On June 10, thousands of students at the University of Calgary will mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another. To help them celebrate, this year's honorary degree recipients are addressing convocation as part of the the virtual ceremonies. 

The honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, is the University of Calgary’s highest academic honour, conferred on individuals whose notable achievements and community service merit recognition. 

Honorary Degree Recipients - June 2021

Ken Stephenson

Ken Stephenson, Hon. LLD’21

A lifelong entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist 

A serial entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist, Ken Stephenson was an influential industry leader in Western Canada throughout his long career. After earning his engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan, he went on to found or lead successful businesses in a wide variety of industries, from oil and gas to hospitality and high-tech.   

At the request of local cardiologist Dr. Neil Filipchuk, MD, Stephenson took hold of his vision of the potential of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and became the founding financial sponsor of the Stephenson Cardiac Imaging Centre at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute. Stephenson leveraged his business acumen, personal networking skills and philanthropic generosity to establish the Centre as one of the leading academic cardiovascular imaging facilities in the world. The Centre now performs nearly 4,000 scans per year. Stephenson has also served on Libin Institute’s Strategic Advisory Board for 10 years.   

Furthering his work in cardiac imaging, Stephenson helped form Circle Diagnostics, a Calgary health-care IT company that now employs 200 people and provides an MRI software solution to more than 1,500 hospitals in 40 countries. More than 7 million people avail themselves of this technology every year. Circle Diagnostics was, at the outset, owned one-third by the University of Calgary. 

Stephenson recently received a Calgary Top 7 Over 70 Award for his incredible achievements, and was inducted into the Alberta Business Hall of Fame for Southern Alberta. 

Beyond his professional and philanthropic ventures, Stephenson was a proud and active father and grandfather. He passed away on June 1, 2021. 

Mr. Stephenson's address to convocation is available to watch here.

Marnie McBean

Marnie McBean, Hon. LLD’21

Olympic gold medallist, diversity advocate and mentor

As a three-time Olympic gold medallist, Marnie McBean has represented Canada with distinction on the world stage as a member of the Canadian rowing team. She’s one of only two Canadians to date to win three golds at the Summer Games — the other being her long-time rowing partner, the late Kathleen Heddle.  

During her rowing career, McBean won a total of 12 World and Olympic medals, showing a remarkable talent, a fierce commitment to excellence and the ability to work with a team towards a common goal.   

Following her spectacular rowing career, McBean worked closely as a mentor to several Canadian Olympic teams — preparing athletes for the rigorous physical and emotional demands of elite athletic performance.   

As the chef de mission for Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team, McBean has been a champion of diversity.  

She is an advocate for promoting open dialogue and creating spaces where athletes feel comfortable to express their full self. As an ambassador for Team Canada and mentor to young athletes, her work has had a profound impact on the culture of Olympic Sports that goes beyond our borders. 

McBean is a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She is a recipient of the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal and has received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. She was also appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and was presented with the Thomas Keller Medal by World Rowing in recognition of her outstanding international career. 

McBean is an inspiration to young athletes and her significant contributions to the advancement and education of issues around diversity and sexual identity make her an outstanding Canadian.

Ms. McBean's address to convocation is available to watch here.

Order of the University of Calgary Recipients - June 2021

Bob Maber

Robert (Bob) Maber

Critical problem-solver and emergency management expert

Bob Maber’s 14 years of service to the University of Calgary have been marked by resilience and excellence in the face of crisis. As UCalgary’s Director of Emergency Management, Maber has consistently been a positive advocate for the university, and a relationship-builder in the wider community.  

In his role, he has led the university’s emergency response through several major incidents, beginning in 2013 when Calgary experienced a one-in-100-year flood that devastated city infrastructure and homes. His leadership was instrumental in co-ordinating a crisis-management response that included a shutdown of the entire campus, the mobilization of 1,000 volunteers, and the intake of 1,800 evacuees from Calgary and High River and 200 RCMP members over a period of seven weeks. 

In 2016, he once again managed a large-scale emergency situation when Fort McMurray was evacuated due to wildfires. On very short notice, Maber organized the housing of 1,486 people who were displaced by the fires. 

Last year, UCalgary faced perhaps its biggest-ever challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. In a climate of uncertainty, at the outset of the crisis, Maber assembled a taskforce of experts to address the many needs of the community. His creativity and willingness to adapt and develop new emergency protocols helped to protect everyone on campus. 

His influence was seen in all aspects of the university’s COVID-19 response, from the creation of a campus safety guide and the return of students and faculty from abroad, to supporting procedures for ill staff and students.  

This expertise made Maber a valuable partner to the Calgary Emergency Management Agency and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health as they have shared data during the pandemic. He has guided the community through a year of change and uncertainty with comprehensive, evidence-based decision-making, keeping the community informed and safe. 

Maber has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the UCalgary community and his leadership, adaptably and critical-thinking skills make him an invaluable member of the UCalgary team and a deserving recipient of the Order of the University of Calgary. 

Saifa Koonar

Saifa Koonar, BComm’92, MBA’02

Leader, fundraiser and advocate for child health

As President and CEO of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, Saifa Koonar helped elevate it to a position of influence among similar foundations in Canada and North America.  

Koonar played a key role on the team that spearheaded construction of the new Alberta Children’s Hospital — the first freestanding pediatric facility to be built in Canada in 20 years. She also helped inspire our community to invest in the creation of Rotary Flames House — Alberta’s first pediatric hospice — and Calgary’s first Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, which is set to open next year.  

While helping to ensure families have the best in care for their physical and mental health, Koonar has also shown tremendous commitment to furthering innovation and research. Through partnerships with Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary, Koonar was part of establishing the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Centre for Geonomics and Informatics, the new Cancer Research Lab, the Integrated Concussion Research Program, the Owerko Centre, and the Vi Riddell Children’s Pain and Rehabilitation Centre.   

The strong partnership between the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and UCalgary has led to several internationally recognized research initiatives in the areas of geonomics, cancer and brain health. Thanks to the generosity of our community, the Foundation has committed more than $188 million to child-health research in the last 10 years, alone.  

Koonar is also a two-time UCalgary alumna, having earned her Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Business Administration degrees here. Her exemplary leadership skills and business acumen have contributed to her ability to foster opportunities and build lasting connections in the community, ensuring brighter futures for all.  

Her dedication to the betterment of health outcomes for our community has impacted thousands of sick and injured children and their families. The clear impact of her contributions has established her as a distinguished UCalgary alumna, a respected leader and a deserving recipient of the Order of the University of Calgary.