University of Calgary


May 13, 2010

Husband and wife duo honoured for compassionate spirit

Philanthropists Gail and David O'Brien to receive honorary degrees. Photo credit: Riley Brandt

Supporting health research and education is near and dear to the hearts of Gail and David O'Brien. As a team, the O’Briens have pumped millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours into the University of Calgary. On Thursday, May 13 the O’Briens will be honoured at the university’s first convocation ceremony of the year.

Gail O'Brien is a passionate and committed supporter of arts, education and health. Starting in 2001, Gail chaired the Faculty of Medicine's Dean's Advisory Council. Her work with the council and Faculty of Medicine deans helped the faculty triple its enterprises to $240 million, expand its student body and build the Health Research innovation Centre. Gail's work with the faculty was also instrumental in helping raise more than $312 million for the Reach! campaign.

David O'Brien is a distinguished Calgary business and community leader and was recently appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. The O'Briens made a $5-million gift to the U of C to help establish the O'Brien Centre for the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. Their donation attracted another $9 million in funding. David also served on the U of C's Board of Governors and is currently the Chancellor of Concordia University where he has created the David O'Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise.

Dr. Merril Knudtson
Dr. Merril Knudtson, MD'75, U of C professor of medicine, will be inducted into the Order of the University of Calgary. In 1981 the Camrose, Alta. native, performed the first coronary angioplasty in Southern Alberta and began training doctors in the same procedure. The wide-scale implementation of coronary angioplasty in Canada has directly resulted in the reduction of the number of bypass surgeries and a drastic reduction in heart attack deaths. It could be argued that Knudtson’s work has directly or indirectly added millions of years of life to the Canadian population.

In 1995 Knudtson started APPROACH (Alberta Provincial Project for Outcome Assessment in Coronary Heart Disease). This database enables the long-term monitoring and tracking of a patient's cardiac related health care and quality of life. APPROACH has set the gold standard and become an invaluable resource for frontline and administrative healthcare providers.

All are welcome to attend this May's convocation ceremony.

CONVOCATION DETAILS—Thursday, May 13 at 2 p.m.
HD recipients: Gail O'Brien and David O'Brien
OTUC recipient: Dr. Merril Knudtson
Graduating students:
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Medicine (Doctor of Medicine only)
  • Graduate Studies for Master of Laws (LLM) and MSc and PhD in Leaders in Medicine

To read about past honorary degree recipients, click here.

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