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Lakehead Convocation Honours Medal Winners and Honorary Recipients

(May 29, 2008 —Thunder Bay, ON) Lakehead University is gearing up for another Convocation, at which 1,800 graduands will receive their degrees.   

Two ceremonies will take place on Saturday, May 31.  The first ceremony begins at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium at 9:00 a.m., and the second at 2:30 p.m.  The largest group of graduates are from Lakehead’s Faculty of Education.   

“We are all quite proud of these students who are soon to be alumni.  Each of them has come to Lakehead University and committed time and talent for serious study, and each now leaves better prepared for personal and professional success,” says Dr. Laurie Hayes, Lakehead’s Vice-President (Academic) and Provost.  “Our motto for the year was Do Something, and we fully expect these graduates to do the University proud in their future endeavours.”

At this year’s Convocation ceremonies, four exemplary individuals will be honoured (see bios attached).  

Gordon Pinsent and Dr. Joseph MacInnis will be presented honorary degrees.  Pinsent is a 50-year veteran of theatre, film, television, and radio, and one of Canada’s best known and most beloved actors.  Pinsent will be presented with a Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, in absentia.  Dr. MacInnis is a University of Toronto Graduate (Medicine), author, deep sea diving guru, and Order of Canada recipient.  MacInnis will be presented with a Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Silvio Di Gregorio and Stephen S. Hessian will be named Fellows of Lakehead University.  Di Gregorio is one of Thunder Bay’s most respected business executives and an exemplary friend of Lakehead University. Hessian is a manager and consultant in the pulp and paper industry, has played a prominent role in the region’s economy, and was a member of the Lakehead University Board of Governors from 1987 - 2002.

Additionally, at its annual gala dinner which takes place on Thursday, May 29, the Alumni Association celebrates the Young Alumni Award and the Alumni Honour Award. For the first time this year, four recipients will be awarded.  The Young Alumni Award recipient is Catherine J. Bird, BEd 1994.  The Alumni Honour Award recipients are Duncan Weller, BA 1989; Dr. Elizabeth Murray, BSc 1988; and Glenn A. Miller, BSc 1969.


The Dean Braun's Medals are awarded to the highest-ranking graduating students in the following programs: Bachelor of Administration, Anthony DeAgazio BAdmin; Honours Bachelor of Commerce, Megan Ott BComm (Hons); Bachelor of Engineering, Matthew MacDonald BEng; Engineering Technology, Brittany McNeice Dipl Mech Eng; Bachelor of Environmental Studies, Becky Fawcett BES (FCon)(Forest Conservation); Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies, Alain Joseph BES (Hons)(FCon)(Forest Conservation); Honours Bachelor of Science in Forestry, Laurie Thompson BScF (Hons); Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Sherice Almgren BScN; Honours Bachelor of Outdoor Recreation, Kelsey Agnew BOR (Hons); Honours Bachelor of Kinesiology, Tyler Hyvarinen BK (Hons); and Honours Bachelor of Social Work, Marianne Berner BSW (Hons).

The William A. West Education Medals are awarded to the highest-ranking students in Education.  Recipients are Bachelor of Education (Primary-Junior), Mary Swainson BEd; Bachelor of Education (Junior-Intermediate), Rebecca Penner BEd; Bachelor of Education (Intermediate-Senior), ex aequo-Ilka Milne BEd, and Andrew Bryce BEd; Bachelor of Education (Native Teacher Education), Marlo Dahl BEd, BA; Native Language Instructors’ Diploma, Francine Lee Dip. Lat. Lang. Inst.; Master of Education, Carlos Zerpa MEd; and PhD in Educational Studies, Paul Berger PhD.

The Dean of Science and Environmental Studies Medals are awarded to the highest-ranking graduating students in Science and Environmental Studies.  Recipients are Three-Year Program, Gerald Bell BA; and Four-Year Program, Joseph Del Paggio, BSc (Hons).

The Dean of Social Science and Humanities Medals are awarded to the highest-ranking graduating students in Social Sciences and Humanities.  Recipients are Three-Year Program, Kim Bortolin BA; and Four-Year Program, Vasilinka Tsar, BSc (Hons).

The Chancellor's Medal is awarded to the highest-ranking part-time student in an undergraduate degree or equivalent.  Recipient is Anthony DeAgazio, BAdmin. 

The Vice-Chancellor's Medal is awarded to the highest-ranking graduating student in the three-year Bachelor's degree.  Recipient is Jessica Brinkman, BA.

The Governor-General's College Bronze Medal is awarded to the highest-ranking student in the graduating class of the Diploma Program.  Recipient is Brittany McNeice Dip, Mech Eng.

The Governor-General's Silver Medal is awarded to the highest-ranking student in the Honours Bachelor's degree or equivalent.  Recipient is Chanel Parent, BEd BA (Hons).

The Governor-General's Gold Medal is awarded to the graduate student who achieves the highest academic standing in a Master's degree program.  Recipient is Andrew Roberts, MSc Eng.

The President's Award is given annually to the graduating students who have occupied positions of responsibility in student organizations and who, by their activities and achievements, have earned the gratitude of the University.  Recipients are Undergraduate, Kelsey Agnew, BOR (Hons); Krystin Kempton, BA (Hons); and Graduate Islai Côté, MA. 

The Poulin Award is awarded for outstanding citizenship and presented to the full-time student selected by his/her fellows, the faculty, and administration as contributing most to the welfare of the University through student activities.  Recipient is Krystin Kempton, BA (Hons).                    


