University of Calgary

Highest honour

October 16, 2009

Alumni receive Alberta's highest award

Barrie Strafford at the official launch of the research chair in domestic violence.
Two members of the University of Calgary family were given the province’s highest honour Thursday as they were named members of the Alberta Order of Excellence.

Barrie Strafford, LLD’01, a renowned Calgary philanthropist and U of C donor, was celebrated for his pioneering work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

Alumnus Shirzad Ahmed, LLB’00, an immigration and human rights lawyer, is being recognized for his service and leadership in the areas of human rights, international humanitarian relief and support for immigrants and refugees.

Born in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Ahmed fled to Italy when family members were persecuted and killed, and came to Canada as a political exile in 1984. A prolific writer on human rights issues and fluent in six languages, he started his own law firm in 2004 and has championed immigrants and refugees ever since, working with organizations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and other non-profit groups.

Ahmed was recognized earlier this year by the Law Society of Alberta and the Canadian Bar Association with the award for distinguished service in pro bono legal service.

Strafford came to Alberta from England in 1952 and began running nursing homes with his wife Brenda. After her death in 1975, he founded the Brenda Strafford Foundation to help two particularly vulnerable segments of the population—the elderly and victims of domestic violence. Through this foundation, he has funded a broad range of health and wellness projects in Alberta, and in impoverished countries such as Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

In 1987, he funded the Brenda Strafford Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Calgary and 10 years later endowed the Brenda Strafford Chair in Alzheimer Research. In 2007, Strafford provided an endowment to fund a Research Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence at the U of C’s Faculty of Social Work and a year later established the Centre of Excellence in Gerontological Nursing at the U of C’s Faculty of Nursing.

Strafford was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Calgary in 2001 and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003.

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