Vancouver Island University

06/12/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/12/2024 14:48

VIU awards five honorary degrees at June convocation ceremonies

Degrees will go to prominent public servant, Elder, businessman, artist and author during VIU's convocation ceremonies and Semélshun on June 12, 13 and 14.

A public servant, Coast Salish Elder, businessman, artist and author are receiving honorary degrees at Vancouver Island University's (VIU's) convocation ceremonies this month.

Convocation ceremonies take place June 12 and 13. Semélshun, VIU's Indigenous Graduation Recognition Ceremony, is on June 14. At each of them, an honorary doctorate will be presented to graduating students and their guests.

This year's recipients are:

  • Guud Sans Glans (Robert Davidson), award-winning artist: Wednesday, June 12, 10 am
  • Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC's Provincial Health Officer: Wednesday, June 12, 2:30 pm
  • Joan Mayo, author and intercultural bridge builder: Thursday, June 13, 10 am (will be acknowledged during the ceremony, presented at a later date)
  • Dr. Matt Vickers, Indigenous business leader: Thursday, June 13, 2:30 pm
  • Thiyuas - Florence James, Coast Salish Elder and matriarch from the Penelakut Tribe and former VIU Elder-in-Residence: Friday, June 14, 10 am

"VIU awards honorary degrees to publicly acknowledge members of society who demonstrate leadership and achievement in an area related to the university's mission and values, including in the areas of scholarship, research, teaching, the creative arts, business and industry, international affairs or public service," said Cloy-e-iis, Dr. Judith Sayers, VIU Chancellor. "Our honorary degree recipients are meant to encourage a standard of excellence and innovation and inspire our graduates as they head into the next part of their journeys."

To learn more about VIU's convocation ceremonies, please visit the VIU convocation website for more details. This is a ticketed event. Please email [email protected] if you wish to attend.

Honorary degree recipient bios (in order of ceremonies):

Guud Sans Glans (Robert Davidson)

Honorary Doctorate of Laws

Robert Davidson is one of Canada's most respected and important contemporary artists. A Northwest Coast native of Haida descent, he is a master carver of totem poles and masks and works in a variety of other media as a printmaker, painter and jeweller. He is also a leading figure in the renaissance of Haida art and culture. Davidson is best known as an impeccable craftsman whose creative and personal interpretation of traditional Haida form is unparalleled.

For more than 40 years, Davidson has worked as an artist and has produced an internationally acclaimed body of work. His work is found in many important private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles and the Artists for Kids Gallery in North Vancouver.

In 1995 he received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and he holds honorary degrees from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver. He received the Order of British Columbia and in 1996 was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada.

Dr. Bonnie Henry

Honorary Doctor of Laws

Dr. Bonnie Henry was appointed as British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer in 2018 following three years as the Deputy Provincial Health Officer. As BC's most senior public health official, Henry is responsible for monitoring the health of all British Columbians and undertaking measures for disease prevention and control and health protection. Most recently Henry has led the province's response on the COVID-19 pandemic and drug overdose emergency.

Henry's experience in public health, preventive medicine and global pandemics has extended throughout her career.

She is a specialist in public health and preventive medicine. She graduated from Dalhousie Medical School, completed a master's degree in public health and residency training in preventive medicine at University of California, San Diego and in community medicine at University of Toronto. She is a clinical associate professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. She received the Order of British Columbia in 2022.

Dr. Matt Vickers, CET, LL.D

Honorary Doctor of Laws

Dr. Matt Vickers is the owner of Vickers and Associates, a management and financial consulting company. He is also CEO for Northern Nations Cooperative and Co-Chair of Honouring Nations Canada, a Fulbright initiative that aims to recognize, celebrate and share stories of Indigenous achievement and promote and encourage opportunities for Indigenous persons.

Vickers has more than 44 years of experience in consulting and Aboriginal business. Throughout his career, Vickers has had the opportunity to work in a broad base of industries including First Nations government, arts and culture, financial institutions, health care, the federal government and information technology.

He has worked on a wide range of assignments across Canada's First Nations communities, helping Aboriginal entrepreneurs with their business and banking needs. He is the successful owner and manager of a management consulting firm, and he lectures extensively across the world on issues ranging from Aboriginal economics to team dynamics, self-empowerment, goal setting and building trusting business relations.

Vickers has been honoured and recognized with several awards for his performance in business and for his passionate support of diversity in the workplace. He specializes in establishing links in cross-cultural business environments and governance training. He has a successful track record of matching Aboriginal with non-Aboriginal potential business partners and helping them to organize and develop thriving business ventures.

Vickers' Aboriginal ancestry stems from the Tsimshian/Heiltsuk and Haida on his father's side, and English ancestry from his mother's side.

Joan Mayo

Honorary Doctorate of Laws

A visionary, intercultural bridge builder, Joan Mayo is the author of Paldi Remembered: 50 Years in the Life of a Vancouver Island Logging Town. The book is a six-decades-long effort in curating, documenting and advocating for the importance of Paldi's multicultural community. Paldi's story is a multi-ethnic settlement and former mill town near Duncan. Here, families of South Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Indigenous and European descent lived and worked together, supporting each other. Through writing this book, as well as contributions to the South Asian Canadian Digital Archive and her role in the creation of the Paldi Historical Museum, Mayo preserved the history of this unique community. Her efforts also enabled larger conversations on aspects of history, such as the impact on neighbours of the uprooting and dispossession of Japanese and Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Mayo was born in 1931 and raised in the mid-Island region. She married Rajindi Mayo, the son of Mayo Singh, one of the founders of Paldi. She lived in Paldi starting in the late 1950s and remained even as the forestry industry declined in the 1980s. Mayo received the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2002 for her strong advocacy for the preservation of Paldi's history.

Thiyuas - Florence James

Honorary Doctor of Letters

Florence James is a Coast Salish Elder from Penelakut Island. She is a fluent speaker of the Penelakut Tribe dialect of the Hul'qumi'num language, which is also part of the Coast Salish Nation. She is an educator and lifelong learner who draws on both her traditional gifts and teachings from the Ancestors and her university-based education.

Thiyuas is a highly respected Elder in her community, widely known for her cultural expertise, her knowledge of and dedication to the environment, and her commitment to the care and education of young children. Thiyuas has been a teacher and powerful advocate for many languages, cultural heritage, environmental education, healing and legal projects for more than 15 years.


Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Manager, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: [email protected] | X: @VIUNews

The VIU community acknowledges and thanks the Snuneymuxw, Quw'utsun, Tla'amin, Snaw-naw-as and Qualicum First Nation on whose traditional lands we teach, learn, research, live and share knowledge.