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Concordia to recognize 9 honorary doctorates at its spring convocation

The honorands made their mark in fields including science, art, education and business
May 11, 2022

With the return of in-person convocation celebrations for the first time since 2019, Concordia will award new honorary doctorates to seven exceptional individuals who have had a lasting impact in the fields of neuroscience, public health, climate mitigation, Indigenous art, Quebec culture, modern dance, business, philanthropy and equity issues.

They will be joined by two previously announced recipients to receive their honours during Concordia’s spring 2022 convocation ceremonies taking place June 6, 7 and 9 in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Montreal’s Place des Arts, 175 Ste. Catherine St. W.

The honorands will join more than 6,200 students from Concordia’s four faculties and the School of Graduate Studies who will be receiving their diplomas.

Concordia’s 2022 spring convocation: the honorands

Lady Mireille Gillings, PhD., Hon DSc.

For her visionary leadership in the biotechnology and philanthropic sectors

Montreal-born Lady Mireille Gillings, PhD., Hon DSc., founded and grew HUYABIO International to be at the forefront in accelerating the advancement of novel biopharmaceutical product opportunities originating in China. She is a visionary leader with more than 25 years of proven scientific, clinical and operational expertise and leadership in the biopharmaceutical industry. She has made significant contributions to neurological and neurodegenerative disease research, including a focus on neuroactive steroids.

Lady Mireille Gillings serves on the Pasteur Institute advisory board. She financially co-founded and serves as vice chair of GHO Capital, a European private equity fund specializing in global health opportunities. Her passions include the Gillings School of Global Public Health and building international scientific partnerships through the Mireille and Dennis Gillings Global Public Health Fellowships, with the aim to develop the next generation of public health leaders.

Among the many honours received by this Concordia graduate, the French Government bestowed upon Lady Mireille Gillings its highest national award, the Knight of the Legion of Honour, in recognition of her contributions to neuroscience and entrepreneurship.

Lady Mireille Gillings will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Monday, June 6, at 10 a.m.

Olivette Otele, PhD

For her leadership on equity issues through scholarship and service

In 2018, Cameroon-born, Paris-raised Olivette Otele became the United Kingdom’s first Black female history professor. She was recently appointed distinguished research professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where she will be based in the Faculty of Law. Considered an expert on the intersection of memory, politics and slavery by the French government, Otele’s PhD dissertation is compulsory reading for France’s teachers in training.

Otele amplified her academic work through public commentary and service. A regular media contributor, she has been featured on the BBC and Sky News, and in the Guardian, Sunday Times, Elle Magazine, Huffington Post, New Yorker and more. Her latest books, both published in 2020, are a monograph, African Europeans: An Untold History, and an edited volume, Post-Conflict Memorialization: Missing Memorials, Absent Bodies.

Otele has served as vice-president of the Royal Historical Society and as independent chair of Bristol’s Commission on Race Equality.

Olivette Otele will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Monday, June 6, at 3 p.m.

Nathalie Petrowski, BA 76

For her contributions to Quebec’s cultural landscape

Nathalie Petrowski (BA 76) began writing for the Journal de Montréal while completing her final year of communication studies at Concordia. After a decade and a half writing for the culture section at Le Devoir, she spent 26 years as a columnist at La Presse, retiring in 2019. The title of her memoir from that same year, La critique n’a jamais tué personne (Criticism Never Killed Anyone), is a tongue-in-cheek reference to her reputation as a fierce critic with a sharp wit. She has won three journalism prizes in Quebec, including the Prix Jules-Fournier for contributions to the quality of the French language.

Throughout her career, Petrowski has participated in debates on issues of the day on radio and television. For the past five years, she has been a critic of television on ARTV’s C’est juste de la TV. In 2020 she created the radio series OK Boomer with her husband, Radio-Canada host Michel Lacombe, where they discussed differing views between generations.

Beyond journalism, Petrowski has authored several novels and screenplays for film and TV. Her adaptation of her 1995 novel, Maman Last Call, earned her a Genie Award nomination in 2006.

Nathalie Petrowski will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Monday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m.

David Keith, PhD

For his forward-looking research on solar geoengineering and climate mitigation

David Keith is the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also founder of Carbon Engineering, a company developing technology to capture CO2 directly from the air to make carbon-neutral, carbon-based fuel.

Keith is best known for his research on solar geoengineering — the idea of manipulating the earth’s climate directly to counteract the effects of global warming — and its associated financial, environmental and moral costs. Beyond publishing more than 170 peer-reviewed articles, Keith also wrote the 2013 book, A Case for Climate Engineering, the first such work on geoengineering written by a researcher for a non-specialist audience.

