People of SFU

These SFU honorary degree recipients an inspiration for graduands, community

June 17, 2021

For the past 16 months, Dr. Theresa Tam has led Canada’s response to this generation’s largest global health emergency.

The nation’s first female chief medical health officer, her conviction and grace in the face of adversity during the COVID-19 pandemic are an inspiration to SFU’s students, graduands and community, and embody SFU’s core values.

She is among nine remarkable people who will receive honorary degrees during this month’s virtual convocation ceremonies.

Also included in that list is journalist Maria Ressa, who has endured government harassment and arrest in her fight for democracy, truth and press freedom in the Philippines.

“Around the world, a new generation of authoritarian leaders is leading a concerted and intentional assault on truth,” wrote former U.S. secretary of state Madeline Albright when Ressa was named among Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2019, “with serious consequences for journalists such as Maria who are committed to exposing corruption, documenting abuse and combatting misinformation.”

SFU confers degrees on distinguished individuals to recognize their scholarly, scientific or artistic achievement, or their exceptional contribution to the public good through professional or philanthropic activity.

In addition to Tam and Ressa, June’s convocation ceremony will see honorary degrees conferred on:

  • Philanthropist Andreas Dracopoulos, co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which has made nearly 5,000 grants to non-profit organizations in more than 130 countries;
  • Award-winning actor Michael J. Fox, who is helping lead the charge on research and therapeutic development in the fight for a cure for Parkinson’s disease;
  • Professor Malinda S. Smith, a world-renowned political scientist and tireless advocate of equitable, inclusive and decolonial approaches in higher education;
  • Telecommunications innovator Victor Hayes, whose work played a critical role in developing Wi-Fi;
  • Philanthropist Herb M. James, a charter SFU student who has spent half a century arranging free hearing screening and treatment in developing countries;
  • Environmental and human rights advocate Siila (Sheila) Watt-Cloutier, who has helped raise public awareness about climate change and its impact on the artic and its peoples;
  • And former judge Wally Oppal, who has led a number of high-profile commissions on policing in B.C. and made a significant impact to law, community safety and justice for society’s most vulnerable.

A schedule of the Convocation ceremonies and the honorary degree recipients is here. Four additional honorary degrees will be conferred during SFU’s fall convocation.

Nominate a worthy individual

SFU’s Senate Committee on University Honours is currently inviting members of the SFU community to nominate deserving people. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 20, 2021.

You can learn more about the nomination and selection process, including what to include in a nomination package, here.

In the lead-up to our virtual June Convocation 2021 (June 24-29) we'll be sharing stories from across our eight faculties about some of our amazing graduands. You can read the stories here. Be sure to share your convocation celebrations with the hashtag #MySFUGrad.