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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
December 4, 2016
Canadian Excellence


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Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Actor Adam Beach and philanthropist Walter Gretzky among honorary degree recipients at Laurier convocation

Apr 24/14| For Immediate Release


Sondra Schwartz, Manager
Ceremonies and Events, Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 3800 or


Lori Chalmers Morrison, Acting Director
Communications and Public Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 3067 or

An award-winning Aboriginal actor, an acclaimed Inuit filmmaker, a pioneering physicist and peace activist, and a renowned hockey dad and philanthropist will each receive an honorary degree at Wilfrid Laurier Universityís spring convocation in June.

The university will also bestow one Distinguished Governor Award to recognize a retiring or retired member of Laurierís Board of Governors who has given outstanding service to the university.

Nine convocation ceremonies will be held at the Waterloo campus from June 9 to 13, and three ceremonies will be held at the universityís Brantford campus on June 17 and 18.

Honorary degree recipients:

Zacharias Kunuk is a world-renowned Inuit filmmaker regarded for his attention to the history and culture of the Canadian Arctic, and the environmental changes occuring in the Far North. Kunuk was born in Kapuivik in the eastern Arctic and grew up in the Baffin Island settlement of Igoolik. He joined the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation in 1982 and directed several short films based on Inuit history. He also produced the educational television series called Nunavut: Our Land. In 1990, Kunuk co-founded Isuma Productions, Canadaís first Indiginous film studio, and in 2001 he directed his first film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, the first feature film ever to be written, directed and acted in the Inuktitut language. It won more than a dozen major awards, including the Golden Camera Award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Kunuk has gone on to produce several acclaimed films, including his most recent work, the 2010 documentary Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, which was screened at the United Nationsí Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree Wednesday, June 11 at the Athletic Complex on the Waterloo campus starting at 2 p.m.

Adam Beach is a Canadian Saulteaux actor who has appeared in several films and television shows. Born in Ashern, Manitoba, Beach spent his early years on the Dog Creek First Nation Reserve. He lost both parents weeks apart at a young age, and was raised first by his grandmother and then by his aunt and uncle in Winnipeg, where he began performing in local theatre productions. He has appeared in more than 60 films and television programs. His film work includes the Academy Award-nominated and Clint Eastwood-directed Flags of Our Fathers, as well as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Cowboys and Aliens. He has also appeared on numerous television shows, including recurring roles on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Big Love, and most recently the Canadian drama Arctic Air. In addition to his acting, Beach founded the non-profit Adam Beach Foundation with a focus on native youth suicide prevention and awareness. He has also started a project that brings pop-up cinemas to remote First Nations communities. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree Thursday, June 12 at the Athletic Complex on the Waterloo campus starting at 9:30 a.m.

Walter Gretzky is Canadaís most famous hockey dad, an author and philanthropist. Born in Canning, Ont., just outside of Brantford, Gretzky married his wife Phyllis in 1960 and the couple raised five children. He worked at Bell for more than 30 years and has kept his roots firmly planted in Brantford through charitable work and a commitment to aiding youth. A strong supporter of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, his fundraising efforts include the Walter Gretzky CNIB Golf Classic Tournament, which is held in cities across Canada. Other initiatives include the Wayne and Walter Gretzky Scholarship Foundation, which helps students with vision loss to study at the post-secondary level, and the SCORE summer program, which focuses on developing studentsí personal development, leadership skills, and civic responsibility. In 1991 Gretzky suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm and after recovering became a national spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The author of two books, Gretzky has been recognized with many honours, including Brantfordís Citizen of the Year in 1996 and the Order of Canada in 2007. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree Wednesday, June 18 at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in Brantford starting at 10:30 a.m.

Ursula Franklin is a scientist, peace activist and outspoken social critic with a commitment to justice-oriented interdisciplinary research, leadership and teaching. Born in Germany in 1921, Franklin immigrated to Canada in 1948 to complete her post-doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, where she also became the first woman appointed to the rank of university professor in 1984. As a physicist, she pioneered the development of archaeometry, which applies the modern technique of materials analysis to the field of archeology. A committed pacifist, Franklinís personal experiences as a Holocaust survivor and leader in the international disarmament movement are the driving forces behind her research and activism, which include a study on the health risks associated with Strontium 90, a radioactive isotope found in fallout. Her research has been attributed as one motivation for the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty stopping aboveground nuclear weapons testing. Franklin has won numerous awards, including being named Officer of the Order of Canada and the Pearson Medal of Peace. She will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree Wednesday, June 18 at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in Brantford starting at 2:30 p.m.

Distinguished Governor Award recipient:

Claire Duboc (BA í84), chair of the development committee of the Board of Governors, will receive her award June 13 at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony at the Athletic Complex on the Waterloo campus.


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