Honorary degrees venerate exceptional Canadians

October 8, 2009

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An internationally acclaimed jurist, a pioneering reproductive surgeon, an open-access publishing champion and a leading medical philanthropist will receive honorary degrees during SFU's fall convocation ceremonies, Oct. 8-9.

Stewart Blusson STEWART BLUSSON, Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Thursday, Oct. 8, 9:45 am

Stewart Blusson is a Vancouver geologist who co-discovered Canada’s first diamond mine in the Northwest Territories in the early 1990s and has since become one of the most generous philanthropists in Canadian history.

His donations include more than $100 million to fund Canadian medical research and education, including a record $12 million to SFU to support work in its new Faculty of Health Sciences. Archon Minerals Ltd., Blusson’s Vancouver diamond company, is also the sponsor of the Archon X Prize for Genomics. The US$10-million prize will be awarded to a team with a device that can sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days.

Blusson completed an undergraduate degree at UBC (1960) and a doctorate in geology at the University of California, Berkeley (1964). After school, he spent the next 15 years with the Geological Survey of Canada, leading regional geological mapping and research programs in the central Yukon and northern B.C. During that time, he survived a serious helicopter crash and a Grizzly bear attack and, in 1969, he piloted a helicopter to rescue his future prospecting partner Chuck Fipke, who was stranded in the wilderness for almost a week. The pair went on to discover one of the world’s largest diamond fields, eventually establishing the Ekati diamond mine. Their discovery led Canada to become the third most valuable diamond-mining country.
VICTOR GOMEL, Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2:30 pm

Victor Gomel is a Turkish-Canadian surgeon, professor emeritus and past head of obstetrics and gynecology at UBC, renowned
for his pioneering work in reproductive microsurgery and operative laparoscopy and revered for spearheading the creation of B.C. Women’s Hospital.

For nearly four decades, Gomel has been involved in work to better understand the tubal and peritoneal factors that cause infertility, and to improve surgical techniques to correct them. In 1981, he started an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program in Vancouver that was the first in the country to achieve success, resulting in Canada’s first IVF baby on Dec. 25, 1983. Since then, hundreds of children have been born through the program’s reproductive technology.

Gomel was also instrumental in creating the B.C. Women’s Hospital and Women’s Health Centre, the first such tertiary facility in Canada, in 1992. In addition to Vancouver medical students and residents, Gomel has trained postdoctoral fellows from all over the world, many of whom hold key positions in Canada and abroad. He has also authored numerous scientific articles and book chapters and written and edited several books. Among the many accolades for his pioneering work in gynecologic surgery and reproductive medicine, Gomel was made a Chevalier of the French Légion d’Honneur and a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.
Victor Gomel
 Louise Arbour

Louise Arbour, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Friday, Oct. 9, 9:45 am

Louise Arbour is a Montreal-born former Canadian Supreme Court justice and UN human rights high commissioner who earned an international reputation for her courage and determination as chief prosecutor for the 1990s tribunals into the Rwandan genocide and Yugoslavia human rights abuses.

Currently president and CEO of the independent International Crisis Group, Arbour was admitted to the Quebec bar in 1971 and the Ontario bar in 1977. She held various positions from 1974-1987 including associate law professor and later associate dean at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School before being appointed to Ontario’s Supreme Court in 1987 and Court of Appeal in 1990.

In 1995, she led an inquiry into events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ont. She served as the UN Security Council’s chief prosecutor from 1996–1999, during which she indicted then-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes. Arbour spent the next five years on the Supreme Court of Canada before accepting the UN human rights position in 2004. When she stepped down in 2008, after one term, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed "great regret," adding "she has never hesitated to incur the criticism of states or other entities by highlighting the victims of abuses and the inadequacies of legal systems everywhere." Arbour has more than 30 honorary degrees and dozens of medals and awards. She was named a Companion to the Order of Canada in 2007.

John Willinsky, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Friday, Oct. 9, 2:30 pm

John Willinsky is a Toronto-born Stanford University education professor and pioneering "open access" advocate who founded and still directs the internationally acclaimed Public Knowledge Project (PKP) at the University of British Columbia. Since 1998, through its partnership with the SFU Library among others, the PKP has been creating free open-source software to simplify the online management, publishing and indexing of journals, conferences, research and scholarship.

The PKP employs a team of computer, information and social scientists that works with scholarly societies, professional organizations and policymakers to develop and research online systems to improve the scholarly and public quality of academic research. It’s programs, such as the popular Open Journal Systems used by some 3,000 online journals around the globe, continue to increase access to knowledge and improve its scholarly management while greatly reducing publishing costs.

A prolific author, Willinsky’s ninth and latest book The Access Principle is considered required reading on the connection between access to information and the social and economic welfare of knowledge-based societies. It argues that a commitment to scholarly work includes a duty to circulate that work as widely as possible. Willinsky also co-developed the Information Technology Management program for B.C. and Ontario high schools and taught school in Ontario for 10 years.

John Willinsky


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