As the University of Waterloo responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, the well-being of our students, their families, and our campus community is our top priority. It is with great disappointment that we will not be holding any in-person ceremonies in June 2020. These are extraordinary times, and we do not make this decision lightly. Please refer to the official announcement from President Hamdullahpur for more details. We look forward to celebrating with you, when it is safe to do so. We will do all that we can to provide you with more information as soon as it is available.

Last updated: March 30, 2020

Spring 2017 honorary and award recipients

Honorary doctorates

An honorary degree (honoris causa) is the highest honour conferred by the University. Through the conferring of honorary degrees, the University of Waterloo seeks to recognize outstanding achievement, whether academic or through service to society.

Sam Altman

Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa
Saturday, June 17, afternoon ceremony

Sam Altman cofounded his first startup company, Loopt, at age 19. He has since cofounded Hydrazine Capital and served as CTO of Green Dot, as acting CEO of Reddit, and as board chair of two nuclear power companies. In 2014 he was named president of Y Combinator, arguably the most prestigious startup accelerator in the world. In 2015 he cofounded OpenAI, a non-profit company dedicated to building safe artificial intelligence for the benefit of all humanity and, in the same year, was named the top investor under 30 by Forbes. Today, Sam Altman is one of Silicon Valley’s most influential figures and is helping direct the course of technology around the globe.

Image of Sam Altman

Göran Andersson, MS, PhD, FIEEE, FRSAS, ForMemNAE

Doctor of Engineering, honoris casua
Saturday, June 17, evening ceremony

Göran Andersson is professor emeritus at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, where he was the head of the Electric Power Systems and High Voltage Technology Lab from 2000 to 2016, following 14 years as chair and professor in power systems at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden. Before moving to academia, he enjoyed a successful career in high voltage DC () transmission at ASEA in Sweden. His research has resulted in over 400 highly-cited publications, supervising hundreds of doctoral and master’s theses. He has made many significant contributions to professional societies in a leadership role, and has been given several prestigious awards and fellowships in professional and learned societies.

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Chunli Bai, BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc(Hon), ForMemRS, HonFRSC

Doctor of Engineering, honoris casua
Saturday, June 17, morning ceremony

Chunli Bai graduated from the Department of Chemistry, Peking University in 1978 and received his MSc and PhD degrees from the Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in 1981 and 1985, respectively. A well-known chemist and leading scientist in the field of nanoscience, he is also currently the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the President of the World Academy of Sciences for the Advancement of Science in Developing Countries. For his outstanding research and academic achievement in nanoscience, he has won more than twenty prestigious awards including UNESCO Medal for Contributions to Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. He holds several memberships and prestigious fellowships including: Foreign Member of the Royal Society, Foreign Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Corresponding Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Honorary Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Member of the German Academy of Science and Engineering , Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Honorary Member of the Chemical Society of Japan and Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Image of Chunli Bai

John J. Clague, BA, MA, PhD, FRSC

Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Thursday, June 15, morning ceremony

John Clague is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (MA, 1969) and the University of British Columbia (PhD, 1973). He is a leading expert on glacial geology, natural hazards and risk analyses of catastrophes and future climate change in montane regions and coastal zones of the world. A devoted mentor, educator, scientific advisor and communicator, he has contributed widely in numerous capacities to the geoscience and engineering professions. He retired in 2016 as professor and Canada Research Chair in Natural Hazards at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

Image of John J. Clague

John William Frank, BSc, MD, MSc, CCFP, FRCPC, FCAHS, FFPH, FRSE

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Tuesday, June 13, morning ceremony

John Frank is a graduate of the University of Toronto, where he earned his BSc (1971) in biological and medical sciences, and MD (1974) in medicine and community health. He was awarded an MSc degree in community health in developing countries from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1981). Currently Dr. Frank is Director of the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy. Having dedicated his professional life to advancing public health research in Canada as well as globally, he has been recipient of numerous awards including the Canadian Public Health Association’s Honorary Life Membership in 2005, and a Fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Image of John William Frank

Terry Lyons, FLSW, FRSE, FRS,

Doctor of Mathematics, honoris causa
Friday, June 16, afternoon ceremony

Terry Lyons is Wallis Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, and Founding Member & Current Director of the Oxford-Man Institute for Quantitative Finance. Previously, he was professor of mathematics at Imperial College London and before that was the youngest individual to hold the Colin Maclaurin Chair at the University of Edinburgh. He earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Cambridge and his DPhil (PhD) from Oxford. Recipient of numerous recognitions and honours, he received the Rollo Davidson Prize (1985), the Whitehead Prize of the London Math Society (1986), and the Polya Prize (2000), and is fellow of numerous distinguished learned societies. He received an honorary degree from the University of Toulouse in 2007, and was also awarded honorary fellowships by Aberystwyth University (2010) and the University of Cardiff in 2012.

