Spring 2018 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.

Patrick G. Awuah, JR., BA, BS, MBA

Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa
Saturday, June 16, afternoon ceremony

Patrick Awuah is the Founder and President of Ashesi University College, a private, not-for-profit institution in Ghana. Ashesi is contributing to a renaissance in Africa by educating a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders with critical thinking skills and ethical courage. Awuah holds bachelor degrees in Engineering and Economics from Swarthmore College and an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He has received numerous honours including the World Innovation Summit for Education Prize, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the McNulty Prize.

Patrick Awuah headshot

Sandra E. Black, OC, O.Ont., MD, FRCPC, FRSC, FAAN, FAHA, FANA

Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Tuesday, June 12, morning ceremony

Dr. Sandra Black, a distinguished clinician scientist, is world renowned for her work in the area of brain health. Her work in the area of dementia and stroke is at the forefront of advances into diagnosis, clinical assessment and treatment. She has published more than 400 peer-reviewed articles and given over 600 lectures. She serves on numerous international and national advisory committees, and several editorial boards. She has received many awards and recognitions including being named as Officer of the Order of Canada (2015), named to the Order of Ontario (2011) and elected to the Royal Society of Canada (2012).

Sandra Black headshot

Jo Handelsman, BSc, PhD

Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Thursday, June 14, afternoon ceremony

Jo Handelsman received her undergraduate training at Cornell University and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she subsequently spent many years as a faculty member. She moved to Yale University in 2010 and served as Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2014 to 2017. Returning to the University of Wisconsin in 2017, she was named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Director of the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery. She spent many years directing Centers for Scientific Teaching at Wisconsin and Yale, co-directed the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology, and co-established the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute.

Jo Handelsman headshot

Dean Kamen

Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa
Saturday, June 16, morning ceremony

Dean Kamen is a renowned inventor, entrepreneur, and advocate for science and technology education. He founded AutoSyringe in 1976 to commercialize the world’s first wearable infusion pump. In 1982, he established DEKA Research & Development Corporation, through which he created the Segway Human Transporter, the HomeChoice dialysis system, the iBOT mobility device, the LUKE Arm, and the Slingshot water purification system. In 1989, he founded FIRST, an organization dedicated to helping young people discover the wonder and rewards of science and technology. Kamen has received numerous prestigious honours in recognition of his achievements, including the National Medal of Technology.

Dean Kamen headshot

David I. McKay, BMath, MBA, LLD hc

Doctor of Mathematics, honoris causa
Friday, June 15, morning ceremony

Dave McKay is President and CEO of RBC, Canada’s largest bank. He holds a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University.  McKay is credited with helping transform the bank’s retail division and introduce new technology that has enabled RBC to adapt and evolve to rapidly-changing customer demands. He champions Canada’s innovation ecosystem and is leading RBC’s support for and partnerships with universities, start-ups and accelerators. As an advocate for youth, he promotes the benefits of work-integrated learning to help young people succeed in a changing world.

David McKay headshot

David R. Miller, AB, LLB

Doctor of Environmental Studies, honoris causa
Tuesday, June 12, afternoon ceremony

David Miller was educated at Harvard University (AB) and University of Toronto (LL.B.). Miller was a partner at Aird & Berlis until 1994, when he left to pursue a career in public service. He served as Metro (1994-1997), and City Councillor (1997-2003), and then Mayor of the City of Toronto (2003-2010), during which time he chaired the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (2008-2010). From 2013 to 2017, Miller served as President and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund – Canada. He is currently North American Regional Director of the C40. David is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading advocate for sustainable urban economies and green jobs.

