2016 Alumni Association Awards
As part of the 2nd annual Homecoming Weekend celebrations, we invite friends, colleagues and community supporters to join us in celebrating the best of Lakehead University! Congratulations to our honourees! To purchase tickets to attend the celebrations, click here.
2015 ALUMNI ASSOCIATION AWARDS
The Alumni Association of Lakehead University is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s alumni awards. Awards were presented at both the Thunder Bay and Orillia 50th Anniversary celebrations.
ALUMNI HONOUR AWARD
The Alumni Honour Award is presented by the Alumni Association to general members, as defined in the constitution of the Association, who have demonstrated distinction or outstanding achievement in one of the following areas: public service; business; humanities; research; science and technology; scholarship; the arts; or, for outstanding personal service rendered to the University over a period of years.
Those chosen will be an alumnus/a whose reputation, achievements or future potential will bring honour and prestige to the Alumni Association of Lakehead University.
Jill Marrack (HBA ’88, Geography)
Deputy Commander, Canadian Naval Reserves
Captain Jill Marrack’s personal and professional journeys have been inspired by the people around her – including those she now works with in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“My early success was due to my parents’ encouragement to pursue a liberal education and seize new opportunities,” Jill says. She also points to her high school teacher Roy Piovesana and Rear-Admiral Ray Zuliani (retired) with Thunder Bay’s HMCS Griffon as mentors who guided her on the path she has taken.
Jill grew up in Thunder Bay and graduated from Lakehead in 1988 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography. Outside of school, she became an accomplished athlete, competing in marathons and Nordic skiing events. “I remain driven to pursue new opportunities,” Jill says, “It is the fuel that motivates me.”
Today, as Deputy Commander of Canada’s Naval Reserve, Jill is a military trailblazer. She is responsible for coordinating the logistics of 24 reserves spread across the country from her base of operations in Quebec. “It makes me very proud when I see sailors from HMCS Griffon that I enrolled as commanding officers succeed in their training. It is so wonderful to see them take on leadership roles!”
Two years ago, Jill was chosen by the Women’s Executive Network as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. She received this accolade in recognition of her leadership, vision, and strategic guidance of the Naval Reserve and because she’s “an example for all women who aspire to executive leadership roles.”
Jill credits her alma mater with helping her rise to the heights she has scaled. “Lakehead University prepared me to assume my professional responsibilities in an ethical and reasoned manner,” she explains. Professors like Robert Dilley, Victor Smith, and Chris Christie developed her ability to think critically. “That’s why the Alumni Honour Award means so much to me,” Jill says, “it comes from the heart of the University community – the Alumni Association.”
Kevin Page (HBA ’80, Economics)
Academic, Former Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer, Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council of Canada
Kevin Page was appointed Canada's first Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) in 2008 – a new watchdog position charged with overseeing federal spending and economic forecasting.
Delivering independent analysis to the Canadian Parliament was a challenge that Kevin took very seriously. He excelled at meeting the PBO’s mission of ensuring budget transparency and promoting informed public dialogue related to economic and fiscal policies.
In 2012, Kevin was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for “his dogged and courageous pursuit of information on behalf of all Canadians.” His career has taught him, Kevin says, “To be yourself, work with people you like and admire, and to take risks.”
Born and raised in Thunder Bay, it was a treat for Kevin to go to university in his hometown. As well as having the support of family and friends, he enjoyed the stimulating academic environment. “The professors at Lakehead wanted me to succeed,” he says. “I had the honour of being in the classroom with great economists and leaders.”
Kevin also has a master’s degree in economics from Queen’s University.
Prior to his position as parliamentary budget officer, Kevin spent over two decades in the federal public service, working with Finance Canada, the Treasury Board Secretariat, and the Privy Council Office. In addition, he’s worked for the departments of Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, Human Resources, and Social Development Canada.
Kevin lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with his family, where he is an active member of the local sports community and is currently a little league baseball coach. He encourages students to remember that “Lakehead University is a special place –cherish your time while you are there.”
Kevin Ford (BENG. ’78, Mechanical)
Engineer, entrepreneur, MacWorld App developer
Kevin Ford grew up in Hamilton ON, working in the steel industry before going to Lakehead, eventually becoming a formidable entrepreneur in the high-tech world.
As a college graduate in 1976, Kevin discovered that Lakehead was the only university that would give him advanced standing to enable him to complete his mechanical engineering degree in two very challenging years.
