Honorary Degree Recipients: Spring 2018
Martin Yaffie smiling for his profile picture

Martin Joel Yaffe, C.M., B.Sc., M.Sc.(Manitoba), Ph.D.(Toronto)

Honorary Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at 10:00 AM

Internationally recognized scientist Dr. Martin Yaffe has devoted his career to finding ways to help women with breast cancer. The diagnostic techniques he continues to pioneer save thousands of lives around the world every year.

Dr. Yaffe grew up in the North End of Winnipeg, the eldest of three sons in a family with Eastern European roots. His parents taught their boys that education was the pathway to a successful life. Inspired by an uncle who was a nuclear chemist, young Martin pursued a career in science.

He began his studies at the University of Manitoba, completing a bachelor of science in 1971 and master of science two years later. Dr. Yaffe recalls listening intently to a visiting scientist from the University of Toronto, who spoke passionately about the great contributions physicists could make to medicine. He immediately shifted his focus to medical physics—a decision that eventually led to him becoming a PhD student in the lab of that same inspiring scientist.

Dr. Yaffe earned his Ph.D. in medical biophysics in 1978, and in the 40 years since, the University of Toronto remained his home base for ground breaking research in breast cancer management. Today he is a professor in the department of medical biophysics and the Tory Family Chair in Cancer Research at Sunnybrook Institute.

He is driven to transform laboratory findings into practical advances in everyday care. Best known as a pioneer in the development of digital mammography, he has helped to substantially improve the accuracy of breast cancer imaging. He was one of the first scientists to recognize the potential of emerging technologies in digital electronics and computers and then motivate mammograms are widely accepted as the modern standard of care throughout the world.

Dr. Yaffe is now researching ways to improve and expand the use of the technologies he has developed. With his colleague Dr. Norman Boyd, he is exploring computer-generated mammographic signatures associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. A startup company he co-founded is developing software that will allow these findings to be used cost-effectively in the field.

Dr. Yaffe’s achievements have earned him many distinguished awards, among them the Sylvia Fedoruk Prize, the Greenfield Award and a fellowship from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. For his tireless advocacy of improved breast screening for younger women, he was recently honoured with the Cause Leadership Award of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. He was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2015.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, to Dr. Martin Joel Yaffe, an outstanding role model for the Canadian scientific community.

Cindy Blackstock profile picture

Cindy Blackstock, B.A.(UBC), M.Man.(McGill), M.J.(Loyola), ipk.Doc.(BQFNU), Ph.D.(Toronto), D.C.L.(St. John’s College), D.Litt.(MSVU, TRU), LL.D.(Ryerson, Saskatchewan, UNBC, Waterloo, Western, Winnipeg, York)

Honorary Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at 3:00 PM

Dr. Cindy Blackstock grew up in northern British Columbia and is a member of the Gitksan First Nation. Inspired by the inequity she saw firsthand as a social worker, she made it her life mission to advocate for the reform of Canada’s child welfare system to meet the needs of all.

She is a passionate defender of the rights of Indigenous children and families across Canada, an author and researcher. Dr. Blackstock received her bachelor of arts majoring in psychology from the University of British Columbia, her master’s degree in management from McGill, her Master’s in Jurisprudence from Loyola University Chicago and her PhD in social work from the University of Toronto.

Her work has been shaped by more than 30 years of experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights, first as a senior social worker for the Province of British Columbia and then for the Squamish First Nation.

Appalled at the shortage of resources for Indigenous families, she joined with colleagues from Manitoba to form a national non-profit organization to provide research, policy, professional development and networking support for First Nations child and family services agencies. After a meeting at Squamish First Nation in 1998, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada was created. As executive director, she is an advocate and strong voice against the discrimination Indigenous children face, particularly as it relates to government actions and policies.

In 2007, she became the central figure in a groundbreaking complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal by the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations. In January 2016, after nine years of testimony and investigation, the Tribunal issued a landmark ruling. For the first time in Canadian history, the federal government was ordered to provide equitable services to First Nations children and their families.
Dr. Blackstock travels tirelessly to communities all over Canada, reaching out to children, parents, policymakers and service providers. She is often accompanied by Spirit Bear, a teddy bear that doubles as a reconciliation advisor, with a very active Twitter account. With a little help from Dr. Blackstock, Spirit Bear has written a best-selling children’s book and outlined a plan to address inequities in public services for First Nations children, youth and families.