David Miller headshot

Anand Pillay, BA, MSc, PhD, Fellow AMS

Doctor of Mathematics, honoris causa
Friday, June 15, morning ceremony

Anand Pillay began his career by studying Mathematics and Philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford, and pure Mathematics at King's College, London, culminating in a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Bedford College, London, in 1978. His research is in model theory, a branch of mathematical logic, to which he has made profound and lasting contributions. He has held the Swanlund Chair at the University of Illinois (1996-2006) and the Marie Curie Chair at the University of Leeds (2005-2008). Since 2013 he has been the William J. Hank Family Chair in mathematics at the University of Notre Dame.

Anand Pillay headshot

Curtis J. Richardson, BS, PhD

Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Thursday, June 14, morning ceremony

Curtis Richardson is a graduate of the University of Tennessee where in 1972 he completed his Ph.D. Currently, he holds the John O. Blackburn Distinguished Professorship in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. His has led significant advances in the fundamentals of wetland science, trained many scientific specialists, and advocated for the need for high-quality science in science-based policies and regulations in professional practice.

Curtis Richardson headshot

Setsuko Thurlow, BA, BSW, MSW

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

Setsuko Thurlow is an internationally-known activist for peace and disarmament and a spokesperson for survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing. After completing college in Japan, Thurlow studied in the U.S. and in 1962 immigrated to Canada where she earned a master’s degree in social work at University of Toronto. She has spent a lifetime advocating for a ban on nuclear weapons. As a representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Thurlow was a co-recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. She became a member of the Order of Canada in 2006.

Setsuko Thurlow headshot

Robert J. Tibshirani, BMath, MSc, PhD

Doctor of Mathematics, honoris causa
Friday, June 15, afternoon ceremony

Robert Tibshirani is among the top statisticians today; his work has shaped the future directions of theoretical and applied statistics. Professor Tibshirani earned his bachelor degree in statistics and computer science from the University of Waterloo, a master’s degree in statistics from University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in 1984 from Stanford University. In 1985, he joined the Department of Statistics and the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics at the University of Toronto, becoming a Full Professor in 1994. In 1998 he moved to Stanford University, where he now holds appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Data Sciences and Statistics.

Robert Tibshirani headshot

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.

Bernard R. Glick, BSc, MSc, PhD

Department of Biology
Thursday, June 14, afternoon ceremony

Bernard Glick earned his BSc in Chemistry from City College of New York, followed by his MSc and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Waterloo. After postdoctoral training at the University of Toronto and the National Research Council, Professor Glick spent three years as a Group Leader in an early biotechnology company before returning to Waterloo for a 35-year career as a faculty member. He is internationally recognized as a pioneer in plant-microbe interactions with over 260 research publications. His seminal textbook on Molecular Biotechnology is still widely used around the world.

Bernard Glick headshot

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.

Wayne H. Chang, BSc, MESc., PhD

Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre
Saturday, June 16, evening ceremony

Wayne Chang headshot

Shannon Jennifer Dea, BA, MA, PhD 

Department of Philosophy
Wednesday, June 13, afternoon ceremony

Shannon Dea headshot

Jake Fisher, BSc, MS, PhD

Department of Chemistry
Thursday, June 14, morning ceremony

Jake Fisher headshot

Julie Kate Seirlis, BA, MSt, DPhil

St. Paul's University College
Tuesday, June 12, afternoon ceremony

Julie Seirlis headshot

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.

M. Tamer Özsu, BSc, MSc, PhD

David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
Friday, June 15, afternoon ceremony

M. Tamer Ozsu headshot

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.

Derek Armitage, BES, MSc, PhD

School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability and the Balsillie School of International Affairs
Tuesday, June 12, afternoon ceremony

Professor Derek Armitage is the Founder and Director of the Environmental Change and Governance Group and is an Associate Faculty at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. He joined the School of Environment, Resources & Sustainability in the Faculty of Environment in 2011, and has been inspiring students to carry out meaningful and impactful research ever since. Over his career, he has provided guidance for 4 postdoctoral fellows, 18 doctoral and 20 master's students.