Image of Terry Lyons

Ingrid Mary Mattson, BA, PhD

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Wednesday, June 14, morning ceremony

Ingrid Mattson is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, where she earned a BA in philosophy and fine arts (1987). She completed her PhD in near eastern languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago, and is professor and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at Western University of Western Ontario, as well as and Senior Fellow of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan. She has published widely in the areas of Islamic theological ethics, Qur’an interpretation, and interfaith relations.

Image of Ingrid Mary Mattson

Pat Mooney, honorary High School Diploma, Kelvin High School, Winnipeg

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Tuesday, June 13, afternoon ceremony

Pat Mooney is co-founder and executive director of the ETC Group, an international civil society organization that works to address the socioeconomic and ecological issues surrounding new technologies that could have an impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Over a fifty year career, he has championed the protection of plant genetic diversity and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers around the world. He has received many awards, including the Right Livelihood Award that honours those offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems, and the Pearson Peace Medal from the United Nations Association of Canada.

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Stephen W. Scherer, BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc

Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Thursday, June 15, afternoon ceremony

Stephen Scherer graduated from Waterloo in 1987 with an Honours BSc in Biology and Chemistry, followed by earning his MSc and PhD from Toronto. As Chair in Genome Sciences at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Dr. Scherer has made ground breaking contributions to the understanding of genetic variation, especially as it relates to human health and disease. His discoveries of the genetic basis of many types of autism spectrum disorder have led to new approaches to diagnosis and therapy. He is the recipient of many top awards in biomedical research, including his designation as a “Nobel-class” citation laureate by Thompson-Reuters in 2014.

Image of Stephen W. Scherer

Efim Zelmanov, MS, PhD

Doctor of Mathematics, honoris causa
Friday, June 16, morning ceremony

Efim Zelmanov earned his PhD at Novosibirsk State University in 1980 under the joint supervision of Leonid Bokut and Anatoly Shirshov, is currently the Rita L. Atkinson Endowed Chair in Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego, and is a distinguished professor at the Korea Institute for Advanced Study. Having previously held positions at Yale, Chicago, University of Wisconsin, and Novoskibirsk State University, he has applied his talents in numerous disciplines within noncommutative algebra, and, for his outstanding contributions, he received the Fields Medal in 1994.

Image of Efim Zelmanov

Distinguished professors emeriti

The Distinguished Professor Emeritus/a designation is made to faculty members who have had a distinguished record of service in teaching and research in the University. The honorary award is granted upon, or shortly after, retirement.

John G. Flanagan, PhD, DSc hc, FCOptom, FAAO, FARVO

School of Optometry & Vision Science
tursday, June 15, afternoon ceremony

John Flanagan spent 29 years as a professor at the University of Waterloo. He completed his optometry education and earned his doctorate from Aston University, UK, before moving to Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science in 1985. Prior to being appointed dean of the Optometry School at the University of California, Berkeley in 2014, John was also a Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Toronto Western Research Institute. His academic focus has been in the field of glaucoma research, and he has been the recipient of numerous awards while also receiving invitations to lecture to academic and professional audiences worldwide.

Image of John G. Flanagan

Peter Forsyth, BSc, MSc, PhD

David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
Friday, June 16, afternoon ceremony

Peter Forsyth obtained his PhD in applied mathematics from Western University in 1979. From there he moved to Calgary working in industry on reservoir simulation, first at the Computer Modeling Group (CMG) and then at his own start up, Dynamic Reservoir Systems. He returned to academia and to computer science at Waterloo in 1987. His research centres on scientific computation with a strong emphasis on industrial applications, with his particular research focus for the past 20 years centering on computational problems in finance.

Image of Peter Forsyth

Laurie Hoffman-Goetz, BA, MA, PhD, MPH

School of Public Health and Health Systems
Tuesday, June 13, morning ceremony

Laurie Hoffman-Goetz earned her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1979, and joined the University of Waterloo in 1980. In 1997 she received a Master of Public Health degree from The George Washington University. She has built a program of research that is broad, original, and highly influential, covering areas including the study of stress, exercise, and immune function as well as health communication and health literacy. She is renowned as a dedicated teacher and mentor of graduate students, receiving the select Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision from the University of Waterloo in 2015.

Image of Laurie Hoffman-Goetz

François Paré, BA, PhD, FRSC

Department of French Studies
Wednesday, June 14, morning ceremony

François Paré joined the University of Waterloo in 2003. He earned his doctorate from the State University of New York (Buffalo), and taught at the University of Guelph before he was appointed chair of the Department of French Studies. A specialist in the study of minority cultures and literatures, his ten books and more than 100 publications won prestigious awards: Governor General’s Award, Ontario’s Trillium Book Award, Gabrielle-Roy award. His widely-influential work has been recognized with his appointment as University Professor, as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and in receiving an honorary doctorate from Université Laval in 2016.

