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Former SFU president Andrew Petter among June’s distinguished honorary degree recipients
Frequently being called ‘Doctor Petter’ posed a dilemma for SFU president emeritus Andrew Petter.
Petter, whose Master of Laws degree from Cambridge is a tertiary teaching degree, says people began referring to him as ‘Doctor Petter’ when he was named SFU president and vice-chancellor in 2010.
“At first, I corrected them,” he said during a recent interview from his home in Victoria. “But after a while I thought, I can’t keep doing this – so I let them call me doctor. But it felt awkward, because I wasn’t.”
All that changes next week when Petter will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from SFU for a lifetime of contributions to the province in academia, law and politics, as well as his transformative impact on post-secondary education in B.C. and beyond.
SFU’s honorary degree is the highest honour conferred by the university. Degrees are awarded to distinguished individuals in recognition of their scholarly, scientific, or artistic achievement, or in recognition of their contribution to the public good.
“Now, 12 years later, I don’t have to worry,” says Petter, tongue firmly in cheek. “When I’m at SFU, people can call me doctor and I won’t have to correct them or worry that they got it wrong.”
All kidding aside, Petter says that the honorary degree means a great deal to him and that he expects it to be an emotional day.
“I could never have been president of any other university,” he says. “I wouldn’t have wanted to. There’s something unique about Simon Fraser University that drew me and inspired me. And it makes this honour all the more meaningful.”
June 2022 Convocation
For more information on June’s convocation ceremonies, click here.
In what passes for retirement, Petter says he’s entered a stage of exploration to test where he can make the most positive contributions. It’s no surprise that many of the themes he explored as president of SFU continue to be a focus for him.
Among his many roles, he is a regular speaker at national and international education conferences, and serves as a trustee with the University of Central Asia, which was established by the Aga Khan to promote social and economic development in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
Petter, a former B.C. attorney general and dean of law at the University of Victoria, has also joined well-known law firm Arvay Finlay LLP as associate counsel. The firm focuses on constitutional and public law with respect to matters such as Indigenous issues and human rights.
In addition, Petter chairs Innovate BC, a Crown agency that promotes innovation in the province. And he serves as the SFU representative on Zone Start-ups India, a business accelerator affiliated with the Bombay Stock Exchange Institute (the educational arm of the Bombay Stock Exchange).
“I’m enjoying the luxury of making contributions in various places and diverse areas. For me, the key is finding ways to make a positive difference. It always has been, and it sure beats watching soaps.”
Spring 2022 Honorary Degree Recipients
Robert Turner is a heritage consultant and an internationally recognized authority on B.C. and Northwestern transportation history. A fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, he is author or coauthor of 19 books on railway and maritime history. The degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, will be conferred on Robert Turner on Friday, June 10 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.
Dr. Penny Ballem is a recognized leader in health care and government and is a distinguished academic clinician. The former B.C. deputy minister of health has contributed significantly to reproductive and women’s health and is leading the delivery of more than 11 million COVID-19 vaccinations. The degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, will be conferred on Dr. Penny Ballem on Thursday, June 9 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.
Humanitarian Dr. James Chi Ming Pau, an SFU alumnus, has spent 47 years providing compassionate health services, improving the quality of life for seniors and people with addictions in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and helping build an inclusive society. The degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, will be conferred on Dr. James Chi Ming Pau on Tuesday, June 7 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.
World-renowned conservationists and photographers Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen are the duo behind SeaLegacy, a storytelling studio that uses stunning, visual storytelling to move people from apathy to action to help heal our ocean and save our planet. The degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, will be conferred on Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen on Thursday, June 9 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.
Alan Twigg is B.C.’s leading man of letters and has made a multitude of important contributions to literature in the province, writing 20 books and founding and publishing B.C. BookWorld newspaper for more than three decades. The degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, will be conferred on Alan Twigg on Wednesday, June 8 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.
SFU president emeritus Andrew Petter’s lifetime of service to the province and visionary leadership in academia, law and politics have had a transformative impact on post-secondary education, public policy and community betterment in B.C. and beyond. The degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, will be conferred on Andrew Petter on Tuesday, June 7 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.