Kevin has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments. As founder and CEO, Parliant Corporation, Kevin was a two-time winner of “Best Product of the Show” at MacWorld Expo and winner of the “Best Product of the Year” from MacWorld magazine. At that time Parliant was “four guys and a web site, over a garage”.
Michael Caughey PhD, past President of the Ontario Centre of Excellence in Toronto, had this to say: "Kevin is possessed of a brave heart, a marvelous intellect, a sound business instinct, and a positive, generous nature. Added to this he is a devoted family man.
His business accomplishments are not only numerous but also of great significance, being that the very successful companies he has built are in the field of advanced computer technology – a fiercely competitive field littered with business failures.
Kevin is widely known and highly respected in the Ottawa business community - and beyond"
When asked about his entrepreneurial success, Kevin emphasizes the importance of being well educated and motivated. “If you can’t find a job after graduation, then make one. With the Internet breaking old business barriers, there has never been a better time for Canadians to invent new products or services, in new markets, through new forms of business and change the world.”
As for the future, in addition to mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs, Kevin is looking for ways to bring jobs back home. His most recent startup, Onshoring Ventures Inc., was established to help reverse “Offshoring”, a trend of having most products manufactured overseas.
Kevin lives in Ottawa and is currently finishing a trimaran sailboat that sleeps four.
YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award is presented annually in recognition of a Lakehead University graduate, 40 years of age or younger, who has achieved significant accomplishments since graduation, either in his/her profession, sport or community service. Those chosen will be an alumnus/a whose reputation, achievements or future potential will bring honour and prestige to the Alumni Association of Lakehead University.
Julie Cosgrove (HBFA ’04)
Award winning visual artist
A love of nature and the visual arts has taken Julie Cosgrove’s career to impressive heights.
Julie, who was raised just north of Ottawa, was introduced to Northwestern Ontario by her husband, a Thunder Bay resident. While working summers as a tree planter and then as a wilderness canoe guide, Julie came to appreciate the raw beauty of the region. But a lifelong desire to become an artist eventually led her to enrol in Lakehead’s visual arts program.
“The faculty was incredibly supportive from the beginning,” she recalls, “and being in a small department encouraged a high calibre of work.”
Julie participated in numerous student art exhibitions and won multiple awards for her paintings and ceramics before receiving an Honours Bachelor of Fine Art degree in 2004. After graduation, she secured representation at commercial galleries in southern Ontario and Quebec, cementing her growing artistic reputation.
She would go on to earn a Master of Fine Art from the University of Calgary in 2010. While there, she was the recipient of several graduate scholarships. “I think that my persistence in doing what I love doing, and at times taking risks in showing my artwork and putting it out for the world to see,” Julie says, “has contributed to some of my achievements.”
Suzanne Hamel, who nominated Julie for the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, notes the strong connection between Julie’s paintings and the natural world. “Her work considers concepts of place, wilderness, geographies and cartographies, technologies, and processes,” Suzanne says.
In 2012, Julie was hired as a contract lecturer in Lakehead’s Department of Visual Arts and has continued to win acclaim for her art. Most recently, she took part in a group exhibition in Athens, Greece.
“I have been fortunate to experience success relatively early on in my art career,” Julie says. “Lakehead University and the community of artists and arts organizations in Thunder Bay have helped make this happen.”
Michael Nitz (BAdmin ’04)
Past Chair Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Thunder Bay, Past President and Founder of SHIFT - Thunder Bay’s Young Professional Network, Founding Co-Chair of the Young Professionals Network of Ontario
A little more than a decade after coming to Northwestern Ontario for postsecondary studies, Michael Nitz hasn’t left. In fact, he’s found a home.
Graduating in 2004 with a Bachelor of Administration degree, the Toronto area-born alumnus attributes his successes to Lakehead University, small-city life, and those he has met along the way who have given of their time and knowledge.
“My Lakehead experience was world-class and I made connections and built relationships that will last a lifetime,” Michael says. “Not only did I gain knowledge to grow in my career, but I always had a blast doing it.”
With an interest in financial services, Michael went to Nipigon after graduation to work as a regional branch manager with RBC. While on the north shore, he joined the Rotary Club and volunteered with Meals on Wheels and the Red Rock Fire Department, as well as serving as President of the Nipigon District Chamber of Commerce.
