Two charter students among outstanding alumni to be honoured by SFU

January 14, 2016

Two Simon Fraser University charter students—Margaret Trudeau (BA ’69) and David Mark (BA ’71, PhD ’77), are among five distinguished individuals who will be honoured with SFU’s Outstanding Alumni Awards on March 3 in Vancouver.

Trudeau, a mental health and clean water advocate, and Mark, a pioneer of Geographic Information Science (GISci) will be joined by Zabeen Hirji (MBA‘94), chief human resources officer of the Royal Bank of Canada, philanthropist David Fong (BA’80) and science “rock star” Jennifer Gardy (PhD ’06), who receives the new Rising Star award.

The awards are given annually by SFU and the Alumni Association and recognize alumni whose accomplishments and contributions reflect the University’s mandate of engaging the world. Nominations in several categories are received from alumni, faculty, staff, students and SFU's many friends in the community in several categories.

At this year’s event, held during the University’s 50th anniversary year, the honorees will share inspiring stories about their contributions to local and global communities.

The awards are given in several categories:

Margaret Trudeau is being honoured for her service to the community.

A Canadian icon, she is celebrated both for her role in the public and as a respected mental-health and environmental issues advocate. From her experiences as a prime minister’s wife at a young age to living with bi-polar disorder, Trudeau tirelessly shares her personal stories to remind others of the importance of nurturing the body, mind and spirit. She is the author of four books, including her latest, The Time of Your Life. She sits as a community advocate on the Executive Advisory Board of the UBC Mental Health Institute and is Honorary President of WaterAid, a charitable Canadian non-governmental agency dedicated to helping poor communities in developing countries build sustainable water supplies and sanitation services.

David Mark, a SUNY Distinguished professor in the Department of Geography at State University of New York in Buffalo, is being honoured for academic achievement.

Mark developed new methods to represent topography on computers, and worked on the principles for vehicle navigation systems and way-finding long before the Global Positioning System (GPS) or Google Maps existed. In 2004, he was named Researcher of the Year by the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) and in 2009 was recognized as Educator of the Year. In 2013 he received a Distinguished Career Award from the Association of American Geographers.

Zabeen Hirji is being honoured for professional achievement

An internationally recognized champion for diversity and inclusion, Hirji was twice listed among Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence. As RBC’s chief human resources officer she holds responsibility for human resources, brand, communications and corporate citizenship. Her ability to look beyond the conventional, and to recruit, engage, develop and retain talent has brought a fresh perspective to the fields of human resources and corporate citizenship. In 2014 she was named a Catalyst Canada Honours Champion for leadership in the advancement of women and minorities. In 2012 the Women’s Executive Network inducted her into Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Hall of Fame. Hirji is also active in youth employment.

Jennifer Gardy, senior scientist with the BC Centre for Disease Control and host of CBC’s “The Nature of Things,” is being honoured with the new Rising Star award.

Gardy has pioneered a new scientific field, known as genomic epidemiology, by developing a method for tracking how organisms such as tuberculosis and influenza spread from person to person, eventually leading to disease outbreaks. Her entrepreneurial spirit and devotion to science education have established her as a strong female representative within science communication and media. She frequently guest-hosts on CBC’s “The Nature of Things” and Discovery Channel Canada’s “Daily Planet.” In 2014 the YWCA recognized her contributions with a Women of Distinction Award for Science, Technology and Research.

David Fong, managing director, Hip Shing Hong Group, is being honoured for service to the community.

While overseeing a billion-dollar property development company in Hong Kong is David Fong’s primary responsibility, he is recognized foremost as a philanthropist. A

proponent of redefining education, socio-economic development and social services, he has combined his entrepreneurial spirit and interests in tax and wealth reform to design initiatives for start-ups and disillusioned youth. In 2014, he oversaw a project to convert an industrial building to commercial use in Wong Chuk Han and set aside approximately 10 per cent of its space for young people to lease at rates nearly one-third less than market rates. In 2014 the Family Council of Hong Kong recognized the Fong family’s benevolence with a Family Friendly Employer award. 

For more details on the honorees and to purchase event tickets see