Algoma University celebrated the academic achievements of its graduating students during a special virtual convocation ceremony released earlier this afternoon. The event also marked the official installation of Mario Turco as the second chancellor since the University secured its charter in 2008. Chancellor Turco, who assumed the role following the completion of the term of his predecessor, Shirley Horn, conferred degrees and certificates to over 400 graduates. A number of distinguished faculty, community leaders and alumni were also honoured during the event.
“On behalf of Algoma University, I extend a hearty congratulations to the Class of 2021,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Asima Vezina. “Convocation is a time of great pride for our University community as we celebrate the achievements of our graduating students. This year has been one of both accomplishment and challenge as these amazing students successfully navigated the global pandemic that has impacted us all. This group of Thunderbirds have proven they are ready to take on life’s challenges and serve as the changemakers we need for a brighter future!”
Chancellor Turco also conferred an Honorary Doctor of Letters to C.J. (Bud) Wildman, a well-known leader in the Algoma region who served three terms as Chair of the Algoma University (College) Board of Governors. An honorary degree is the highest honour conferred by a university. Through the conferring of honorary degrees, Algoma University seeks to recognize outstanding achievement, whether academic or through service to society.
Wildman led a particularly distinguished career as a politician. Representing the Algoma District, he held a seat in the provincial legislature for 24 years, from 1975 to 1999. During the government of Premier Bob Rae, Bud Wildman was appointed to cabinet as Minister of Natural Resources (1990-1993), and then was promoted to Minister of the Environment and Energy (1993-1995). Wildman also served as Minister Responsible for Native Affairs during the full five years of the NDP government. As Chair, Wildman helped lead the effort that resulted in Algoma University securing independence through the Ontario Legislature in 2008. More recently, Wildman served as Special Advisor to the Board of Directors of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig.
Rebecca Wylie earned 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. Wylie, a member of the Algoma University Thunderbirds varsity basketball team, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology (Honours) will be attending the University of Western Ontario this fall to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Dr. Warren Johnston, an outstanding scholar in his field, a committed instructor to his students, and a tireless contributor to his department, faculty, and a number of university committees was awarded the 2020 Distinguished Faculty Award. In addition, Dr. Trevor Tchir was bestowed the same honour for 2021. Dr. Tchir, Department Chair for Law and Politics, has taken concrete action to weave Indigenous content into Political Science and Law and Justice courses while working towards understanding Indigenous policy, issues, philosophy and knowledge. Dr. Tchir has worked closely with the Senate, Senate Executive and Algoma University Board of Governors to ensure high-quality degrees and certificates are offered at Algoma University with the goal of producing exceptional graduates.
Brampton community leaders John Cutruzzola and Bill Kanellopoulos were named Honorary Members 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, as well as the community. Cutruzzola and Kanellopoulos have championed efforts to establish and grow Algoma’s campus in the heart of downtown Brampton while supporting a number of other strategic initiatives including the annual Northern Ontario Business Case Competition, organized by the School of Business and Economics.
Elise Ahenkorah was recognized as the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award winner, which acknowledges a member of the Alumni family who has reached a pinnacle of personal and professional achievement. Ahenkorah was recognized for her distinguished leadership in championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). As a student, Ahenkorah was instrumental in initiating Algoma’s first Black History Month celebration (2004). Since graduating, Ahenkorah has held progressively senior roles in crisis communications, marketing, stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, and DE&I for public and private sector organizations. She has been recognized by the Black Business Professional Association, International Association of Business Communicators, Ghanaian-Canadian Association of Canada, Canadian Centre for Diversity, the University of Calgary and the UN of Canada. Ahenkorah was recently named a 2021 L’Oréal Paris Canada Women of Worth Honouree.
Joanne Robertson, Misko Anungo Kwe (Red Star Woman), was the recipient of the 2021 Alumni Achievement Award. The Alumni Achievement Award acknowledges the professional, civic, and personal accomplishments of an Algoma alumnus/a who has graduated within the last 10 years. A talented Anishinaabe author and illustrator, Robertson has been awarded numerous awards for her children’s book “The Water Walker,” a story that follows the journey of Nokomis (Grandmother) Biidaasigeba, Josephine-ba Mandamin, an Elder and environmental activist known for her work in the preservation, healing and advocacy of water.
This year’s Convocation sees the Algoma U alumni family grow to over 7,000 people.