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Memorial announces honorary degree recipients

Memorial University has announced the names of the individuals whom it will salute with honorary doctorates at spring and fall convocation ceremonies in 2011. Memorial will present degrees honoris causa to 12 accomplished people during nine ceremonies to be held in St. John’s and Corner Brook this year.
During spring convocation, honorary degrees will be awarded to UN envoy Stephen Lewis (to be conferred at Corner Brook); writer and researcher Patrick O’Flaherty; musician Sandy Morris; biochemist and insect specialist E. David Morgan; molecular biologist Sidney Altman; author and thought leader John Ralston Saul; fisherman and community organizer Donald Best; philanthropist Elinor Gill Ratcliffe; and professional communicator and community bandleader Edsel Bonnell.

During fall convocation ceremonies, honorary degrees will be awarded to civil servant David Vardy; author Kevin Major (to be conferred in Corner Brook); and linguist and encyclopedist David Crystal (biographies of all honourees follow below).

Honorary degree recipients are chosen by the Senate, the university's academic governing body, after a very careful examination of the grounds for their nomination.

The honorary doctorate degree is designed to recognize extraordinary contribution to society or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.

The awarding of honorary doctorates, an important feature of Memorial's convocation, serves to celebrate both the individual and the university, as well as to inspire graduates, their families and guests.

Memorial’s spring convocation ceremonies will take place on Friday, May 13, at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook, and from Tuesday, May 24, to Friday, May 27, at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s.

Fall convocation is scheduled for Oct. 7 in Corner Brook and for Oct. 21 in St. John’s.

Sidney Altman
For his role in the development of molecular biology and its implications for modern medicine, Sidney Altman will receive an honorary doctor of science degree at the 3 p.m. session of convocation on Wednesday, May 25. One of the central players in changing science’s understanding of the role of RNA in biology, Dr. Altman worked with scientists like Francis Crick who launched the world’s knowledge of DNA.

Edsel Bonnell
For his service to his community as both a bandleader and in public relations, Edsel Bonnell will be awarded an honorary doctor of laws at the 3 p.m. session of convocation on Friday, May 27.

In essence a man with two careers, Mr. Bonnell has excelled at both. Fifty years ago he was the first person in Newfoundland to be a professional public relations consultant. In musical circles he is best known for his role as founder and leader of the Gower Youth Band.

David Crystal
In recognition of his long and important role in language studies, an area in which Memorial has distinguished itself, David Crystal will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree at the fall session of convocation on Oct. 21.

Prof. Crystal, who was Memorial University’s inaugural George M. Story Lecturer in 1999, is an encyclopedist and a noted linguist. As author or editor, he has been involved in the production of more than 100 books.

Donald Best
For his sustained and effective leadership of his own community, which has served as a model for outport survival, Donald Best will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the 3 p.m. session of convocation on Thursday, May 26.

A fisherman, Mr. Best was one of the founders of the Fogo Island Improvement Committee which bred the Fogo Island Co-operative, today the largest employer on the island. He had been a member of the town council since 1958 and was its mayor in 1966. In the early days Mr. Best also worked with Memorial University’s Extension Services on the community development work now known as the Fogo Process.

Stephen Lewis
For his contributions to Canada and for his role in effecting social change internationally, Stephen Lewis will be awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree during the Grenfell Campus session of convocation on Friday, May 13, at 10 a.m.

Well known as a politician in Ontario and nationally, it was in his role as special UN envoy for AIDS he has had the greatest impact bringing to the attention of wealthier nations the plight of people in Africa — and bringing to the attention of African and other world leaders the fact that AIDS cannot be ignored.

Kevin Major
For his writing and for his contributions to Memorial University, Kevin Major will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree during fall convocation at the Grenfell Campus session on Oct. 7.

His novel for young adults, Hold Fast, won three awards, including the first Newfoundland Governor General's since E.J. Pratt. He has written six more novels, all of which won major prizes. His first adult novel, No Man's Land, was published in 1995. His history of Newfoundland and Labrador, titled As Near to Heaven by Sea, was nominated for the 2001 Pearson Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize

E. David Morgan
One of Memorial University’s own graduates who has had a distinguished career in science, E. David Morgan will receive an honorary doctor of science degree at the 10 a.m. session of convocation on Wednesday, May 25.

After studying at Memorial, in 1966 he went to Keele University in the UK, then a comparatively new and innovative university, to work on insect pest control and on insect pheromones. Today he is Keele’s emeritus professor in the School of Physical and Geographical Sciences.

He has published over 300 papers over the course of his career and, despite the fact that he retired in 1995, written or co-authored 30 papers and a book since 2002.

In 1989 the Chromatographic Society gave him its Jubilee Medal for his contributions to the development and application of chromatography, a set of laboratory techniques for the separation of mixtures.

Alexander (Sandy) Morris
For his broad-ranging contributions to Newfoundland music, Sandy Morris will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree at the 7:30 p.m. session of convocation on Tuesday, May 24.

A figure ever-present but often overlooked in the productions in which he appears, Sandy Morris is a guitarist of exceptional skill. He has been the foundation of many significant shows (live or on television) and of numerous CDs for the last 40 years. Starting out in the late 1960s as a performer on CBC TV's long-running All Around the Circle, he composed and performed in the NFB production Children of Fogo and played for the Philadelphia Cream Cheese — a legendary band from the time led by the late Noel Dinn.

Patrick O’Flaherty
For his scholarship, his contributions to Memorial University, the community and the country and for his very significant role in the development of Newfoundland and Labrador studies, Dr. Patrick O'Flaherty will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree on the 3 p.m. session of convocation on Tuesday, May 24.

Dr. O’Flaherty is a specialist in the literature and history of Newfoundland and professor emeritus in the Department of English at Memorial University.

Elinor Gill Ratcliffe
For her generous contributions to all manner of cultural and social causes and for reshaping the nature of philanthropy in Newfoundland and Labrador, Elinor Gill Ratcliffe will be awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree during the 10 a.m. session of convocation on Friday, May 27.

Ms. Gill Ratcliffe has been involved in philanthropic activity for over 30 years but has, since 2006 and the establishment of the Gill Ratcliffe Foundation, been a major figure in the provincial social and cultural scene. Among her more recent philanthropy was her half-million dollar gift to Memorial that enabled the establishment of the Jarislowsky Chair in Culture Change.

John Ralston Saul
A writer and thinker unbounded by the restrictions of discipline or doctrine, John Ralston Saul has given Canadians the opportunity to rethink their identities. For this and for his contributions to Canadian society, Mr. Saul will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree during the 10 a.m. session of convocation on Thursday, May 26.

He wrote five novels, of which The Paradise Eater won Italy's Premia Lettarario Internazionale. And then he became an essayist, addressing a series of contemporary issues in Voltaire's Bastards (1992), The Doubter's Companion (1994) and The Unconscious Civilization (his 1995 Massey Lectures and winner of the Governor-General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction).

David Vardy
For his significant and dedicated service to the government and people of Newfoundland and Labrador, David Vardy will be awarded an honorary degree during fall convocation on Oct. 21.

A constant presence in the councils of the government for the last four decades, Dr. Vardy can be seen as Newfoundland's quintessential public servant.

Having lectured in economics at Memorial, Princeton and Queen's, and served in the federal Department of Finance, he joined the provincial government as director of Economic Policy in 1972. A long-serving clerk of the Executive Council, in 1985 he took over as president of what was then known as the Fisheries College, helping to transform it into the Marine Institute. In 2001-02 he was the Channing Fellow at Memorial and, subsequently became a major player in the development of the university's Public Policy Research Centre into the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development.