Lakehead University announcing the 2021/22 Alumni Association Awards and Honours recipients

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THUNDER BAY – LIVING – Lakehead University is announcing the 2021/2022 Alumni Awards and Honours recipients, for Distinguished Alumni, Exceptional Alumni, Trailblazer, Legacy Award, and Ambassador Award.

Peers, friends, and family nominate Lakehead’s award recipients, who go through a rigorous review and selection process by the Alumni Association’s Governance and Nominations Committee.

“It is a highly competitive process with only a handful being selected each year,” said Mark Tilbury, Lakehead University’s Director, Alumni and Annual Giving.

“The Committee continues to express to me how impressed they are with the calibre and achievements of our alumni who are nominated.

Lakehead did not hold an awards ceremony earlier this year due to a limit on the number of people who could gather at the time due to COVID-19. Lakehead honoured the Orillia recipients in 2021. A small ceremony will be held in Thunder Bay later this month.

Distinguished Alumni: Thomas Doherty, Laird van Damme and Michael Gravelle

Thomas Doherty graduated from Lakehead University with a BA in History, HBA in Political Science and a BEd in 2006. Doherty’s outstanding contributions and commitment as a dedicated educator both inside and outside the classroom have earned him many prestigious awards such as the 2020 Kenora CDSB Director’s Award of Excellent, the 2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, the 2016 OTIP Elementary Teacher of the Year and the 2016 Dairy Farmers of Canada Teach Nutrition Award, just to name a few.

Laird van Damme graduated from Lakehead University in 1982 with his HBSCF and later in 1985 with his MSC in Forestry. van Damme is widely known in the forestry community and after graduation, joined KBM Forestry Consultants and in 1996 became a partner in KBM Resources (formerly KBM Forestry Consultants). He has worked across Canada, the Midwest and southern United States, China and parts of Europe.

Michael Gravelle attended Lakehead University in the late 1960’s, achieving his alumni status by completing five full credits. Gravelle was a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who represented the riding of Thunder Bay-Superior North from 1995 to 2022 (known as Port Arthur from 1995 to 1999). He served as a member of cabinet during the Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne governments.

Prior to elected politics, Gravelle was an assistant to Liberal politicians Robert Andras, Stuart Smith, and Joe Comuzzi. He also worked as a publicist for the CBC and was a founder of the North of Superior Film Association.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually in recognition of a seasoned Lakehead University alumnus/a who is well-established in their chosen career or field. The award recognizes significant lifetime contributions by an individual, whether through professional accomplishment, community involvement, or philanthropic dedication.

Exceptional Alumni:  Ivory Tuesday, Tasia McKenna, and Marissa Reckmann

Ivory Tuesday graduated from Lakehead University with her HBSW, BA in Indigenous Learning, and an MA in Social Justice Studies in 2019. Tuesday is an invaluable member of the Indigenous Learning department and continues to share her Indigenous knowledge with the department through teaching courses at the Thunder Bay campus and at the Seven Generations Education Institute.  Tuesday is committed to social responsibility and social justice through the actions of its alumni, engaging in local and global partnerships, and a lifelong dedication to critical inquiry and intellectual excellence. 

Tasia McKenna graduated from Lakehead University in 2011 with her BA and HBKin.  A three-time OUA all-star, multiple award winner, and Lakehead University’s all time Women’s Basketball leading scorer, she had an outstanding basketball career at Lakehead.  McKenna returned to Nova Scotia, where she was an assistant coach at the Canada Summer Games and later started her own business, Crossover Basketball.  She served time as head coach of the Halifax Grammar School’s female team and for the past six seasons has been an assistant coach with the Saint Mary’s Huskies women’s basketball team.  Since 2015, McKenna has been the Technical Directory/Performance Coach for Basketball Nova Scotia and she was recently named the first Commissioner of the new Maritime Women’s Basketball Association (MWBA).