David Keith will address the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science on Tuesday, June 7, at 10 a.m.

Jennifer Flanagan, MBA

For empowering underserved populations through STEM programming (Flanagan was previously announced in spring 2020)

Jennifer Flanagan is CEO of Actua, Canada’s largest science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach organization. The national charity partners with companies, governments, postsecondary institutions and community organizations to provide STEM programs that build self-confidence and employability skills to more than 300,000 youth annually, with an emphasis on underserved populations.

Flanagan’s work has been recognized with many accolades, including the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award, Top 40 Under 40, WXN Most Powerful Women and the YWCA Women of Distinction Award.

Jennifer Flanagan will address the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science on Tuesday, June 7, at 3 p.m.

Margie Gillis, OC., CQ (DFA 20)

For her contributions to modern dance, teaching and activism (Gillis was previously announced in spring 2020)

Margie Gillis is one of the most influential Canadian choreographer-dancers of the 20th and 21st centuries. By the time she inaugurated the Margie Gillis Dance Foundation in 1981, she had already established herself as an innovative choreographer and solo dancer known for her naturalistic style and iconic cascading, long hair. Infused with political, social and cultural themes, Gillis’s work explores the notions of humanity and inner landscape and our intrinsic relationship to nature in a universal language.

Over the decades, Gillis has created a rich repertoire of more than 150 works that continue to be performed around the globe along with new creations through the Margie Gillis Legacy Project. She has also collaborated with such major companies as Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Teaching and mentoring emerging artists and using dance to mediate conflict are integral to Gillis’s vision as a movement philosopher.

Politically progressive, Gillis has served as a spokesperson for OXFAM, the Planned Parenthood Foundation and several AIDS-awareness organizations, and is an active defender of environmental causes.

Margie Gillis will address the Faculty of Fine Arts on Tuesday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Lee-Ann Martin, MA Museum Studies

For revolutionizing the study and influence of Indigenous art

For more than three decades, Lee-Ann Martin’s commitment to Indigenous art has been matched only by her ability to assess and transform the cultural institutions responsible for its stewardship and promotion.

During her 1989-90 residency at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Martin produced “The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion: Contemporary Native Art and Public Art Museums in Canada.” The report led the Canada Council for the Arts to develop and acquisition program for works by contemporary Indigenous artists, which helped correct their longstanding systemic exclusion from public collections.

While at the museum, Martin co-curated INDIGENA: Perspectives of Indigenous Peoples on 500 Years, which toured internationally. Many exceptional curatorial projects followed, including Resilience, a 2018 exhibition of the work of 150 Indigenous women artists on billboards across Canada.

In 2019, Martin received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Lee-Ann Martin will address the Faculty of Fine Arts on Tuesday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Julie Gichuru, LLB., MBA

For her pioneering journalism, nonviolence advocacy and African leadership development

Julie Gichuru earned a law degree and MBA from the University of Wales in Cardiff. She returned to her native Kenya and established herself as a household name through her work as a groundbreaking journalist. Gichuru conceptualized and hosted the program Fist to Five for Change, which facilitated the peace and healing process following her country’s electoral crisis in 2007-08. Her initiative was recognized with a Martin Luther King Salute to Greatness award.

In 2011, she set up her own production house, Animus Media, which promotes positive change through quality African content. This includes the syndicated Africa Leadership Dialogues and the Great Debaters Contest, a high school debate platform that aims to teach students differing opinions need not lead to conflict and violence.

Gichuru is now chief public affairs and communications officer at the Mastercard Foundation, where she oversees corporate, policy and thought-leadership communications across Africa and Canada, focusing on youth job creation and vaccine rollouts and manufacturing.

Julie Gichuru will address the John Molson School of Business on Thursday, June 9, at 10 a.m.

Guy Cormier, MBA

For his business vision and social conscience

Guy Cormier began his career at Caisse Desjardins as a cashier. He steadily moved his way up and eventually became the youngest-ever president and CEO of the Desjardins Group, in 2016.

Within the cooperative, Cormier has demonstrated his commitment to social issues through the creation of a Youth Advisory Committee and an accelerated professional development plan for women. He also oversaw the adoption of Desjardin’s first diversity and inclusion plan, and creation of the Grand Movement Fund to support infrastructure initiatives across Quebec and Ontario.

Cormier is also a member of the board of Forces AVENIR Foundation and the Conference Board of Canada.

Guy Cormier will address the John Molson School of Business on Thursday, June 9, at 3 p.m.


For more information, visit Concordia’s Graduation and Convocation website.


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