Honorary degree recipients

SFU's honorary degree is the highest honour conferred by the university. The degrees are awarded to distinguished individuals in recognition of their scholarly, scientific or artistic achievement, or in recognition of exceptional contribution to the public good. Honorary degree recipients' achievements celebrate our values and serve as an inspiration to our students, graduands and our community. 

2024 honorary degree recipients

June recipients }
October recipients }

October 2024 honorary degree recipients

At Convocation October 2024, SFU will confer honorary degrees on Yi Cui, Esi Edugyan, Elio Luongo and Alexandra Newton.

Yi Cui, Doctor of Science, honoris causa

A trailblazer who has pioneered a new branch of research that tackles some of society’s greatest challenges, Stanford University’s Yi Cui is one of the most cited and influential scientists working today. The professor of materials science has combined his expertise in nanoscience and energy storage to make game-changing breakthroughs in the development of next generation batteries that will power our world.

With more than 550 published studies under his belt and having founded five companies to commercialize technologies developed in his lab, Cui has been recognized by Thomson Reuters as the “Hottest Researcher of Today” in his field of materials science. In 2023, he became the founding director of Stanford University’s Sustainability Accelerator, helping to pave the way toward a more sustainable future.

The degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, will be conferred on Yi Cui on Thursday, October 10 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.

Photo credit: Tamara Poppitt

Esi Edugyan, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa

Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan is an internationally renowned bestselling author and a two-time winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize who has captivated audiences with her writing prowess. A champion of marginalized voices and truth telling, the Victoria, B.C., resident of Ghanaian descent is only one of three people to win Canada’s most prestigious literary award twice, which puts her in an elite group within the Canadian literary club.

Edugyan writes richly imagined and impeccably researched stories that illuminate complicated truths about race and belonging. Her first Giller Prize was for 2011’s Half-Blood Blues. Her second Giller Prize winning novel, 2018’s Washington Black, was also a finalist for the Booker Prize and was recognized as one of the best books of the year by Barack Obama and The New York Times.

The degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, will be conferred on Esi Edugyan on Thursday, October 10 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.

Elio Luongo, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

Elio Luongo is a visionary business leader who has demonstrated remarkable courage and dedication to creating positive change. As CEO and Senior Partner of KPMG in Canada, Luongo has championed inclusion and diversity; created a culture of future tech innovation and collaboration; and built a reputation for identifying and developing senior talent. He also led the formation of Digital University, an industry-leading program by SFU Beedie School of Business and KPMG.

At KPMG in Canada, Elio Luongo sets the firm’s strategic direction, leading more than 1,000 partners and 10,000 employees in 38 locations nationwide. Under his leadership, KPMG in Canada has more than doubled in size. Luongo serves in numerous board positions, including as chair and co-founder of The Canadian Centre for Audit Quality, co-founder of the Business Council of Toronto, and board member of Unity Health Toronto.

The degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, will be conferred on Elio Luongo on Friday, October 11 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.

Alexandra Newton, Doctor of Science, honoris causa

Canadian biochemist Alexandra Newton is a world-renowned scientist who has been making life-changing research breakthroughs while working towards gender equity and promoting access to training in science for underrepresented groups. Newton’s journey began at Simon Fraser University, where she graduated with a First Class Honors degree in Biochemistry in 1980 and she has gone on to become the first Canadian and first female from the Americas ever elected president of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

An outstanding biochemist who has dedicated her career to the study of protein kinase C, Newton has published more than 200 papers in high-quality journals and garnered numerous prestigious awards. She is a Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology at the University of California San Diego and has helped establish initiatives to engage trainees in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas in biochemical research.

The degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, will be conferred on Alexandra Newton on Friday, October 11 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.

June 2024 honorary degree recipients

At Convocation June 2024, SFU conferred honorary degrees on Daphne Bramham, Margaret George, J. Reid Maxwell, Gerri SinclairKii'iljuus, and Hildegard Westerkamp.

Photo credit: Jason Payne

Daphne Bramham, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

For more than 20 years, journalist and author Daphne Bramham has been one of the most respected and read voices in British Columbia. She has used her column in The Vancouver Sun as a platform to shed light on children’s, women’s and animal rights issues and advocate for positive change. Her impact has been recognized through multiple awards, including a National Newspaper Award for column writing and being named Commentator of the Year three times by the Jack Webster Foundation.

Bramham has a master’s degree in liberal studies from Simon Fraser University and is a proud alumnus. Before joining The Vancouver Sun as a city hall reporter in 1989, Bramham also reported for The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail and Regina Leader-Post. In 2008, she published her first book, The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada’s Polygamous Mormon Sect.

The degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, will be conferred on Daphne Bramham on Tuesday, June 11 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.

