A night to celebrate Environment's finest alumni

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Environment says farewell to its first 50 years by celebrating those making the next 50 possible

2019’s Faculty of Environment Alumni Award winners include a builder, a healer, an organizer and a top executive. They are diverse in age, gender, experience and background. What they do share in common is a commitment to make the world a more sustainable place along every path they’ve taken since their studies in Environment.

all four award winners holding their awards

The winners, Young Alumni Inspiration Award recipient, Jennifer Martin, Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award recipient, Thomas Mueller, and Friend of the Faculty Impact Award recipients, Neil Smiley and Sheryl Kennedy had their career achievements and dedication honoured at this year’s Alumni Awards Dinner in Toronto.

The recipients were inducted and their achievements celebrated with family, colleagues and faculty members who have supported the awardees, including Jean Andrey, dean of the Faculty of Environment. 

“Recognizing tonight’s honourees not only showcases their commitment to strengthening sustainable and diverse communities but also serves and an example for the next generation, what it means to challenge the rules and think outside of the box,” said Andrey. “Wherever they go, however long it may be, we’re proud they’ve maintained their roots and connection to their community, and Environment.”

Following the meal, each winner was introduced and their achievements celebrated.

Master of Development Practice (MDP) alumnus and Young Alumni Inspiration Award recipient Jennifer Martin was commended for her courage and tireless work as the executive director and founder of Home Free, a charity transforming the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children in Uganda. Of the more than 55,000 children who are growing up in orphanages — many have family. By enabling children to live with their extended families, supporting those living in poverty, and building safe communities, Home Free demonstrates that family care is possible for highly vulnerable children.

Jennifer Martin

Honoured next was Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award winner, Thomas Mueller. As the founding director, president and CEO of the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) and CEO of Green Business Certification Inc., few have done so much to make our built environment more sustainable than this School of Planning graduate. Currently, Canada ranks second for LEED-certified projects internationally. Since 2005, the 4,000+ certified LEED buildings in Canada have supported climate action efforts by reducing 3.24 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 16.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy and 30 billion litres of water. In fact, Mueller advised the faculty on its signature LEED Platinum building Environment 3. 

Thomas Mueller

In honour of the Faculty’s 50th anniversary, a new award, the Friend of the Faculty Impact Award was presented by Dean Jean to two alumni whose support for Waterloo Environment makes it possible for the Faculty to pursue its mission as the largest university organization in Canada devoted to addressing climate change.

Sheryl Kennedy (BES ’76), a planning alumnus and a member of Waterloo’s Board of Governors, achieved a career taking her to the greatest heights of the international banking world and serving as the deputy governor of the Bank of Canada for 14 years. Kennedy was the lead alumni advisor and seed donor to Environment’s Global Citizen Internships, enabling the creation of an experiential learning program. So far her contribution helped five students work with Habitat for Humanity to develop their professional skills while also contributing to our non-profit partner and benefitting the families and communities they serve. 

Sheryl Kennedy

Also honoured as a Friend of the Faculty Award winner was Neil Smiley, a partner in the law firm Fasken Martineau. A quiet but loyal champion of the School of Planning, Neil Smiley is part of the engine driving the University of Waterloo Planning Alumni of Toronto (UWPAT). Smiley and UWPAT work closely with faculty to create the “Planner-In-Residence” program. For over 20 years, the program has invited prominent practicing planners into the classroom to offer students fresh and practical perspective. The program continues to be the centrepiece of UWPAT’s fundraising efforts, however, with the success of their annual fundraising dinner, UWPAT has also been able to branch out and fund new school scholarships, new endowment funds, and many other activities at the School.


As the Faculty of Environment says good-bye to its first 50 years, it’s fitting that one of our final celebrations of 2019 honours those who will ensure the faculty continues to provide first-class teaching, experiential learning and research opportunities to students for 50 more years and beyond.

If you know a Faculty of Environment alumnus who deserves to be recognized for their career achievements and commitment to the planet, nominate them today.

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