Gordon Pinsent, Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, in absentia
A 50-year veteran of theatre, film, television, and radio, Gordon Pinsent is one of Canada’s best known and most beloved actors.  Born in Newfoundland, Pinsent began his career by bluffing his way into a part at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He quickly learned his craft, working onstage and in the first live radio drama out of Winnipeg. In 1959 he headed east, and was soon appearing at the Stratford Festival and in theatres in Toronto. He became a national star in the late 1960s in the television series Quentin Durgens, M.P., where he played a rooky Member of Parliament.  Since then he has become known for directing and acting in the film The Rowdyman and for the CBC television series A Gift to Last in which he starred as Edgar Sturgess, a bombastic sergeant. Pinsent has received two ACTRA Awards for television work, including the ACTRA Award for Excellence (2004); three Genie Awards for achievements in Canadian film; six Gemini Awards, including the Earle Grey Award for Lifetime Achievement (1997); a Dora Mavor Moore Award for stage work; and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Banff International Television Festival, the Summer Institute of Film and Television in Ottawa, and the Canadian Academy of Cinema and Television. At the age of 77, Gordon Pinsent is still hard at work. On March 3, 2008, he won his most recent Genie Award, this time for Best Actor for his portrayal of a man coping with his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease in the film Away from Her. He has said, “I don’t believe in retirement, but if I had retired, I’d have missed doing this movie, which would have been one of the great losses of my life.”

Dr. Joseph MacInnis, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Dr. Joseph (Joe) MacInnis graduated in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1962 and soon gravitated to the world of deep-sea diving. During his career, he has led 30 expeditions and logged more than 5,000 hours under the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. In the 1960s, he was medical director of the American Man-in-Sea program and worked on the U. S. Navy’s Sea Lab project, where he gained an international reputation for his research into the physiology of deep-sea diving. In 1985 he was an advisor to the Titanic discovery team and two years later became the first Canadian to set foot on the wreck.  In 1991 he was co-leader of an expedition to make the film Titanica in the IMAX giant-screen format. Director James Cameron has said that it was this expedition that inspired his 1997 Hollywood movie Titanic. The International Joint Commission hired MacInnis in 1993 to conduct a study on using new media techniques to enhance the cleanup of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. In 1994, he led a team that made the first multiple research sub dives to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. MacInnis has written ten books and numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, including Scientific American, National Geographic, and Wired. His books include Underwater Man, Saving the Ocean, Fitzgerald’s Storm, Titanic in a New Light, Surviving Terrorism, Breathing Underwater, and Aliens of the Deep.  In recognition of his work, Dr. Joe MacInnis was awarded the Order of Canada in 1976. He has also received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), the Admirals’ Medal for outstanding achievements in Canadian maritime activities, and five honorary doctorates.

Silvio Di Gregorio, Fellow of Lakehead University
Silvio Di Gregorio is one of Thunder Bay’s most respected business executives and an exemplary friend of Lakehead University. Together with his brother, Bruno Di Gregorio, he has built Bruno’s Contracting into a major road and highway contractor and one of the city’s largest residential and commercial land developers, employing 300 people. In 2005, when Whitewater Golf Club opened for its first full season, Silvio and Bruno achieved their dream of creating a world-class golf course in this region. Di Gregorio is a past president and current director of the Italian Business and Professional Association of Thunder Bay, which promotes the recreational, cultural, social, artistic, business, and professional activities of Italian Canadians.  He is a founding director of the Institute of Italian Studies at Lakehead University, which organizes lectures, publishing, exchanges, and other initiatives to promote and celebrate Italian language, culture, and history. The Institute of Italian Studies has also taken a leading role in fundraising, most notably accepting Arthur Mauro’s challenge to the local Italian community to match his donation of $150,000 to the ATAC ~ Future of the North Capital Campaign. Di Gregorio became a major contributor, and his enthusiasm inspired others to give. As a founding director of Ambassadors for Business Development Northwest, he contributes his time and expertise to encouraging new businesses to move into the community. Without fanfare, he has assisted enterprises such as the Molecular Medicine Research Centre (MMRC) and Genesis Genomics. He is an active member of the board of Thunder Bay Ventures, a non-profit organization that provides business services to local groups and funds economic development projects.

Stephen S. Hessian, Fellow of Lakehead University
As a manager and consultant in the pulp and paper industry, Steve Hessian has played a prominent role in the region’s economy. Highlights of his career include serving as Domtar’s Resident Manager at its Red Rock Mill from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1984 to 1993, and serving as President of Thunder Bay Packaging from 1995 to 1999. Since 2005 he has been a partner in Thunder Bay Fine Papers and has put tremendous energy into reviving the former Cascades paper mill, with the goal of boosting the Thunder Bay economy and creating up to 300 jobs. He also continues to work as a consultant in the pulp and paper industry.  At the same time, Hessian has put great effort into promoting the interests of Lakehead University. From 1987 to 2002, he was a member of the Board of Governors. He was Chair for two consecutive terms, 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, and also served on all Standing Committees. In all his roles on the Board, Steve focused on finding solutions and developing plans to move forward on a wide range of matters, such as donating university land to build the new hospital, laying the groundwork for the Northern Ontario Technology Centre and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, encouraging national corporate representation on the Board, and developing partnerships with Confederation College. He served on the search committees for a President and a Vice-President and also on the board of the Lakehead University Foundation.   After stepping down from the Board of Governors, Hessian became a strong and effective member of the ATAC ~ Future of the North Capital Campaign to finance the Advanced Technology and Academic Centre. He gave generously himself and urged others to do the same.


Media: A list of medal winners and honorary recipient bios are attached.  For more information or to arrange interview times with Dr. Hayes or various medal winners, please contact Heather Scott, Communications Officer, 807-343-8177,; or Eleanor Abaya, Director of Communications, 807-343-8372,

About Lakehead

Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,500 students and 2,000 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit

Last updated May 29, 2008

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