capsule of three decades of Newfoundland and Labrador life and cultural heritage, Pauline Thornhill will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, on Wednesday, May 29, at 7 p.m. during spring convocation ceremonies in St. John’s.

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