He was recruited to manage Thunder Bay’s largest and newest branch three years later, and he continues to succeed with RBC. Michael has also been involved with many community groups and has held significant roles – including chair of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and president of the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce. In 2014, he became the youngest ever chair of the annual United Way Campaign. In addition, Michael has been an Alumni Association of Lakehead University board member.
He is especially proud of establishing and leading SHIFT: Thunder Bay’s Young Professional Network, and co-founding the Young Professionals Network of Ontario.
“Thunder Bayers are welcoming to new individuals who want to make the community better,” he says. “They take special care to coach and mentor those they feel can make a difference.”
Michael’s goals are to continue progressing in his career with RBC and carry on his community activities. Stephanie Ash, who nominated Michael for the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, describes him “as an inspiration to people young and old in Ontario” for his mentorship and volunteerism.
Luan Ngo (HBA ’08, Economics)
Senior Economist, Ontario Ministry of Finance
Luan Ngo was born in Vietnam and moved to Canada as a refugee in 1990. After arriving in Thunder Bay, he completed high school and went to Lakehead University to study economics and politics.
Upon graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in 2008, Luan received a master’s degree and landed a job working with the Ontario Ministry of Finance as an economist. In his current role as a senior economist for the ministry, he provides advice and support on intergovernmental affairs to the ministry and the province.
Luan’s interest in economics – and subsequent success in the workforce – was inspired by his Lakehead professors. As well as sharing his passion for economics, Professor Livio Di Matteo shared his sense of humour. “He taught me that being smart and successful doesn’t mean that you have to stop having fun. I brought that life lesson from university to my work life, where I enjoy creating a fun, open, and collaborative environment with my colleagues.”
According to Luan, “the distance between professor and student at Lakehead is short, allowing students easy access.” Being comfortable connecting with faculty members turned out to be a benefit for Luan in his career. “Instead of being hesitant to approach others, I stood out as the person who was not afraid to engage with senior colleagues and benefit from their wealth of knowledge.”
When Luan is not working as an economist, he often spends his time immersed in entrepreneurial activities. He enjoys finding problems and trying to solve them. He has recently developed apps to help people commute and volunteer more effectively.
“I’m driven by curiosity. I constantly want to learn new things, especially outside my field,” says Luan. “I’ve learned that the best ideas are created from the fusion of different perspectives.”
Carla Whillier HBA ’07, Sociology)
Lawyer, civic leader and community volunteer
Carla Whillier is passionate about helping others, especially those who are challenged by mental health issues. In her work, Carla has learned that the stigma attached to mental illness prevents people from asking for and receiving support.
Carla is committed to ending this discrimination. After being called to the Bar of Ontario and completing a Master of Laws, she set up her own law practice in Toronto, specializing in health law.
Although she enrolled at Lakehead University to study concurrent education, she went on to study law after receiving her Honours Bachelor of Arts in 2007. Lakehead contributed to her career success, she says, “Getting to know my professors personally and professionally helped provide purpose and direction for my academic interests which ultimately led me to getting references from people who actually cared and believed in my future.”
She credits much of her determination to her mother. Following a devastating car accident, Carla’s mother was told she would never walk again and would no longer be able to continue her career in nuclear medicine. “As a single mother, she overcame huge obstacles and worked tirelessly to provide for her two children, while putting herself through law school” explains Carla. “Today, she is not only walking, but one of the most respected lawyers I know.”
In addition to her law practice, Carla is a health law executive member of the Ontario Bar Association and is responsible for recommending and responding to changes in legislation. She is also a member of Toronto’s Mental Health Legal Committee, which addresses institutional, individual and systemic concerns through advocacy, public education, policy work and community development.
“Carla has created a practice that respects the essential dignity of all persons regardless of their circumstances and gives a voice to people who struggle to effectively express themselves,” says her nominator, Caitlin Cummins.
As for the future, Carla will continue to foster a respectful, kind, and inclusive world for those living with mental health issues.
This award, given at the discretion of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, recognizes a volunteer alumni leader who has retired from active service. The recipient of the Alumni Legacy Award has helped contribute to and/or has furthered the purpose and the mission of the Alumni Association over a period of ten or more years.
The recipient of this award has demonstrated exceptional commitment and contributions to the Alumni Association and the University, exemplifying the highest standards of personal and professional integrity, civic responsibility, vision and leadership. This award identifies the recipient as a valued member of the alumni community.
Bill Bartley (BA ’72, Geography)
Past President of the Alumni Association, Past member of the Board of Governors, currently part of the new Thunder Bay Chapter.