Dr. Blackstock’s vast contributions have been recognized with numerous honours, including honorary degrees, the Order of the Buffalo Hunt, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (Public Policy) and an honorary lifetime membership in the Indigenous Bar Association. She has also served as a Trudeau Foundation Mentor and an Expert Advisor for UNICEF on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Dr. Cindy Blackstock, a truth-teller, community builder and champion for the rights of all children.

Janis Johnson smiling in her profile picture

The Honourable Janis Guðrún Johnson, B.A.(Manitoba)

Honorary Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 2:30 PM

For nearly half a century, the Honourable Janis Johnson has had an important influence on public policy in Canada. She has also championed many vital organizations that enrich the quality and vibrancy of life in Manitoba.

A proud Icelandic-Canadian from Gimli, she is the eldest daughter of Doris Blondal Johnson and the Honourable Dr. George Johnson, the province's 20th lieutenant governor.

Ms. Johnson first pursued political science at the University of Manitoba and was a leader in the student union. After completing her bachelor of arts degree in 1968, she moved to Ottawa, where she was a youth policy advisor to the Honourable Robert Stanfield, then Leader of the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party of Canada. Later, she became policy advisor to the president of the PC Party of Canada.

Returning to Manitoba in 1979, Ms. Johnson became an advisor to Premier Sterling Lyon and created the first Women’s Progressive Conservative Caucus in Winnipeg. She also worked with the University of Manitoba’s continuing education division, where she designed a program enabling women to become better-equipped to return to the workforce.

In 1983 she served as Manitoba co-chair of Brian Mulroney’s successful campaign for the leadership of the national PC Party and soon after became the national director of the PC Party of Canada—the first woman to hold this position.

Ms. Johnson also founded a public policy and communications consulting company that did extensive work in the areas of women’s health and equality, Indigenous affairs and cultural policy.

She was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1990, and upon retiring in 2016 was the longest-serving Conservative member. She served as chair or vice-chair of the committees on Human Rights, Aboriginal Peoples, Transport and Communications, and Fisheries and Oceans. She was also elected three times to lead the U.S.-Canada Parliamentary Group and served on the steering committee for the Senate Foreign Affairs and Environment committees.
Volunteerism has been a fundamental part of Ms. Johnson's life, through her extensive involvement with the Special Olympics and arts organizations in Winnipeg. She was the founding honorary president of Nature Canada for Women and has been a long-time advocate and fundraiser for women’s health research and services.

Ms. Johnson is one of the few Canadians to be awarded the prestigious Order of the Falcon by the Government of Iceland in recognition of her work on Canada-Iceland relations. She is currently chair of the Valuing Icelandic Presence board in the University of Manitoba’s department of Icelandic studies. Ms. Johnson also founded the Gimli Film Festival, now one of the largest festivals of its kind in Canada.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to the Honourable Janis Guðrún Johnson, a visionary leader in public policy and community service.

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Glen Alan Jones, B.A., B.Ed.(Manitoba), M.Ed., Ph.D.(Toronto)

Honorary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at 9:30 AM

Dr. Glen Jones is widely recognized as the foremost scholar writing about Canadian universities, as well as one of the world’s leading authorities on university governance.

He grew up on a farm near Killarney, Man., the youngest of four children. He began his post-secondary education at the University of Manitoba, earning his bachelor of arts in 1983 and bachelor of education in 1985.

During his studies, he developed a passion for universities, envisioning these post-secondary institutions not just as places to be educated, but as extraordinary spaces where ideas are born and diverse perspectives come together. He has since devoted a lifetime to the study of what makes the Canadian system unique, why it works and how we can maximize its capacity to be an incubator of new opportunities.

Dr. Jones pursued this dream at Canada’s largest all-graduate faculty of education, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. After earning his master’s and doctorate in higher education, he joined the faculty as a teacher and researcher. He’s progressed through a number of roles, and was the first to hold the prestigious Ontario Research Chair in Postsecondary Education Policy and Measurement.
In 2016, he became dean of OISE, an appointment that allows all of his strengths to converge. With Dr. Jones at the helm, the organization has successfully undergone a comprehensive and rapid transformation involving a range of stakeholders, from students and staff to policymakers.

While his leadership skills are revered, he is most proud of his contributions to higher education research. Collaborating with peers from around the world, he has greatly expanded our academic understanding of the factors impacting Canadian universities, from systems and governance to politics and policy.
His work has explored the unique aspects of the Canadian model, including the strong national partnerships that have flourished within the world’s most decentralized university system. Two decades ago, he explained these differences in the book Higher Education in Canada: Different Systems, Different Perspectives, and it remains a foundational work for understanding higher education across our country.