Professor Armitage embodies an innate gift to coach his students to identify solutions to challenges on their own terms, which promotes learning, confidence and critical thinking. Equally important, he has had a profound impact on the wellbeing and growth of his students, and understands the importance of building a community for his students within the academia.

Colleagues enjoy every opportunity to serve on the committees of Professor Armitage’s students. He attracts good students who undertake important, well-grounded research, and demonstrates the ability to help his students navigate the often-conflicting advice they receive from multiple different directions. Many regard him as a friend and advisor on matters of family and career. He is profoundly influential in training new generations of scholars, policy makers and strategic thinkers.

Professor Armitage's nomination for the Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision was met with an outpour of enthusiasm and support from current and former students, as well as colleagues. With much admiration, these individuals described his strong commitment to the mentorship, development and education of his students.

Derek Armitage headshot



Mary Wells, PEng, PhD, FEC

Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering
Saturday, June 16, evening ceremony

Dr. Mary Wells joined the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering in 2007 after spending 11 years as a faculty member at the University of British Columbia. During her 10 years at Waterloo, she developed an exemplary record of graduate student supervision, research, and administration. She served as the Associate Dean of Outreach for 9 years and the Chair of the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering for 4 years. On November 1, 2017, she began her new position as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Guelph.

During her career, Dr. Wells has supervised 25 master’s and 17 doctoral students and 9 postdoctoral fellows and has published two books, two book chapters, and more than 175 papers in journals and conferences. She has also had an enormous impact in developing on and off campus outreach programs aimed at encouraging female students to choose careers in mathematics, science, and engineering.

Dr. Wells has had a profoundly positive impact on her graduate students. Her past and current graduate students describe her as “an exceptional mentor” who “works tirelessly” and for whom “the wellbeing of her students has always been of great concern”.

Dr. Wells has demonstrated a long record of excellence in graduate supervision, research, education, outreach, and leadership within the University and in the profession. The Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision is a fitting recognition of this impact.

Mary Wells headshot

Amir Khajepour, PhD, PEng

Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering
Saturday, June 16, evening ceremony

Dr. Amir Khajepour is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering and is the NSERC/General Motors Industrial Research Chair in Holistic Vehicle Control and the Canada Research Chair in Mechatronic Vehicle Systems. He joined the Department in 1997 as an Assistant Professor and since that time has accumulated a world class record of research, teaching, graduate supervision, and service to the profession. Amir has supervised an astounding number of undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. He currently supervises 6 MASc students, 15 PhD students, 4 visiting PhD students, and 7 postdoctoral researchers. During his 20 years as a faculty member, he has supervised/co-supervised 63 master’s students, 37 doctoral students, and 32 postdoctoral fellows. Together with his supervisees, they have won numerous national and international awards and have carried out impactful research.

In spite of the very large research program that he manages, he always finds time for his students. Both his students and colleagues observe that he challenges his students with meaningful research topics, provides them with state-of-the-art laboratory facilities so they have the equipment necessary to carry out the research and provides them with effective feedback. He goes to great lengths to prepare his students for subsequent careers in industry or academia.

Amir’s students describe him as a mentor who “is truly invested in his students’ lives and careers” and someone who “never failed to inspire each of us to pursue our future aspirations”.

Amir headshot

Guest speakers

Upkar Arora, BA, MAcc, ICD.D., FCA, FCPA

Co-Founder and CEO, Illumina Partners
Wednesday, June 13, evening ceremony

Upkar Arora is co-founder and CEO of Illumina Partners, a boutique advisory firm which has specialized in strategy, operations, M&A and finance since 2002. In 2014, Arora also founded Illumina Social Impact Partners to advise and invest in enterprises committed to social impact and generating positive, scalable and sustainable change in our communities. Arora, who holds the ICD.D designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors, has extensive experience chairing and as a member of corporate boards, including the university’s Board of Governors. Arora is a FCPA, FCA and holds a master's degree from Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance.

Upkar Arora headshot