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Silicon Valley leader committed to seeding globally impactful change among recipients of Waterloo honorary doctorates

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator —considered the world’s most powerful startup incubator — will be among the distinguished recipients of honorary doctorates at the University of Waterloo's spring convocation ceremonies later this month. Y Combinator (YC) has had a role in the growth of many billion-dollar companies. A number of companies that went through the University of Waterloo’s Velocity program have also gone through YC, including Thalmic Labs, Vidyard, Pebble, and Bufferbox.

Altman, also co-chairman of OpenAI, a non-profit company that conducts research on artificial intelligence, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. He will address convocation at the Faculty of Engineering ceremony taking place at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17.

The University will award the other honorary doctorates at the following ceremonies:

Applied Health Sciences — Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 10 a.m.

John Frank is an epidemiologist, teacher of public health professionals and one of Canada's most passionate advocates for strengthening the public health system. He is director of the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy. In 2000, he was appointed inaugural scientific director of the Institute of Population and Public Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws and address convocation.

Environment — Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

Pat Roy Mooney has had a five-decade career as a champion of the protection of plant genetic resources and the livelihoods of the world's small-scale farmers. He is co-founder and executive director of the ETC Group — an international civil society organization, and instrumental in placing these agricultural sustainability issues on the global agenda in ways that have brought real societal change. His work has influenced the design of governance frameworks in matters of agricultural biodiversity, seed technologies, responses to climate change, and farmers' rights. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Environmental Studies degree and address convocation.

Arts — Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 10 a.m.

Ingrid Mattson is a professor and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at Western University. A Waterloo alumnus, she became an innovative leader in the field of Islamic Studies. Mattson established the first graduate program for Muslim chaplains to be accredited in the United States while she was professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary. Through both her academic work and her activism, she has gained great respect as a female leader within the wider Muslim community and has worked extensively in the area of interfaith relations. She will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree and address convocation.

Science — Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

John Clague is professor and Shrum Chair in the Department of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University. His research activities cross both the geosciences and engineering and has led to significant refinements in the quaternary chronology and climate change history of western North America through application and testing of new dating techniques. His work on the correlation of earthquake and tsunami events has helped scientists to use the geological record to predict future events, and his research has appeared in high impact international journals. Known as a passionate teacher, supervisor and meticulous editor, the third edition of his textbook Natural Hazards has been adopted for use at many universities. He was named by Canadian Geographic Magazine as one of Canada's top 100 modern-day trailblazers in 2015. Clague will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Science — Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

Stephen Scherer is director of the Centre for Applied Genomics and senior scientist in genetics and genome biology at the Hospital for Sick Children, and is professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics. Scherer is also director of the McLaughlin Centre at the University of Toronto. A Waterloo alumnus, he has made groundbreaking discoveries that have directly contributed to better outcomes for people suffering from disease. Standing out among his many accomplishments is the specific contribution to the discovery of genome-wide Copy Number Variation (CNV) and its relevance in human disease. Scherer will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree and address convocation.

Mathematics — Friday, June 16, 2017 at 10 a.m.

Efim Zelmanov is the Rita L. Atkinson Endowed Chair in Mathematics at University of California, San Diego, and a distinguished professor at the Korea Institute for Advanced Study. Widely regarded as one of the greatest algebraists of all time, Zelmanov has worked in numerous disciplines within noncommutative algebra and he has made substantial contributions in particular to the theory of Lie and Jordan Algebras and to infinite group theory. He has won numerous awards, including the highest honour in mathematics, the Fields medal in 1994. Zelmanov will receive an Honorary Doctor of Mathematics degree and address convocation.

Mathematics — Friday, June 16, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

Terry Lyons is Wallis Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and director of the Oxford-Man Institute for Quantitative Finance. A phenomenal mathematician, one major pioneering contribution was the introduction and development of the theory of rough paths, which has application in a variety of fields. His research in mathematical finance has focused on understanding and managing risk in financial markets. He is seen as a champion for extending the influence and application of mathematics, have been a proponent for several initiatives to boost mathematics research and teaching. Lyons will receive an Honorary Doctor of Mathematics and address convocation.

Engineering — Saturday, June 17, 2016 at 10 a.m.

Chunli Bai is president of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), the most important academic position in China. He is one of the pioneers in the field of nanoscience and is a highly acclaimed academic who has achieved international stature through his outstanding academic accomplishments in nanoscience and nanotechnology. His main scientific contributions include the development of new experimental techniques and methodologies and their application to chemistry and molecular science research. His work led to the earliest technological tools in China for manipulating single atoms and molecules, and characterizing surfaces and interfaces. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree and address convocation.

Engineering — Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.

Göran Andersson has been a leading figure in the European power engineering research community for more than 30 years. Combining industry and academic experience, he has advanced important strategies to accommodate imminent penetration of sustainable energy sources, and developed models to forecast fluctuations in energy pricing as a result. His group was one of the first to introduce the Energy Hub concept, now used worldwide to address complex control challenges related to integrating electric vehicles into current and future grid systems. Throughout his career, Andersson has remained deeply committed to student mentorship and service to his profession. Andersson will receive an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree and address convocation.

All ceremonies will take place in the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) on the Waterloo campus.  For more information, please visit the website for spring convocation 2017.

Members of the media are required to confirm their attendance with the media contact below.

About the University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo is Canada’s top innovation university. With more than 36,000 students we are home to the world's largest co-operative education system of its kind. Our unmatched entrepreneurial culture, combined with an intensive focus on research, powers one of the top innovation hubs in the world. Find out more at


Media Contact:

Matthew Grant
University of Waterloo

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