Image of François Paré

J. Graham Strong, OD, MSc

School of Optometry & Vision Science
Thursday, June 15, afternoon ceremony

Graham Strong is a joint graduate of the College of Optometrists of Ontario and the University of Waterloo where he earned his OD and MSc degrees. Promoted to full professor in 1996, he thrived in many roles in the school including as director of clinics, director of the school and associate dean of science, as well as founder and director of the Centre for Sight Enhancement. Published widely in the area of low vision rehabilitation, he has developed innovative high-technology devices to improve the quality of life for persons with low vision. His profound contributions include public policy development, assistive devices innovations, and vision rehabilitation as well as his indelible impact on his students and the optometric profession.

Image of J. Graham Strong

Honorary members of the University

The Honorary Member of the University designation is the highest honour a staff member can attain at the University of Waterloo and is granted upon retirement. It recognizes the individual for outstanding service to the University as a whole, not limited to one department or faculty. For faculty members, it recognizes distinctive administrative service to the University.

Heather Lynn Smith, BA

Wednesday, June 14, morning ceremony

Heather Smith began her career at the University of Waterloo as a Records and Admissions Clerk in the Registrar’s Office in 1979 before moving to the Department of Psychology in 1985 where she would advance and serve as the academic advisor and program administrator of Psychology’s undergraduate program for 30 years. She graduated as a psychology major from the University of Waterloo in 1991. For her outstanding contributions she received a special Staff Recognition Award in 2004 and the Faculty of Arts Excellence in Service Award in 2014.

Image of Heather Lynn Smith

Pam Van Allen

Thursday, June 15, morning ceremony

Pam Van Allen spent 44 years working at the University of Waterloo, starting in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following transfer to Dean of Science Office, she was promoted five times within the Science Undergraduate Office, demonstrating her extraordinary commitment to student academic advising and undergraduate calendar management. Throughout her career, she relentlessly worked to improve the student experience at the University of Waterloo, and her passion for the University has been long-term and meaningful such that, during her career, she received numerous invitations to represent the Faculty within the University community.

Image of Pam Van Allen

Distinguished teacher awards

The Distinguished Teacher Award is granted to a professor or lecturer who uses their human quality and concern for the needs of the students to create lasting influence on students and, where relevant, on colleagues. Recipients exhibit intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter, along with evidence of educational impact beyond the classroom.

Mónica Barra, BSc, PhD

Department of Chemistry
Thursday, June 15, morning ceremony

Image of Monica Barra

Sanjeev Bedi, BTech, MASc, PhD

Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering
Saturday, June 17, afternoon ceremony

Image of Sanjeev Bedi

Daniel Davison, BASc, MASc, PhD

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Saturday, June 17, morning ceremony

Image of Daniel Davison

David McKinnon

Department of Pure Mathematics
Friday, June 16, morning ceremony

Image of David McKinnon

University professor

The University Professor designation recognizes faculty with exceptional scholarly achievement and international pre-eminence. Once appointed, a faculty member retains the designation until retirement.


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Saturday, June 17, morning ceremony

Image of Xuemin Shen

Joanne V. Wood, BA, Ma, PhD

Department of Psychology
Wednesday, June 14, morning ceremony

Image of Joanne V. Wood

Awards of excellence in graduate supervision

The Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision recognizes exemplary faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in graduate student supervision. An outstanding graduate supervisor is a mentor, advisor, role model, humanist and a strategist and possesses a high level of energy and ingenuity.

Richard Cook, BSc, MMath, PhD

Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science
Friday, June 16, morning ceremony

No photo available


Carl Thomas Michael Haas, BASc, MSc, PhD, PEng, FASCE, FCAE, FNAC

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Saturday, June 17, afternoon ceremony

Image of Carl Thomas Michael Haas

Bill McIlroy, BSc, MSc, PhD

Department of Kinesiology
Tuesday, June 13, morning ceremony

Image of Bill McIlroy

Susan Louise Tighe, BSc, MASc, PhD, PEng

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Saturday, June 17, afternoon ceremony

Image of Susan Louise Tighe

Guest speakers

Ginny Dybenko, BA, MMath

Special Advisor to the Dean, Faculty of Arts
Wednesday, June 14, afternoon ceremony

Ginny Dybenko served as Executive Director of the University of Waterloo’s Stratford Campus following five years as the Dean of the Wilfrid Laurier School of Business & Economics, and after over 30 years of corporate experience where she held a number of senior executive roles in telecommunications and with a high tech startup. She has championed the promotion of technical programs for youth, and she is president and founder of the Waterloo chapter of the International Women’s Forum. A highly-valued board member for numerous public entities, she was recently named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.

Image of Ginny Dybenko