News Release

REF NO.: 121

SUBJECT: Convocation approaches; honorary degree recipients announced

DATE: August 24, 2017

Close to 1,000 degrees will be conferred upon graduating Memorial University students during convocation season in October.

As well, Memorial has announced the names of three extraordinary people to whom it will award degrees honoris causa during fall ceremonies.

At the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre on Thursday, Oct. 5, Memorial will present music educator Maxine Stanley with an honorary doctor of laws degree.

At the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on Thursday, Oct. 19, the university will confer upon Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, an honorary doctor of laws degree, and Arnold Witzig, philanthropist and co-founder of the Arctic Inspiration Prize, an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Biographies of the honorary degree recipients 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.

In addition, distinguished retired faculty members who were recently accorded the title professor emeritus/emerita by the university’s Senate will be recognized during fall convocation ceremonies.

Dr. Larry Mathews, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; Dr. Austin Richard (Rick) Cooper, Faculty of Medicine; and Dr. Michael Collins, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, will be awarded the title on Oct. 19.

Dr. Gerald Pocius, Department of Folklore, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, will be recognized as professor emeritus at a future session of convocation.

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 and those receiving special honours, please visit the convocation website. The broadcast will be available for viewing during each convocation session and archived on Memorial’s convocation website for future viewing.



Maxine Stanley

A dedicated and much-loved music teacher in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., for almost 50 years, Maxine Stanley has also been a pivotal figure in a wide range of local and voluntary agencies.

Best known for her contribution to music education and mentorship, in particular the youth choir she founded and directs, the nationally recognized Bel Canto singers, she has fostered, adjudicated and directed singers throughout her life.

The face and driving force of music and music education in Central Newfoundland, some would say Ms. Stanley’s knowledge, acumen and influence have been felt across the country. Her students have studied in and performed at top universities and opera schools all over North America; her work is highly valued by many of the best choral conductors in Canada.

Ms. Stanley’s list of awards is long and includes the 1981 Grand Falls-Windsor Citizen of the Year Award and Music Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2008 Unsung Hero Award and 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Beyond the countless hours she spends with piano and voice students under her tutelage, Ms. Stanley’s volunteer time has been generously spent working for and helping hundreds of organizations and causes.

Ms. Stanley has twice chaired the Central Newfoundland Kiwanis Music Festival and is a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Central Newfoundland. She has been a board member of the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts, the Grand Falls-Windsor Arts Committee and the Central Newfoundland Hospital.

At the provincial level, she has chaired the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council and has served on the boards of The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Workers Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Children’s Rehabilitation Centre and the Bruneau Centre for Excellence in Choral Research at Memorial University. She also served on the board of Cabot College, now College of the North Atlantic.

On an individual basis, Ms. Stanley has nurtured, promoted and helped launch the careers of many of Newfoundland and Labrador’s best artists, yet never forgets the importance of musical study and appreciation for everyone — not just those seeking a career in the musical arts. She has always believed that anyone can sing and sets out, again and again, to prove it.

For her long and considerable service to her community and her province, Maxine Stanley will receive the degree of doctor of laws honoris causa during fall convocation at Memorial.


Beverley McLachlin

Beverley McLachlin, P.C., chief justice of Canada, spent her formative years in Pincher Creek, Alta., and was educated at the University of Alberta, where she received a BA (Honours) in philosophy in 1965, and both an MA in philosophy and an LLB in 1968. Called to the Alberta bar in 1969, she practised in Edmonton, Alta., until 1971, then moved to British Columbia where, in 1974, she joined the faculty at the University of British Columbia as a tenured associate professor.

Chief Justice McLachlin’s judicial career began in April 1981, when she was appointed to the Vancouver County Court. In September of that same year, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was elevated to the British Columbia Court of Appeal in December 1985 and was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in September 1988. Seven months later, she was sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. On Jan. 7, 2000, she made history by being the first woman to be appointed chief justice of Canada. She is the longest-serving chief justice in the court’s history.

In addition to these notable achievements, Chief Justice McLachlin is recognized for the degree of stability and consensus-building she has brought to the court. She has fostered a measure of collegiality and cohesion, and sought to lessen the number of divided judgments emanating from the court.

Another notable accomplishment is her attention to outreach. Chief Justice McLachlin worked to strengthen the public’s access to the court and understanding of its work and decisions, introducing media lockups for journalists to explain the content of decisions and establishing a sophisticated website which explained judicial operations.

For her long, distinguished and lasting contribution to justice in Canada, Beverley McLachlin will receive the degree of doctor of laws honoris causa during fall convocation at Memorial.


Arnold Witzig

Born in 1949 in Switzerland, Arnold Witzig was raised in modest circumstances on a small family farm. He graduated as an architect and gradually realized he could implement a more effective planning and implementation process for architectural projects. He understood that economic, environmental, architectural, technical and social needs must be integrated in order to succeed, especially for complex industrial projects.

After becoming the head of a small architectural firm at the age of 31, Mr. Witzig began to carry out his vision to create a unique and comprehensive service by bringing together all the necessary specialists from different areas of expertise into a new business unit that focused on print and media industry.

Over a period of 18 years, the company that emerged, IE Engineering Group, implemented the same strategy in the plastics, food, life science and, later, high-tech industries. IE Group became the market leader and, with his business goals achieved, Mr. Witzig was ready to make a change. In 1998 he handed IE Group over to its team members and, the following year, travelled to Canada, not knowing the country would become his new home.

In Vancouver, B.C., Mr. Witzig met Sima Sharifi, a fellow immigrant, who would become his life partner. The couple spent much of the next decade crisscrossing the globe and working on a variety of social development and educational projects. During their travels, they spent time in and became fascinated by the North, where they decided to focus their philanthropic efforts.

Thus, the Arctic Inspiration Prize, also known as the Nobel Prize of the North, was born. Established in 2012, the $1-million prize was designed to create an ever-growing network of individuals and organizations with a compassion for the North, comprised of northerners and southerners, Indigenous organizations and corporations, governments, businesses and industries, non-governmental organizations and philanthropists, researchers and educators, who together encourage, enable and celebrate the many achievements of the people of the North.

The co-founders have stated that the intent of the prize was derived from their wish as immigrants to contribute to the future of their adopted country of choice with a focus on the Canadian Arctic and its major challenges and the opportunities in the face of rapid changes in environment, culture, technology and economy.

For his imaginative philanthropy and contribution to the development of Arctic research, Arnold Witzig will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree honoris causa during fall convocation at Memorial.

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