William A. (Bill) Bartley’s long association with Lakehead University is a family tradition.
When it came time for Bill to pursue higher education, there was no doubt he would attend Lakehead. After all, in 1946 his father Dr. Melville Bartley became the founding principal of the Lakehead Technical Institute (an early predecessor of the University) and then the first chair of Lakehead University’s Board of Governors in the late 1960s.
Studying at Lakehead was the right decision for the younger Bartley. “Lakehead was still quite small and I was happy I made the choice,” Bill says. “It really felt like a ‘university community’ where students and staff knew each other. I have many great memories of winter carnivals and dances.”
While obtaining his BA in Geography, Bill became active in student government – lighting a passion for public service that has never wavered. “My parents encouraged us to follow our dreams,” he recalls. After teaching at a private school, Bill obtained a diploma in traffic and distribution management and was president of Northwest Traffic Services. He served with the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve (Army), from 1963-90, retiring with the rank of Major. He also spent nine years as a Municipality of Shuniah councillor, served as vice-president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and currently chairs the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority.
“I believe in getting involved,” Bill says. This has been especially true of his relationship with Lakehead. In the 1980s and ’90s, he was a member of the Alumni board who took on different roles, including president, and aided in major projects. Later, he served on the Board of Governors for nine years.
Most recently, Bill joined the organizing committee of the Thunder Bay Chapter of the Alumni Association, offering his “considerable wisdom and knowledge to this new endeavour,” says Mark Tilbury, Lakehead’s Director of Alumni and Community Relations.
Bill’s dedication to public service and to Lakehead springs from his belief that “if you help others succeed, you will succeed as a result.”
In 2014, the Alumni Association of Lakehead University instituted an Honorary Membership Category. It is the highest honour the Association can bestow on a non-graduate, and recognizes a person’s exceptional service to, affinity for, or support of the University and Alumni Association.
This year, the Alumni Association is recognized four such individuals.
Dr. Kim Fedderson
To say that Dr. Fedderson is a “fixture” of Lakehead University is a bit of an understatement. There are many staff, faculty, students, and alumni (including myself) who simply cannot remember a Lakehead without Kim.
Throughout an illustrious career as a professor, Department Chair, Faculty Dean, Orillia Campus Dean and now Principal – Dr. Fedderson has embodied not only the University’s Exceptional and Unconventional tagline; but also the Alumni Association’s tagline of Engage Celebrate Share.
Since taking up his duties in Orillia, Dr. Fedderson has remained open and collaborative towards building a campus atmosphere where our alumni as well as current students can Engage Celebrate and Share their tremendous accomplishments, achievements and ambitions. This collaborative approach resulted in the unveiling of the Alumni Commons student lounge last November. It is a permanent home for our Alumni Recognition Wall to highlight our distinguished alumni award winners. How fitting it is, that earlier today a name-plate was installed on that wall recognizing Dr. Kim Fedderson as our most recent Honorary Alumni of Lakehead University.
Gil Labine has been a dedicated volunteer leader with Lakehead University for over a decade. Gil served as a Director of the Lakehead University Foundation from 2004-2005, and then joined the Board of Governors in 2005 where he served until Thursday of this week. In addition to bolstering our enrolment numbers by sending three of his four children to Lakehead, Gil was instrumental in generating support for our Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Mining and Exploration (CESME), and was a tireless advocate for establishing a Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. Not surprisingly, when the dream of a law school became a reality, Gil’s firm was the first to make a major gift, setting an example that many of his peers have followed.
Dr. John Whitfield
Dr. Whitfield joined the faculty of Lakehead University in 1965, and as they say, the rest is history.
From humble beginnings as a Professor of Mathematics, John rose to serve as VP Academic, Interim President, and Lakehead’s first ever VP of Research and Development. Throughout the last fifty years John has always been supportive of the Alumni Association, speaking at Annual General Meetings, and lending support whenever it was asked or needed. Most recently John served on the 50th Anniversary Task Force as a representative of the Retirees’ Association.
As the current Chair of the Board of Governors, Murray Walberg is a tireless advocate for Lakehead University. In the Boardroom or in the community, Murray can be counted upon to constantly advance the University and its students.
As Regional Vice President for RBC, Murray has lent his support to the Alumni Association’s annual golf tournament as the presenting sponsor for many years. That support has included providing RBC employees to help with the execution of the event on the day of the golf tournament. It is a model of community involvement worthy of recognition.