Dr. Jones has written or co-authored 14 books and more than a hundred articles on Canadian higher education, and has been called upon to share his expertise in more than 40 countries. The many awards and honours bestowed on his work have taken him to Barbados, Beijing, Oslo and Shanghai, to name a few.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to Dr. Glen Alan Jones for his outstanding contribution to higher education.

Janet Rossant Profile Picture

Janet Rossant, C.C., B.A., M.A.(Oxford), Ph.D.(Cambridge), LL.D.(Dalhousie, Mount Allison, Windsor), D.Sc.(UBC, Cambridge)

Honorary Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at 3:00 PM

Through her trailblazing stem-cell research, Dr. Janet Rossant has advanced the study of children’s illnesses and laid the groundwork for future advances in regenerative medicine.

Growing up in southeast England, she was inspired to study life sciences by her female biology teacher, during a time when girls were often discouraged from pursuing science. Undeterred, she received her bachelor of arts in zoology at Oxford University, followed by a Ph.D in mammalian development at Cambridge University. In 1977, marriage brought her to Canada, where she joined Brock University and then the University of Toronto, as an associate professor.

The goal of her research is to understand the miracle of how a single cell develops into a complex organism like a human being. She demonstrated that mouse embryonic stem cells can in fact form a healthy, living creature, if provided with supporting placental cells. This suggested that human embryonic stem cells could be a major source of cells to treat degenerative diseases.

Her groundbreaking work led to the discovery of the trophoblast stem cell, which helped understand how congenital abnormalities in the heart, blood vessels and placenta can occur. Her current research focuses on genetic control of both normal and abnormal development of embryos. These findings have been applied to the study of regenerative medicine, birth defects and cancer.

With these advances come questions about the ethical use of stem cells. She has helped lead the discussion by chairing the working group developing stem cell guidelines set by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Today, she remains at the forefront of developmental biology and stem cell research. She is president and scientific director of The Gairdner Foundation, a senior scientist and chief of research emeritus at the Hospital for Sick Children, and a deputy scientific director of the Canadian Stem Cell Network. She has also been the director of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a member of the University of Manitoba’s Distinguished Professor Selection Committee.

Her contributions have been recognized with many national and international awards, including the Gairdner Wightman Award (2015) and the Ross G. Harrison Medal from the International Society of Developmental Biologists (2013). In 2018, she was selected as the Laureate of North America for the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award. She is also a Companion of the Order of Canada.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, to Dr. Janet Rossant, a world leader in the field of developmental biology.

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Richard G. Henriquez, C.M., B.Arch.(Manitoba), M.Arch.(MIT), LL.D.(SFU)

Honorary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at 9:30 AM

Few Canadian architects have influenced contemporary urban design more than Mr. Richard Henriquez. Over the past 50 years, his imaginative approaches have shaped the architectural character of Vancouver and drawn worldwide attention.

Born in Jamaica, Mr. Henriquez came to Canada as a young man to study architecture at the University of Manitoba. He quickly distinguished himself, winning the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada Student Medal and the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture thesis prize. After graduation in 1964, he then continued his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where three years later he received a master of architecture degree specializing in urban design.

After moving to Vancouver, he launched the practice that is now Henriquez Partners Architects. He soon began a prolific evolution beyond the modernist style so prevalent in the 1960s. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is his influence on the development of Vancouverism, a distinctive form of high-density urban design that combines slim towers, lowrise buildings, parks and view corridors to create intimate, livable neighbourhoods. Vancouverism is now widely regarded as one of the reasons the city is consistently rated as one of the best places to live in the world.

Vancouverism originated at a time of growing opposition to tall buildings. The turning point came in 1984 with the construction of The Sylvia, the first of four residential highrises designed by Mr. Henriquez for Vancouver’s West End. With its slim proportions and thoughtful relationship to the site, The Sylvia overcame public resistance to towers, enabling these structures to become one of the defining features of Vancouver’s urban landscape. In 1999, Canadian Architect magazine named this highrise one of the most influential Canadian buildings of the twentieth century.

The Sylvia was also an artistic breakthrough for Mr. Henriquez. He became a storyteller, combining functional forms with a more complex range of expression and meaning. An accomplished visual artist in his own right, he has continued to blur the lines between art and architecture, introducing elements of painting, sculpture, geometry and surrealism to his work. Planners and designers from all over the world now flock to Vancouver for inspiration.

Mr. Henriquez has also become one of Canada’s foremost crusaders for public architectural awareness. He has been the driving force behind the Vancouver Urbanarium Society, a platform for engaging citizens in conversations about urban development.

His achievements have been recognized with many honours, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the most prestigious award for lifetime achievement in Canadian architecture.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to Mr. Richard G. Henriquez for his outstanding contribution to the craft and culture of architecture in Canada and beyond.

