By Rachneet Randhawa, October 2 2021—
The Arch Awards, an inaugural and highest honour awarded by the UCalgary Alumni Association, was once more held as a live broadcast on Sept. 17 via Zoom. Six University of Calgary alumni were celebrated for their bold achievements and who have helped to build more resilient communities through arts, technology, medicine, entrepreneurism and service to others.
Co-hosted by CBC’s investigative unit Go Public and University of Calgary, alumni Rosa Marchitelli was the master of ceremonies with a cameo by Helen Sutherland — president and chair of the UCalgary Alumni Association and member of the U of C senate and board of governors. Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor of the U of C made opening remarks of the university’s endless potential in fostering extraordinary leadership.
“We want to be the place where students can find the opportunities and resources to lead positive change in the world,” he said. “We strive to be a hub for bright minds to come together and create new knowledge, and we aim to inspire every learner with the understanding that there is no limit to what they can achieve.”
The Early Career Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Bogdan Knezevic, an academic and athletic star having been a former Rhodes Scholar and participant in the 2016 Olympics for swimming. The Early Career Achievement Award recognizes professional achievement or creative leadership in any field by graduates aged 30 or younger.
“I guess the number one piece of advice would be, you won’t know a lot of things until you try. And then like giving yourself space to actually try them,” said Knezevic.
Following this, the Alumni Service Award was presented to Dr. Janice Heard, pediatrician and philanthropist. The Alumni Service Award recognizes a graduate whose philanthropy or volunteer commitment has served to advance the University of Calgary and its alumni. She has been a U of C champion for nearly two decades as she was the catalyst for the creation of the Alumni Engagement Program in 2004 for the Cumming School of Medicine. She has volunteered her time and skills as a speaker, mentor and a deeply caring and community-oriented individual.
“Opportunities lead to opportunities, and so I think you find that one good thing leads to another it’s quite an amazing journey,” said Heard. “If people can think of helping others as a gift to yourself, it’s something that might motivate you as well.”
The Community Commitment award was presented to alumnus Lourdes Juan, entrepreneur, urban planner, community builder and leader. The community commitment award recognizes a graduate who has made outstanding contributions through professional or volunteer service and who through that work has had a significant impact on their community.
Lourdes is a serial entrepreneur and dedicated volunteer who has founded three small businesses and nonprofits and has made an impact that reverberates across the country. Her nominator mentioned her indelible empathy in which she gives a lot of attention and development to as a leader. Her mantra is “entrepreneurs are problem solvers.”
“I think it’s anyone who has that sort of mindset of, ‘how are we going to solve this problem with, you know, little resources efficiently?’ And I would argue that entrepreneurs are also community builders.”
The Career Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Sharon Friesen, education trailblazer and revolutionized by focusing on K–12 students in inquiry-based learning, helping to prepare them to excel in a knowledged-based society. The Career Achievement Award recognizes a graduate whose leadership and accomplishments have had a positive impact in their field and whose innovation has made significant contributions to their community.
As a leader in her field, she is considered a disruptor who has never been afraid to challenge the status quo by making an impact on education in Alberta, co-founding the globally recognized GALILEO network and is celebrated by her peers as an exceptional educator, leader and research scholar. Her nominator highlighted that she was a true innovator, changing initiatives for the graduate education programs like the stackable certificates and micro-credentialing that offered alternative pathways to achieve a graduate degree for those working in professional roles.
“The work itself is worth, it’s worthwhile and worth paying attention to,” said Friesen. “It is the only profession where you hold in your hand that future we are becoming.”
The International Career Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Helga Holst who is described as a compassionate and courageous physician, patient, advocate and leader. For more than 30 years Holst transformed medical care for the community as she learned how to do cataract surgery, transformed tuberculosis treatment, developed improved clinical treatment protocols and implemented electronic medical records to better serve patients.
She served in South Africa, where she innovated to ensure patient care was at the center of her work, including creating a unique style of medical practice known as Human-Centred Design. She has held a vast career in medicine and medical administration in South Africa propelled by curiosity and a healthy respect for cultural differences.
“And one of the most beautiful things in Africa is the focus on relationships,” said Holst. “Not what I can get from me, but it takes a village to raise a child President Mandela said, and that’s true, it’s more of a communal type of life on some level.”
The final award presented for the afternoon was the Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement. The recipient of the coveted award was Dr. Bryan Kolb. The Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement is the highest honour awarded by the UCalgary Alumni Association. The award recognizes the graduate who throughout their life has made a notable contribution that’s improved their profession and community. Having reached the pinnacle of professional and personal success, they enrich the lives of others through their leadership, shared knowledge, creativity and innovation.
Kolb is an internationally recognized neuroscientist who has been a professor in the department of neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge since 1976. Kolb has brought a lasting change in the behavioural neuroscience community through his research publications and his leadership credited with putting Canada on the map. When it comes to brain and behavioural neuroscience research, Kolb was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He received the Queen Elizabeth the Second Diamond Diamond Jubilee Medal, and in 2017 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His two greatest achievements were the widely used textbook Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology and his previous work at the Montreal Neurological hospital with brain-injured people.
Kolb’s work has fueled new treatments to help victims of cerebral injury by identifying how new brain cells grow to restore cerebral function. But most of all, his childlike curiosity and his famous “I have a question for you” line have become an inspiration for many.
“I think seeing the light bulb go off in students’ eyes when you explain things,” Kolb said. “I think it’s really fun to see these younger minds suddenly realize that there’s always stuff going on. And then they come back at you and start asking you questions that you never would have thought of.”
An insider exclusive moderator sat down with Kolb for a short interview asking him about the lifetime highlights of his career and his next steps after retirement. One of these was tactile stimulation in infants, a procedure that was trialled out on baby rats and had a fundamental lesson for how it affects the brain is wired into adulthood and potentially using its application to treat brain injury and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Moving forward, Kolb is working with the Paul Martin Foundation and transfers his knowledge to applications for tactile stimulation and of course spending time with his wife and twelve horses.
Check out the full list of Arch Awards recipients online.