President's Report 2007

Tribute Award winners

Ten outstanding alumni of Memorial University of Newfoundland were recognized for their achievements at the 25th Annual Alumni Tribute Awards which were held during October 2006.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Frank Fagan

The telecommunications industry has radically transformed itself in the 40 years since Frank Fagan first started with Newfoundland Telephone as a 17-year-old lineman. And it would be fair to say that Mr. Fagan, too, has undergone a remarkable transformation in his personal and professional life.

One of Frank Fagan's strongest traits is his willingness to embrace change, strategic change that is. A leader and pioneer in Canada's telecommunications industry, he rose from his grassroots beginnings to become chief operating officer of one of North America's largest regional telecommunications organizations – Bell Aliant. And he earned his BA and MBA from Memorial along the way.

As a professional, Mr. Fagan was keenly aware of the potential of telecommunications and technology. He oversaw the creation of the province's multi-billion dollar communications and information technology network, employing thousands of people in the process and personally encouraging and inspiring many to acquire the relevant skills, knowledge and expertise to achieve excellence.

Under his leadership, Newfoundland and Labrador's communications utilities have partnered with Memorial University on projects such as the Telemedicine Centre, Engineering's Telecommunications Chair and the Canadian Centre for Marine Communications.

Mr. Fagan's remarkable professional career is complemented by his generosity as a humanitarian. He volunteers his time and expertise to serve many organizations, including a 25-plus year relationship with the TelecomPioneers of America. As president of that 620,000-member organization from 2001 to 2003, he carried out visionary change ensuring the organization's ongoing sustainability amid much industry change.

Horizon Award

Maj. Nick Withers

As injuries to Canadian soldiers mount in Afghanistan, one Memorial alumnus plays a lead role in national emergency response efforts to bring injured Canadian soldiers home safely. Maj. Nick Withers is the Canadian Forces senior medical authority in Germany. He oversees aeromedical evacuation operations through Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Posted to this NATO base on the Dutch/German border in 2005, Maj. Withers leads a small Canadian clinic where he is a physician to 750 Canadians, and facilitates care for another 850 Canadians posted in 22 European locations. Staff at the clinic is also responsible for receiving medical evacuations from the Middle East through Ramstein, the large U.S. military base three hours drive from Maj. Withers' home in Geilenkirchen.

Recruited into the Canadian military while at Memorial's medical school, this native of Paradise soon caught the attention of his employer because of his abilities as an excellent physician and a skilled administrator. Early in his military career he was stationed as head of medical staff in Goose Bay. Subsequently, he was re-assigned as physician to a counter-terrorist unit. And immediately prior to his posting to Germany, he was senior physician and commanding officer of a multi-disciplinary health care facility in Comox, B.C.

His continuing specialization in emergency medicine led to two special assignments as physician to the prime minister including one stint during the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.

J.D. Eaton Award

Dr. Georgina Hedges

Few alumni volunteers have demonstrated more commitment to Memorial University of Newfoundland in the past decade than Dr. Georgina Hedges. Since 1997 she has been a leading volunteer on the Board of Regents, the university's governing body.

As a leading volunteer at Memorial, she has worked closely with senior administration in such challenging areas as budget and government relations. She plays a key role at the most senior level of university governance. In 2001 she accepted the role of vice-chair with the board. For the period 2003-04, Dr. Hedges served the demanding role as acting chair of the Board of Regents, a job which she undertook with energy, dignity and thoughtful intelligence. And, because of her extensive leadership experience, she was once again called on to serve as acting chair in February 2006.

Dr. Hedges' volunteer role is a natural evolution of her 30-year career in education, for which she has been recognized with several awards. She completed four post secondary degrees in education from 1974 to 1994.

Her devotion to improving the education and the career opportunities of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as a volunteer in the service of Memorial University, makes Dr. Hedges a role model for those who believe in the value of giving back to Memorial.

Outstanding Community Service

Bessie Merrigan

For the past 30 years Bessie Merrigan has been a leading advocate in the promotion of literacy in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her outstanding volunteer service in the field of literacy has garnered several awards including a Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Volunteer Award in 1990.

Ms. Merrigan became involved as a literacy volunteer when, as a schoolteacher, she discovered that many of her young students could read better than their parents. She soon began teaching adults to read around her kitchen table. Since then she has voluntarily devoted much of her time and energy to promoting literacy at the local, provincial and national levels.

Ms. Merrigan has served on the provincial executive of Newfoundland and Labrador Laubach Literacy Council including two years as president. She's been involved with the Humber Literacy Council since 1989 and served as president of the local council for five years.

Her extensive involvement with Laubach Literacy of Canada includes five years on the national board. She returned to the board in 2003 to serve as national president. She has been described as the driving force behind the formation of Books for Babies and its expansion to other areas of the province. For many years she chaired this preschool literacy program, volunteered in hospitals and served on the advisory committee. She is also an involved volunteer on the Literacy Development Council.

Luminus Award

Team Gushue curling team

When Brad Gushue threw the last rock in the final end of the curling championship at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, he and his team reached the pinnacle of their sport: Olympic champions. Their victory was also a new plateau for Memorial alumni. That accomplishment prompted the Alumni Association to name the entire team as the recipients of the first-ever Luminus Award. This special tribute was created to honour those alumni for exceptional achievements that fall outside the parameters of the other Alumni Tribute awards.

As newly-minted honorary graduates of Memorial, Dr. Brad Gushue, Dr. Mark Nichols, Dr. Mike Adam, Dr. Jamie Korab, Dr. Russ Howard and coach Dr. Toby McDonald were awarded the inaugural Luminus Award in recognition of their remarkable skill, determination and spirit. They overcame personal, physical and financial challenges to build what has been described as the "best prepared men's curling team to play the game at the Olympic level." Their victory is a credit to the team, and is a source of pride and inspiration for Memorial alumni wherever they may be.