Marissa Reckmann graduated from Lakehead University with an HBSC degree in Chemistry. Reckmann joined AGAT in 2006 and worked within a number of geographic and diversified operating divisions. She also worked in the environmental consulting field in Western Canada with a major focus in Upstream Oil and Gas activities. Reckmann is currently the Past President of the Canadian Land Reclamation Association, Alberta Chapter.

The Exceptional Alumni Award is presented by the Alumni Association to an alumnus/a who has demonstrated distinction or outstanding achievement in a particular field, community service work, personal accomplishment, or significant local, national, or international recognition for a personal endeavor.

Trailblazer Award: Sami Pritchard

Sami Pritchard graduated from Lakehead University Orillia in 2017 with an HBASC and was elected to serve as the Treasurer for the Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario, the first person elected from a Northern Ontario institution in over 10 years. Since graduating she has held numerous roles with CFS and is currently an Organizational Consultant working on a variety of projects including helping facilitate the implementation of a public sector Anti-Racism Action Plan, organizational leadership training to several organizations and chairing and facilitating boards across the province including LUSU. She has co-authored a publication on developing personal and academic resiliency.

The Trailblazer Award is presented annually in recognition of a Lakehead University graduate, of the last 10 years, who has flourished since graduation. The recipient will have shown exceptional and unconventional accomplishment in their professional career, community involvement, and/or philanthropic work in Canada or around the world. 

Legacy Award:  The Tamblyn Family and Dolores Wawia (posthumously)

The Tamblyn Family was one of the original founding families of the University. Bill Tamblyn, the patriarch was Lakehead’s first President.  His son David was recently Chair of the Board of Governors, and a long-standing member. The senior Tamblyns and the second generation have created numerous endowed awards. Our Legacy Giving Society is named in honour of Bill Tamblyn.

Dolores Wawia was one of the first Indigenous graduates of Lakehead University. She taught in the Native Languages Instructor program and served in the capacity of Elder at Lakehead for many years. Wawia was recognized a number of years ago with an Alumni Honour Award, which is the equivalent of the Distinguished Alumni Award.  Wawia passed away in 2020.

The recipient of the Alumni Legacy Award has demonstrated exceptional commitment and contribution to the Alumni Association and the University, exemplifying the highest standards of personal and professional integrity, civic responsibility, vision and leadership. This award identifies the recipient as a valued member of the alumni community.

Ambassador Award:  Liz Murray and Daniel Blekkenhurst 

Liz Murray is the President of the Calgary Chapter, and long-time volunteer.  Murray also received the Alumni Honour Award a number of years ago.

Daniel Blekkenhurst is Vice-President of the Toronto Chapter and has been a tireless volunteer for the last eight years.  Blekkenhurst’s commitment to Lakehead is seen most strongly with his participation in the Ontario Universities Fair. As a Computer Science graduate, Blekkenhurst is a much sought after alum at that event.

The Ambassador Award is presented annually in recognition of a champion of Lakehead University. This award is for individuals whose dedication and continuing support of Lakehead University has made a significant impact on students, alumni, faculty and staff. Presented to an internal or external champion, the award recognizes the exceptional and unconventional community of Lakehead University.

Honorary Membership: Sue Mulcahy (posthumously) 

Sue Mulcahy championed the cause of building a university in her hometown of Orillia. In 1960 funds were requested from the provincial government and through the Simcoe College Foundation, which Mulcahy chaired, thousands of dollars were raised privately and used to purchase 228 acres of land. Political and academic alliances faltered and ultimately the land was sold and the Foundation dismantled but Mulcahy’s dream was kept alive. At Lakehead Orillia’s first Convocation, the former city councillor was recognized for her vision and leadership with a Civitas Award. Over the last 15 years, Mulcahy has helped to engage, celebrate, and share Lakehead Orillia.

The Association Board of Directors may, by resolution, admit a person for honorary membership in recognition of that person’s service to, affinity for, or support of the University of the Association.