Margaret George, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

A familiar and friendly face who has helped change the fabric of life at Simon Fraser University, Margaret George has dedicated her life to education and service in Indigenous communities and beyond. George served as part of the SFU Elders program for more than 20 years, touching the lives of countless students, faculty and staff with her gentle advice and good humour. She retired this year having left an incredible legacy at the university.

Born in Sq’ewá:lxw (Skawahlook) First Nation, George attended two different residential day schools. Just one of six Indigenous students in her program, she graduated from University of British Columbia with a degree in Anthropology and English and also earned academic achievements from Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and the Justice Institute of B.C. and was a founding board member for Native Education College.

The degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, will be conferred on Margaret George on Thursday, June 13 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.

J. Reid Maxwell, Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa

One of the world’s most celebrated drummers, J. Reid Maxwell has been the driving heartbeat as Lead Drummer of Simon Fraser University’s illustrious pipe band for more than 30 years. Without a doubt the most influential and successful pipe band drummer in the world, Maxwell has 20 World Championship wins to his credit, including 12 with the SFU Pipe Band. He has played historic concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House, and taught generations of drummers.

The renowned achievements of the SFU Pipe Band would likely not have been as numerous and outstanding without Maxwell’s tremendous talent, drive, leadership and creativity and he has also dedicated himself to teaching generations of musicians. He helped form the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band, the SFU Pipe Band’s youth development program, and co-runs “Piping Hot Summer Drummer”, the largest summer school for bagpiping and drumming in the world.

The degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, will be conferred on J. Reid Maxwell on Tuesday, June 11 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.

Gerri Sinclair, Doctor of Science, honoris causa

Gerri Sinclair is a visionary leader who has helped to transform B.C.’s innovation landscape through 35 years working in technology, business, research and government. Her bold approach embraces education and innovation as a way to improve the social and economic outlook of communities and her entrepreneurial spirit has inspired generations of students at SFU, across Canada and throughout the world.

The first president of the B.C. Premier’s Technology Council and chair of Canada’s National Telecom Policy Panel, she has also served on the boards of a number of Canadian corporations including BC Telecom, Telus, Toronto Montreal Stock Exchange, Vancouver Airport, Ballard Power and the Canadian Pension Investment Board.

An SFU professor with a PhD in Renaissance drama, her attraction to technology led her to create SFU’s ExCITE Media Lab and its spinoff NCompass, acquired by Microsoft—which later hired her as its MSN General Manager. Most recently, she worked as a venture capitalist at Kensington Capital, managing the $100M B.C. Technology Fund, investing in B.C. startups. After three years as B.C.'s Innovation Commissioner Sinclair recently joined the Vancouver International Airport as interm CIO and EVP of Innovation and Technology.

The degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, will be conferred on Gerri Sinclair on Wednesday, June 12 at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.

Kii'iljuus, Doctor of Science, honoris causa

Kii’iljuus is a Haida Kuuljaad (Boss Lady or matriarch) and an accomplished scholar who lives her Kuuniisii (ancestors) ancient knowledge by challenging western science to uphold climate justice, advance food sovereignty, and truth and transparency in governance. She is a fellow with Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a sought-after speaker, and was an official observer at COP 21 in Paris.

Globally, Kii’iljuus voices the need for tll’yahda (to make things right) by removing the now legally discredited concepts of Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.  On Haida Gwaii, “Healing and Learning with the Knowledge of the Kuuniisii” is the foundation of her dream, the creation of the Haida Heritage School.

Today, Kii’iljuus is an adjunct professor and instructor with the Centre for Indigenous Fisheries at the University of British Columbia as well as a cultural advisor at Simon Fraser University. She inspires students to think holistically and beyond the walls of their formal training. After being told that university wouldn’t be her future, she quit school, and worked in many fields from film to fish. After retirement, Kii’iljuus graduated in 2019 with a Masters of Arts from the Faculty of Education at SFU.

The degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, will be conferred on Kii'iljuus on Wednesday, June 12 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.

Photo credit: Takumi Hayashi

Hildegard Westerkamp, Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa

Hildegard Westerkamp is a prolific sound activist, composer, and soundscape educator who has revolutionized the study of sound together with her colleagues at Simon Fraser University’s World Soundscape Project. With her expert ear carefully attuned to the world around her, Westerkamp has become a household name for pioneering soundscape composition and the practice of “soundwalking”. She has made it a priority to mentor women in her male-dominated field and has inspired new generations of sound artists, environmentalists, urban professionals and composers.

Hildegard joined the World Soundscape Project as the only woman in 1973. A year later, her article on soundwalking – in which a listener immerses themselves in a soundscape, listening intentionally and without judgement to the interplay of sounds – captured global attention and continues to be cited today. She is one of the first acoustic ecologists to call for sound artists to engage with and speak back to critical issues that affect soundscapes and society as a whole, such as the climate crisis. 

The degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, will be conferred on Hildegard Westerkamp on Friday, June 14 at the 9:45 a.m. ceremony.

For more information, contact Ceremonies and Events at convo@sfu.ca.