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Concordia to award 9 honorary doctorates at its spring 2024 convocation

The honorands include an Academy Award® nominated filmmaker, a NASA engineer turned lawyer, a leading climate change scientist and the only African-American woman to have ownership in 3 professional sports teams
May 7, 2024

Next month, Concordia University’s newest graduates will get to hear from nine remarkable individuals who have distinguished themselves in the worlds of television and film, applied chemistry, wireless communications, and entrepreneurship. These leaders have also been active in fighting against climate change, poverty, ageism, racism and discrimination.

The university will present the honours during its 2024 spring convocation ceremonies in the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts June 4, 5 and 6. 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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Lyse Doucet, CM, OBE

For her reporting and commitment to journalistic integrity

New Brunswick-born Lyse Doucet has spent her 40-year career telling stories that often go underreported in Western media.

Based in Côte d’Ivoire from 1983 to 1988, Doucet reported across Africa for Canadian media and the BBC. She then took on a series of foreign correspondent positions for the BBC in Islamabad, Tehran, Kabul, Amman and Jerusalem, developing an international reputation as a foreign correspondent. In 1999, she transitioned into the role of senior presenter, anchoring news programs for BBC World News television and the BBC World Service. As the BBC’s chief international correspondent, she is often deployed to the field to report on major news events for the BBC’s national and global channels.

She is an honorary patron of Canadian Crossroads International, a member of Friends of Aschiana U.K., which supports street working children in Afghanistan, and a founding member of the Marie Colvin Journalists Network, which supports Arab women journalists.

For her profound, fearless reporting, Doucet has received many media awards including a Peabody, the Prix Bayeux Calvados, an Emmy with her BBC team in Syria, the Columbia Journalism Award for lifetime achievement, and the Mungo Park Medal from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2014 and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2018.

 Lyse Doucet will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Tuesday, June 4 at 10 a.m.

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My Thanh Nguyen, BSc 86, MSc 88

For his groundbreaking applied chemistry entrepreneurship and philanthropy 

My Thanh Nguyen, a chemist, inventor and entrepreneur, is the founder or co-founder of 14 high-tech enterprises.  

A Vietnamese refugee to Montreal in 1979, Nguyen worked as a dishwasher until he had improved his English enough to attend university. He completed two degrees in chemistry at Concordia, then his PhD in Energy and Materials Science at Institut national de la recherche scientifique — all within seven years.  

In 1997, following several positions in the private sector, he spotted a market opportunity and founded American Dye Source, Inc., in Baie-D’Urfé, Quebec. As the first company in the world to produce near-infrared absorbing polymers for production of thermal offset printing plates, it changed the offset printing industry. 

After 25 years in North America, Nguyen returned to his hometown of Trà Vinh in 2004 to build a $10-million factory for his next venture, Mylan Group. The province's first high-tech company, Mylan produces environmentally friendly, near-infrared dyes and polymers. In 2014, he co-founded RYNAN Technologies, a developer of artificial intelligence and Internet of Things smart devices for agriculture, aquaculture and smart cities. 

Nguyen is the creator or co-creator of more than 600 inventions, which are patented in many countries. He has co-authored 68 papers on materials chemistry in peer-reviewed scientific journals and contributed five book chapters related to active polymers and aquaculture. 

Nguyen is the founder of the Cooperative Education Program and co-founder of the Applied Chemistry Department at Tra Vinh University, where he served as a dean from 2007 to 2017. He established the Nguyen Thanh My Foundation to improve health, education and housing for impoverished rural Vietnamese people. 

 My Thanh Nguyen will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Tuesday, June 4 at 3 p.m.

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Friederike Otto

For leading research, communication and justice work on humanity’s role in climate change

A physicist with a PhD in the philosophy of science, Friederike Otto joined the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London in 2021. Prior to that she had spent 10 years as director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. 

Otto is co-founder and lead of World Weather Attribution (WWA), an international effort to track and communicate the role human-induced climate change has on extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves and storms. By providing irrefutable evidence quickly on the likelihood of such events occurring with and without climate change, Climate Change Attribution has helped shift the global conversation, influencing adaptation strategies and aiding sustainability litigation against polluters.  

