L-r: Isabel Ge Mahe, Kathleen Hepburn, Hew Choy Leong and Mark Okerstrom have all won a 2019 SFU Outstanding Alumni Award.

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SFU to recognize four outstanding alumni

August 20, 2019
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Host Peter Akman

SFU and the Alumni Association are honouring four inspiring alumni – an international wireless technology pioneer; an award-making filmmaker; a scientist and aquaculture innovator; and one of the youngest CEOs in the Fortune 500 - with a 2019 SFU Outstanding Alumni Award.

The annual awards recognizes SFU alumni whose achievements reflect SFU’s mandate of engaging the world. This year's four winners are making exceptional community contributions at home and abroad.

The awards will be presented on Sept. 20 at the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Awards at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre. The evening's host will be previous SFU outstanding alumni award winner Peter Akman, a senior investigative reporter at CTV’s W5 and National News.

Early bird tickets are available until Aug. 31. Click here to read more.

This year’s recipients are:

Isabel Ge Mahe

Isabel Ge Mahe, BASc '97, MEng '00
Vice President and Managing Director of Greater China, Apple Inc.

Outstanding Alumni Award: Professional Achievement

Isabel Ge Mahe’s bold leadership, innovative spirit and product design savvy impact the lives of millions of people around the world on a daily basis. Recruited personally by then CEO Steve Jobs, the electrical engineer joined Apple in 2008 as vice-president of wireless technologies, charged with developing the wireless capabilities of the new iPhone and nearly every other Apple product. She also played a key role in developing new China-specific features for iPhone and iPad. In 2017, Mahe became the first vice-president and managing director for Apple in Greater China, where she oversees 12,000 employees across mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Mahe's talent has caught the media’s attention. In 2018, Fortune Magazine named her the 10th most powerful woman in international business; in 2017 Fast Company placed her sixth on its list of the Most Creative People in Business. Before Apple, Mahe was vice-president of wireless software engineering at Palm Inc. and held key technical and managerial positions at other wireless companies. She serves as an industry advisor for the electrical engineering/computing science department at UC Berkeley and dedicated almost 16 years as an advisor for the Silicon Valley-China Wireless Association.

Kathleen Hepburn

Kathleen Hepburn, BFA '07
Writer/Director, Co-Founder of Experimental Forest Films

Outstanding Alumni Award: Rising Star in Arts and Culture

A leading light among young Canadian filmmakers, Hepburn has been recognized nationally and internationally for her creative perspective and voice. Her first feature film, "Never Steady, Never Still," which Variety magazine called a “stoically broken-hearted debut,” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. It won awards for Best Canadian Film and Best Director from the Vancouver Film Critics Circles, won a Special Jury Prize at the Dublin International Film Festival, and was nominated for eight Canadian Screen Academy Awards including Best Picture. Hepburn’s second feature film, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, co-directed with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, premiered at Berlinale earlier this year. The production reflects her commitment to building relationships with, and uplifting, Indigenous creators, which includes collaborative, paid mentorship positions for Indigenous youth. She has also been active in community initiatives related to the environment and other pressing issues.

Hepburn is an alumnus of the prestigious Women in the Director’s Chair program and the Canadian Film Centre’s Cineplex Film Program Writers’ Lab, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph Humber. She continues to work with many of her fellow SFU alumni and often returns to SFU to share her success with, and mentor, current students.

Hew Choy Leong

Hew Choy Leong, MSc '67
Emeritus Professor and Senior Advisor, Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore

Outstanding Alumni Award: Academic Achievement

Hew Choy Leong has had a distinguished career as a scientist, professor, innovator, administrator and humanitarian. He is recognized internationally for his ground-breaking discovery of antifreeze proteins in several cold water fish. This breakthrough led Hew and his collaborators to develop a method for producing rapidly growing transgenic salmon—the only known genetically modified animal to be approved for sale to consumers in Canada and the United States. This breakthrough transformed the aquaculture industry and paved the way for future initiatives to enhance food production worldwide. Hew is one of the founding scientists in AquaBounty Technologies Inc., based in the United States, which is leading this initiative. He is now focused on using a land-based recirculated aquaculture system for salmon farming in China and other Asian countries to promote environmental sustainability and food safety.

Following positions at Memorial University and the University of Toronto, Hew was appointed department head of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore, transforming it into a vibrant, globally respected and competitive research unit. He also built academic ties with universities in China and India, created an ASEAN University Network in Biology and established the Mechanobiology Institute, one of only five centres of research excellence in Singapore. He has held a number of international appointments and affiliations, supervised 65 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers. His community service extends from supporting Vietnamese refugees in Canada in the 1970s to training high school science teachers in Malaysia.

Mark Okerstrom

Mark Okerstrom, CLA '95
President and CEO, Expedia Group Inc.

Outstanding Alumni Award: Professional Achievement

Known for his boundless curiosity and positivity, Mark Okerstrom is one of the youngest CEOs in the Fortune 500. At the helm of Expedia Group since 2017, he is helping to shape how people use technology to explore the world. Okerstrom guides the operation of 200-plus online travel-booking sites and related travel services across more than 70 countries, and oversees a workforce of more than 24,000 employees. He has worked his way up the ranks since joining Expedia in 2006, serving in a number of senior leadership positions and contributing to almost every integral decision the company has made in recent years, including decisions related to corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and ecommerce.

Okerstrom is inspired by travel and its power to change lives and perspectives. He encourages employees to be a force for good through Expedia Cares, a company-wide program that features matching gifts, volunteerism and a global ambassador program, and has played a significant role to ensure Expedia’s social responsibility efforts align with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Okerstrom is a member of Challenge Seattle, an alliance of CEOs from 17 of the area’s largest employers, including Amazon, Starbucks and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who are working to create a better future for residents and the region.