2019 Outstanding Alumni Awards

Friday, 20 September 2019 05:30PM PDT

Each year, awards are given to outstanding SFU alumni who are making exceptional community contributions both locally and abroad.

Join us on Friday, September 20 at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver where there will be an opportunity to hear powerful and inspiring stories from each of the four 2019 Outstanding Alumni recipients:

Isabel Ge Mahe - Vice President and Managing Director of Greater China, Apple Inc., whose bold leadership in wireless technology impacts the lives of millions of people around the world on a daily basis.

Kathleen Hepburn – award-winning Canadian screenwriter and film director recognized nationally and internationally for her creative perspective and voice.

Hew Choy Leong – distinguished scientist, professor, innovator, administrator and humanitarian whose ground-breaking discoveries are transforming the aquaculture industry.

Mark Okerstrom – inspired by travel and its power to change lives, the CEO of Expedia Group is helping shape how people use technology to explore the world.

Event details

Date: Friday, September 20

5:30 p.m. - Reception
6:30 p.m. - Presentations
8:00 p.m. - Dessert reception 

Location: Sheraton Wall Centre, 1088 Burrard St., Vancouver

Early-bird $35 per person until August 31
$45 per person as of September 1

Attire: Smart casual

Enquiries: events@sfu.ca or 778-782-4268

Appetizers, desserts, non-alcoholic beverages provided; cash bar available.

The recipients

Isabel Ge Mahe, BASc '97, MEng '00
Vice President and Managing Director of Greater China, Apple Inc.

Outstanding Alumni Award: Professional Achievement

About Isabel Ge Mahe

Isabel Ge Mahe’s bold leadership, innovative spirit and product design savvy impact the lives of millions of people around the world on a daily basis. Recruited personally by then CEO Steve Jobs, the electrical engineer joined Apple in 2008 as vice president of wireless technologies, charged with developing the wireless capabilities of the new iPhone and nearly every other Apple product. She also played a key role in developing new China-specific features for iPhone and iPad. In 2017, Mahe became the first-ever vice president and managing director for Apple in Greater China, where she oversees 12,000 employees across mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Her talent has caught the media’s attention. In 2018, Mahe was named by Fortune Magazine as the 10th most powerful woman in international business; Fast Company placed her sixth on its list of the Most Creative People in Business of 2017. Before Apple, Mahe was vice president of wireless software engineering at Palm Inc. and held key technical and managerial positions at other wireless companies. She serves as an industry advisor for the electrical engineering/computing science department at UC Berkeley and dedicated almost 16 years as an advisor for the Silicon Valley-China Wireless Association.


Kathleen Hepburn, BFA '07
Writer/Director, Co-Founder of Experimental Forest Films

Outstanding Alumni Award: Rising Star in Arts and Culture

About Kathleen Hepburn

A leading light among young Canadian filmmakers, Hepburn has been recognized nationally and internationally for her creative perspective and voice. Her first feature film, Never Steady, Never Still, which Variety magazine called a “stoically broken hearted debut,” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. It was awarded Best Canadian Film and Best Director by the Vancouver Film Critics Circles as well as Special Jury Prize at the Dublin International Film Festival, and was nominated for eight Canadian Screen Academy Awards including Best Picture. Hepburn’s second feature, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, was co-directed with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and premiered at Berlinale earlier this year. The production reflects her commitment to building relationships with and uplifting Indigenous creators and included collaborative paid mentorship positions for Indigenous youth. She has also been active in community initiatives related to the environment and other pressing issues.

Hepburn is an alumnus of the prestigious Women in the Director’s Chair program and the Canadian Film Centre’s Cineplex Film Program Writers’ Lab, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph Humber. She continues to work with many of her fellow alumni and often returns to SFU to share her success with and mentor current students.




Hew Choy Leong, MSc '67
Emeritus Professor and Senior Advisor, Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore

Outstanding Alumni Award: Academic Achievement

About Hew Choy Leong

Hew Choy Leong has had a distinguished career as a scientist, professor, innovator, administrator and humanitarian. He is recognized internationally for his ground-breaking discovery of antifreeze proteins in several cold water fish. This breakthrough led Hew and his collaborators to develop a method to produce rapidly growing transgenic salmon—the only known genetically modified animal to be approved for sale to consumers in Canada and the United States—transforming the aquaculture industry and paving the way for future initiatives to enhance food production worldwide. Hew is one of the founding scientists in AquaBounty Technologies Inc., based in the United States, that is leading this initiative. Hew is now focusing on using a land-based recirculated aquaculture system for salmon farming in China and other Asian countries to promote environmental sustainability and food safety.

Following positions at Memorial University and the University of Toronto, Hew was appointed department head of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore, transforming it into a vibrant, globally-respected and competitive research unit. He also built academic ties with universities in China and India, created an ASEAN University Network in Biology and established the Mechanobiology Institute, one of only five centres of research excellence in Singapore. Hew has held a number of international appointments and affiliations, supervised 65 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers. His community service extends from supporting Vietnamese refugees in Canada in the 1970s to the training of high school science teachers in Malaysia.

Mark Okerstrom, CLA '95
President and CEO, Expedia Group Inc.

Outstanding Alumni Award: Professional Achievement

About Mark Okerstrom

Known for his boundless curiosity and positivity, Mark Okerstrom is one of the youngest CEOs in the Fortune 500. At the helm of Expedia Group since 2017, he is helping shape how people use technology to explore the world. Okerstrom guides the operation of 200+ online travel booking sites and related travel services across 70+ countries and a workforce of more than 24,000 employees. He worked his way up the ranks since joining Expedia in 2006, serving in a number of senior leadership positions and contributing to almost every integral decision that the company has made in recent years, including corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and ecommerce.

Okerstrom is inspired by travel and its power to change lives and perspectives. He encourages employees to be a force for good through Expedia Cares, a company-wide program that features matching gifts, volunteerism and a global ambassador program, and has played a significant role to ensure Expedia’s social responsibility efforts align with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Okerstrom is a member of Challenge Seattle, an alliance of CEOs from 17 of the area’s largest employers including Amazon, Starbucks and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who are working to create a better future for residents and the region.

Our host

Peter Akman, BA '99
Senior Investigative Reporter, CTV’s W5 and National News

Known for his unflappable manner, Peter Akman’s passion for telling stories to foster understanding and positive change has taken him across Canada and around the world. An award-winning journalist and now senior investigative reporter with CTV’s W5 and National News, Peter has the technical skills to write, report, shoot and edit his own stories and has leveraged his broad interests to break news across multiple channels. Filing from some of the world’s top conflict zones with CBC and now CTV, Peter has been embedded with Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan and covered the fall of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, the Arab Spring from Egypt, the Rohingya refugee crisis and the Thailand cave rescue. He has also reported from the last five Olympic Games and two World Cups of Soccer and has been deployed to dozens of mass shootings and terror attacks from Las Vegas to Paris.  This year, he will be focusing on long form investigative documentaries with W5—Canada’s most-watched magazine show series.

When he’s not chasing breaking news or running after his two boys, Peter volunteers his time to help raise awareness and funds to support returning troops and emergency responders impacted by PTSD. He is a board member with the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and regularly speaks to young people about his experiences as a journalist and as a top NAIA athlete in swimming.

Akman received the Outstanding Alumni Award for Professional Achievement in 2018.


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