For the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), Otto was a lead author of both The Scientific Basis, published in 2021, and the 2023 Synthesis Report

In 2020, Climate Change Attribution was named one of MIT Technology Review's top 10 breakthrough technologies. In 2021, Otto was recognized for co-founding WWA by TIME100, a list of the world’s most influential people, and by the journal Nature as one of the top 10 people who made a difference in science that year. 

Otto published the popular science book Angry Weather: Heat Waves, Floods, Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change in 2020. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Financial TimesThe EconomistTimes of IndiaThe SunThe Wall Street JournalThe TelegraphThe GuardianThe Washington PostDaily MailDie ZeitDer Spiegel, BBC, and CNN. 

Friederike Otto will address the Faculty of Arts and Science on Tuesday, June 4 at 8 p.m.

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Mallikarjun Tatipamula

For his major role in developing mobile technologies

A trailblazer in the telecommunications industry, Mallik Tatipamula’s contributions have resulted in major advances and new directions.

Through successive leadership positions at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras, Nortel Networks, Motorola, Cisco, Juniper Networks and F5 Networks, Tatipamula helped translate innovations into standards in the journey from narrow-band voice-centric 2G networks through the broadband 3G/4G networks that enabled smartphones, to today’s 5G network that supports Industry 4.0 applications.  

Today, as chief technology officer at Ericsson Silicon Valley, he drives Ericsson’s thought leadership and early 6G research efforts. He has been a staunch supporter of industry-academia collaborations and public-private partnerships, stressing the significance of a unified approach for accelerating technological advancements.  

A visiting professor at King’s College London, distinguished visiting professor at IIT Hyderabad, and honorary professor at the University of Glasgow, Tatipamula also serves on several academic advisory boards. He has mentored more than 100 university students to become next-generation leaders and is a frequent guest lecturer at the world’s leading universities. 

Tatipamula has co-authored two books, has more than 100 publications and patents, delivered over 500 keynote addresses, and has served on more than 40 conference committees for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 

His many awards include Chief Technical Officer of the Year from both the World Communication Awards and the Silicon Valley Business Journal, as well as the IEEE Communications Society Distinguished Industry Leader Award. He is an elected fellow of three national academies: the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng), the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) and the Canadian Academy of Engineering (FCAE). 

Mallik Tatipamula will address the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science on Wednesday, June 5 at 10 a.m.

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Frances Northcutt

For her work as an engineer and women’s rights advocate

First hired as a “computress” at NASA contractor TRW, Inc., in the 1960s, Frances “Poppy” Northcutt was quickly promoted, becoming NASA’s first female engineer.  

She became a return-to-earth specialist starting with the Apollo 8 mission, the first to orbit the moon. She continued in the role through Apollo 11 — the first mission to land on the moon — and was part of the team that guided the Apollo 13 astronauts after their spacecraft suffered a near-catastrophic explosion. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Team Award alongside her colleagues for successfully returning the Apollo 13 astronauts home. 

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Northcutt noticed the inferior pay women received and the harassment they endured, practices typical of engineering firms and beyond at the time. She fought for better maternity leave policies at TRW. As a board member for the National Organization for Women, she gave speeches and helped stage demonstrations, organize strikes and write press releases for the nascent women’s liberation movement. 

In 1974, Northcutt became the City of Houston’s first Women’s Advocate, helping pass legislation to improve the status of women. After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Houston Law Center in 1981, she transitioned to a career as a criminal defence lawyer. In her law practice, she emphasized civil rights, working to protect pregnant minors and victims of domestic violence. 

Today, Northcutt provides legal advice to pregnant teenagers and helps educate young voters and immigrant women on the importance of participating in the political process. 

Frances Northcutt will address the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science on Wednesday, June 5, at 3 p.m.

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Luc Maurice

For his entrepreneurship that champions quality of life for seniors 

Luc Maurice is an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and an advocate for senior citizens. 

After earning a Bachelor of Administration from the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Maurice trained as a pilot in the Canadian Armed Forces, rising to squadron chief pilot. His plans to turn his MBA thesis on design optimization for retirement residences into a career in that field were sidetracked when the former Governor General of Canada, Jeanne Sauvé, asked him to be her aide-de-camp.

