On Saturday, June 10, Algoma University will celebrate the achievements and successes of its largest graduating class during its annual convocation ceremony to be held on the waterfront of Sault Ste. Marie at the Roberta Bondar Park Tent Pavilion at 2 p.m. Chancellor Shirley Horn will confer 264 degrees on the Class of 2017.
“On behalf of Algoma University, we extend our warmest congratulations to the Class of 2017!” said Dr. Celia Ross, acting president and vice chancellor of Algoma University. “Convocation is a time of great excitement for us as we celebrate the achievements of our graduating students. We wish all of our graduands the best of luck in their future endeavours and much success as they enter into the next phase of their life.”
Algoma U will confer an Honorary Degree, a Doctor of Letters on theatre director Paul Thompson for his outstanding achievements and service to the community. From Charlottetown, PEI, Thompson began his career in theatre in Sault Ste. Marie as artistic director of the Sault Theatre Workshop from 1967 – 1968.
With over 50 years in theatre, Thompson has demonstrated that art can mirror social change and educate, develop, and celebrate community. He has also cultivated and celebrated cross-cultural awareness and cultural development with First Nations communities, leaving a mark on De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre of Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation.
Some of his most distinguished works include The Farm Show (1973), The Outdoor Donnelly’s (2000), and The Tommy Prince Story (1995). He has worked alongside Canada’s most notable writers, including Michael Ondaatje, David Fennario, and Timothy Findley.
Thompson created the Blyth Festival Theatre, served as the director general of the National Theatre School of Canada, and worked extensively abroad. In 2008, he was invested by the Governor General as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Michael Cachagee will be recognized as an Honorary Member of Algoma University, an award granted by the Algoma University Senate. The award is presented to individuals who have contributed distinctive and distinguished service to Algoma University, as well as the community.
A member of Chapleau Cree First Nation, Cachagee attended two residential schools in his formative years, including the Shingwauk Indian Residential School. He later earned his Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Algoma University College.
Cachagee has been involved in First Nations politics for over 30 years and he has been recognized nationally for his work in the area of healing and reconciliation. Cachagee has served as chief of his First Nation for over three years, president of the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre, dean of Native Studies at Confederation College, president of the National Residential School Survivors Society, among others.
He is also a founding member of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association. In 2008, he received the formal apology on behalf of all residential school students and survivors in Canada from then Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Dr. Michael John DiSanto, associate professor in the Department of English and Film, will receive the Distinguished Faculty Award, which recognizes exceptional faculty contribution at the University. The recipient embodies the ideals of the University mission: teaching excellence and scholarship with a demonstrated commitment to community and institutional citizenship.
DiSanto began his career at Algoma U in 2007. He is revered by both his students and colleagues for his enthusiasm and passion for teaching and knowledge and nurturing a supportive learning environment.
Since 2009, DiSanto has been working to restore George Whalley’s (1915 – 1983) life and place within Canadian history and twentieth-century modernism, through cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Prior to his research on Whalley, DiSanto was awarded the prestigious Adam Gillon Book Award in Joseph Conrad Studies.
Tyler Wilding is this year’s recipient of the Governor General’s Silver Medal for exceptional academic achievement. Established in 1873, the medal is one of the most prestigious awards that can be received by a student in a Canadian educational institution.
The Silver Medal is awarded to the undergraduate student who achieves the highest academic standing upon graduation with distinction from a Bachelor’s degree program. From Sault Ste. Marie, Wilding is graduating from the Honours Bachelor of Computer Science program.
The winner of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award is Dr. John Willinsky. The Distinguished Alumni Award acknowledges the accomplishments of an Algoma University alumnus/a who has reached a pinnacle of personal and professional achievement in his or her chosen field.
Recipients of the award have successfully demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities in business and industry, community service, or public life. Willinsky is the founder of the Public Knowledge Project, more commonly known as the PKP. The PKP makes research available to all by creating a sophisticated open-source scholarly publishing system.
The PKP is used by more journals today than any other system in the world. With over 2.3 million articles published, the PKP continues to facilitate the global sharing of scholarly research and data.
In 2016, Dr. Willinsky was awarded the prestigious Connection Award from SSHRC. The Connection Award acknowledges those who facilitate the exchange of research knowledge, and creating intellectual, cultural, social, and economic impact. Willinsky earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Algoma University College in 1976.
Arlene Pitts is this year’s 2017 Alumni Achievement Award winner. The Alumni Achievement Award acknowledges the professional, civic, and personal accomplishments of an Algoma University alumnus/a who has graduated within the last 10 years.
Pitts is a long-time activist, both within Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto, where she is currently living. Her commitment to meaningful social change has made significant contributions to the communities in which she has lived.
Pitt’s strong social and political consciousness has propelled her into success and led to the improvement and empowerment of some of the most marginalized people within society. She has worked tirelessly to improve sex workers’ rights and advocate for people struggling with drug addictions. She focuses her activism on how public policy systemically affects the lives of marginalized and at risk people.
In 2014, Pitts was awarded Toronto’s Vital People Award. The award honours exceptional community leaders and provides funds for training and development opportunities. Pitts graduated from Algoma U’s Bachelor of Arts in Political Science program in 2007.
After Saturday’s convocation ceremony, Algoma U will now have an alumni family of over 5,900 people.
For more information on the convocation ceremony, please contact [email protected] or call 705.949.2301.