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Concordia awards 9 honorary doctorates at its 2023 spring convocation

The honorands include an Inuk singer-songwriter, a socially conscious CEO and a global bestselling author
May 16, 2023

Next month, Concordia’s graduates will get to hear from nine remarkable individuals who have distinguished themselves across several fields — from philanthropy to diplomacy to health research.

This year’s honorary doctorate recipients include a biochemical and surgical researcher, an Inuk artist and activist, and the author of the book behind the hit film Slumdog Millionaire.

The university will present the honours during its 2023 spring convocation ceremonies in the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts from June 20 to June 22. The recipients will join students from Concordia’s four faculties and the School of Graduate Studies who will be receiving their diplomas.

Concordia’s spring convocation: the honorands

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Vikas Swarup – author and diplomat

For his literary excellence and dedication to diplomacy 

Vikas Swarup is an internationally renowned bestselling author, television host and former member of the Indian Foreign Service. He served as India’s high commissioner to Canada from 2017 to 2019. His novels include Q & A, adapted into the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, Six Suspects and The Accidental Apprentice. Swarup has written for such publications as TIME, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Telegraph and the Financial Times, and he has participated in literary festivals around the world.

Vikas Swarup will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Tuesday, June 20 at 10 a.m.

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Clarissa Desjardins – biotech entrepreneur and leader 

For her exceptional foresight in the biotech industry

Clarissa Desjardins is an award-winning entrepreneur with more than 25 years of biotechnology experience. She is founder and chief executive officer of Congruence Therapeutics. The Montreal-based biotechnology company works at the interface of computational and experimental drug discovery to design novel small molecules for diseases caused by protein misfolding. 

Clarissa Desjardins will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Tuesday, June 20 at 3 p.m.

James Donald McCully – Canadian biochemical and surgical researcher

For his innovative work advancing a variety of medical interventions

Dr. James Donald McCully began his journey with Concordia in 1975, with a BA in political science. A BSc in biophysical education followed in 1978. Since then, he has worked at the Toronto University Health Network, Harvard Medical School and the New England Deaconess Hospital, where he served as director of cardiothoracic surgical research. Dr. McCully’s research has led to the development of mitochondrial transplantation, a novel procedure that has been described as a disruptive and innovative new therapy for a variety of medical interventions.

James Donald McCully will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Tuesday, June 20 at 8 p.m.

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Kathy Baig – engineer and inclusive leader

For her commitment to the engineering profession and beyond

In her nearly 20 years of experience as an engineer and manager, Kathy Baig has become known for her inclusive leadership and strategic vision. As vice-president of positioning at global design company Stantec, she actively contributes to the company’s growth and influence in Quebec. She is also their principal director of transport operations for the Montreal metropolis. She serves on the boards of several corporate and charitable organizations, including Nav Canada and Fondaction, and is currently president of Engineers Canada for the 2022-23 term.

Kathy Baig will address the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science on Wednesday, June 21 at 10 a.m.

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Deborah Estrin – health research trailblazer

For her pioneering health-related computer science research

Deborah Estrin is a professor of computer science at Cornell Tech, a Cornell University campus in New York City, where she holds the Robert V. Tishman Founder’s Chair and serves as the associate dean for impact. Before joining Cornell, Estrin was founding director of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at the University of California, Los Angeles. There she pioneered mobile and wireless systems to collect and analyze real-time data about the physical world. Estrin’s research activities include technologies for caregiving, immersive health, small data, participatory sensing and public-interest technology.

Deborah Estrin will address the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science on Wednesday, June 21 at 3 p.m.

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Rodolphe Saadé – socially conscious CEO

For his visionary, socially responsible business leadership

Rodolphe Saadé is chairman and chief executive officer of the CMA CGM Group, a French container transportation and shipping company. Born in Lebanon, Saadé earned a BComm from Concordia in 1994. He then founded a water dispenser company before joining CMA CGM, managing transoceanic shipping lines until he became chairman and CEO in 2017. A firm believer in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility, Saadé is committed to the group achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The CMA CGM Group Foundation was established in 2005 and has supported more than 350 local, national and international projects that deliver emergency humanitarian relief, better education and equal opportunities.

Rodolphe Saadé will address the John Molson School of Business at a future convocation ceremony.

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Sandra Chartrand and Alain Bouchard – visionary philanthropists

For their leading role in philanthropy in Quebec

Sandra Chartrand is president of the Sandra and Alain Bouchard Foundation. She currently sits on the board of directors at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Foundation, the Place des Arts Foundation and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. She is also a member of the Development Committee of the Université de Montréal Board. She earned a BA from Concordia in 1985.

Alain Bouchard is the founder of Alimentation Couche-Tard, a convenience store sector leader with more than 14,300 stores in 24 countries and territories.

Together, in 2012, they established their foundation, which supports a range of causes associated with people with intellectual disabilities, as well as artistic and cultural projects.

Sandra Chartrand and Alain Bouchard will address the John Molson School of Business on Thursday, June 22 at 3 p.m.

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Elisapie Isaac – Canadian Inuk singer-songwriter

For her Inuktitut artistry and activism

Born and raised in the remote Nunavik village of Salluit, Elisapie — as she is known — is an emblematic and award-winning Canadian Inuk singer-songwriter, filmmaker and activist. She created and produced the first Canada-wide broadcast TV show to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, Le grand solstice (2021, 2022, 2023) and, with her company Sanajik Films, produces documentaries that tell stories through Indigenous and Inuit eyes. Her fourth solo album, Inuktitut, due out this fall, translates classic rock and pop songs from the 1960s to 1990s into her language.

Elisapie Isaac will address the Faculty of Fine Arts on Thursday, June 22 at 8 p.m.


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


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