In 1987, Maurice returned to his passion and founded Gestion Dali Management, a retirement-residence design and evaluation consultancy. In 1998, he founded Le Groupe Maurice, which builds, develops and manages avant-garde seniors’ residences across Quebec that have become a North American reference. Today, the Groupe Maurice manages 36 residences, each with distinctive architecture meant to integrate with the surrounding community, housing a total of 13,000 seniors.

Maurice has served as the chairperson of the Regroupement Québécois des résidences pour aînés (RQRA) and presided over a successful fundraising campaign for the Fondation Institut de gériatrie de Montréal.  

A fervent defender of his industry and its role in society, Maurice fights ageism and promotes seniors’ empowerment. He is the founder and president of the Fondation Luc Maurice, which supports healthy aging initiatives for the elderly, including numerous university research projects. 

Luc Maurice will address the John Molson School of Business on Thursday, June 6 at 10 a.m.

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Sheila C. Johnson

For her social leadership as an entrepreneur

Sheila Johnson is a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others.  

In the 1980s, she co-founded Black Entertainment Television. She continues to be a powerful influence in the entertainment industry, executive producing several documentary and feature films with humanitarian themes. 

Johnson has since diversified her business interests. She is founder and CEO of Salamander Collection, which operates luxury properties centred around unique destinations in the US and the Caribbean.   

As a partner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Johnson is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA), and the Washington Mystics (WNBA). She is also the first Black woman to own a PGA Championship golf course.  

Johnson spearheaded the formation of WE Capital, a venture capital consortium specializing in female-led enterprises with a goal of promoting social impact while generating financial returns. 

Johnson serves on the education committee of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a past member of Barack Obama’s President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the Council on Foreign Relations. She serves as a board member of the Metropolitan Opera, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Simon & Schuster Publishing Advisory Board, and the PBS Foundation, among others.  

Her memoir, Walk Through Fire, was published by Simon & Schuster in September 2023.   

Sheila Johnson will address the John Molson School of Business on Thursday, June 6, at 3 p.m.

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Fabienne Colas

For promoting cultural diversity through the arts

Fabienne Colas began her career as a model and was crowned Miss Haiti in 2000. She quickly became one of her native country’s most popular actors, winning the Ticket d’Or for best actress in the 2001 film, Barikad. In 2008, she starred in the film Minuit — also her debut as a director and producer.  

Colas has since become founder and president of 12 arts and film festivals, including the Montreal Black Film Festival; The Toronto Black Film Festival, Canada’s largest celebration of Black History Month through film; and similar events in Halifax, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, New York, Salvador (Bahia – Brazil) and Haiti. Over the years, these events have attracted over 2 million festivalgoers, showcased over 5,000 artists, and welcomed worldwide celebrities.

Colas is the president and CEO of the media and business consulting company Zaza Production. As chairperson and founder of the Fabienne Colas Foundations, she supports independent films and artists to promote a diversity of voices, faces and points of view. Colas is the creator and executive producer of the Canadian Screen Award winning documentary series and national film incubator program Being Black in Canada by Festwave Institute.

In 2015, she received a medal from Quebec’s National Assembly, recognizing her leadership in the fight against racism and discrimination in the province.

In 2018, Colas received Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 award and was named La Presse’s Person of the Year (Arts & Culture). The following year, she featured among Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and won the Prix Relève, Femme d’Exception (Mercuriades) from Quebec’s Federation of Chambers of Commerce. In 2022, she received the Visionaire Award at the Black Academy’s Legacy Awards, broadcast on CBC.

Fabienne Colas will address the Faculty of Fine Arts on Thursday, June 6 at 8 p.m.

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Denis Villeneuve

For his outstanding creativity and achievements in cinema 

Denis Villeneuve, is an Academy Award® nominated director, screenwriter, and producer. He has received seven Canadian Screen Awards as well as nominations for five BAFTAs, and two Golden Globes. His films have been invited to numerous film festivals, including Cannes, Venice, Telluride and Toronto.

Villeneuve’s highly acclaimed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, Dune (2021), won six Academy Awards®, five BAFTAs, three Critics’ Choice Awards, and nominations from the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild of America, as well as recognition across the globe.

Villeneuve’s latest film, Dune: Part Two, was released on March 1, 2024 to critical acclaim, grossing over $700 million worldwide. Villeneuve’s other directorial credits include Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners and Incendies.

Denis Villeneuve will address the Faculty of Fine Arts on Thursday, June 6 at 8 p.m.


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


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