Elder Mary Courchene Profile Picture

Elder Mary Elizabeth Courchene, B.T.(Brandon), B.A., B.Ed.(Manitoba)

Honorary Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at 3:00 PM

A distinguished Indigenous leader and inspirational role model in the field of public education, Elder Mary Courchene generously offers her guidance and courage on our shared journey toward truth and reconciliation.
Drawing from her own painful experiences as a Residential School Survivor, she seeks to build understanding that brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together to learn, heal and grow.

She was born in Sagkeeng First Nation, where she enjoyed a happy childhood until she was sent to the Fort Alexander Residential School at the age of five. Isolated from her family, she endured years of devastating loneliness. A bright light emerged in Grade 7 when a supportive teacher instilled within her a confidence in her academic abilities. She began to see her own potential, and gained a love of learning.

Years later, following marriage and seven children, this love of education would be rekindled. Although she hadn’t completed high school, she reached out to Brandon University to apply for a special program. Her dream of a university education was fulfilled when she received her acceptance letter. She would go on to become one of the first Indigenous students to pursue multiple degrees from both Brandon University and the University of Manitoba.

She was soon at the forefront of Indigenous programming in the public school system. During a career that spanned more than three decades, she was the first Indigenous administrator in Winnipeg School Division, the inaugural principal of Children of the Earth School (the first Indigenous-focused, urban high school in Canada) and the first female dean of Aboriginal education at Red River College. She also co-founded Aboriginal Circle of Educators in 1987 and the Manitoba First Nations Educational Centre in 1998.

Over the years, she has earned numerous awards and honours, including the YM-YWCA Women of Distinction Award, Aboriginal Community Educator of the Year, Aboriginal Circle of Educators Innovator Trailblazer Award and Aboriginal Educator of the Year (Canadian Teachers Federation). She is an honored grandmother of Keep the Fires Burning, and has been awarded a sacred shawl and community recognition.

In 2008, she was among the 100 survivors invited to the House of Commons to witness the Canadian government’s historic apology for its role in Residential Schools. Today she continues to speak about the intergenerational impacts of residential schools, often with her daughter and granddaughter at her side.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Elder Mary Elizabeth Courchene, an innovator and role model who has left a positive imprint on the landscape of public education in Manitoba.

Arnold Frieman profile picture

Arnold Frieman, O.M., B.A.(Manitoba) 

Honorary Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) on Friday, June 8, 2018, at 10:30 AM

Arnold Frieman arrived in Canada homeless and penniless, only to become an esteemed benefactor of his adopted community.

He was born in Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary, in 1928, one of six children in an Orthodox Jewish family whose happy life was destroyed by the Holocaust. When he was 16 and studying in Budapest, his parents, two brothers, three sisters and grandfather were shipped to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Arnold spent the next several months in a forced-labour camp before making a miraculous escape.

After the war, he was taken to Norway, where he studied electronics—a skill he then applied as an Air Force volunteer in the Israeli War of Independence. Although he discovered that two of his sisters had miraculously survived and were living in Israel, he returned to Norway. In 1951, he decided to start life anew in Canada. He was headed to an arranged job in Ontario, but on a whim headed for Winnipeg—where he hoped to find the Wild West he had fallen in love with as a child through the movies.

He found a job and new friends, one of whom, Minnie Heft, encouraged him to pursue a university education. He feared that poor English and a lack of money would stand in his way, but passed the entrance exam. With a $1,000 gift from Mrs. Heft, he started a business to finance his studies: He fixed and re-sold car radios purchased from wrecking yards.

Mr. Frieman considers his years at the University of Manitoba among the most impactful of his life. He graduated in 1960 with a bachelor of arts degree and a renewed belief in possibilities—as well as the love of Myra Thompson, whom he married that same year.

In 1962, he bought the small television repair shop that would become Advance Electronics. Within 12 years, Advance had grown into the largest independently owned electronics store in Western Canada.

One of the joys of his success is his ability to give back. The many organizations he has supported range from iconic arts groups to small, grassroots causes. His generosity made possible the premiere of I Believe, a Holocaust oratorio that helps people everywhere appreciate the importance of peace and justice. His inclusive style of philanthropy encourages creativity and kindness.

His many contributions to his alma mater include support for the University of Manitoba-University of Szeged Partnership, which funds exchanges between Hungarian and Manitoban scholars.

Over the years, his achievements have been recognized with numerous honours, most notably his induction into the Order of Manitoba in 2006.

The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Arnold Frieman, an exceptional global citizen and builder of this community.