Leaders in computing, athletics, telecommunications and public service receive honorary degrees

Four leaders in the fields of computing, telecommunications, public service and athletics will receive honorary degrees from the University of Victoria—the university’s highest academic honour—during fall convocation ceremonies Nov. 9 and 10 in the University Centre Farquhar Auditorium.

Lynn Conway (honorary doctor of engineering, Nov. 9 at 10 a.m.) is a computer scientist and engineer who helped to pioneer modern information technology and is a leading advocate for transgender rights.

Conway did foundational research in computer architecture at IBM in the 1960s. The company fired her in 1968 as she underwent gender transition and she had to rebuild her career in “stealth” in a new name and identity.

A decade later she was teaching at MIT, co-authoring with Carver Mead the seminal engineering textbook, Introduction to VLSI Systems, innovating an Internet e-commerce system for rapid silicon-chip prototyping that led to today’s industrial models for microelectronics design and production, and receiving many high honors for that work.

Conway came out upon retirement in 1999 as emerita professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. A tireless voice for trans people, she was included in Time magazine’s 2014 list of 25 transgender people who have influenced American culture.

Darren Entwistle (honorary doctor of laws, Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m.) is a Canadian telecommunications industry leader whose entrepreneurial spirit is matched by his commitment to community involvement and corporate social responsibility.

Entwistle became president and CEO of TELUS in 2000 at the age of 37, and began the work of growing the company into a global leader in data and wireless services. He navigated industry, regulatory and competitive challenges in the most turbulent period in Canadian telecommunications history.

TELUS has been named one of Canada’s Top Diversity Employers and the company is recognized for its ability to nurture talent and engage its employees. It has also been recognized internationally for its corporate social responsibility, sustainability and philanthropic efforts.

Mike Harcourt (honorary doctor of laws, Nov. 10 at 2:30 p.m.) is a champion for sustainability and, largely due to personal circumstances, for people living with physical disabilities.

Harcourt served as Vancouver’s mayor for six years beginning in 1980, a period highlighted by his participation in planning Expo 86. Harcourt worked with the province to safeguard the city from debt while welcoming 22 million visitors to the world’s fair.

As BC premier from 1991 to 1996, Harcourt’s legacy includes the introduction of new guidelines for forest management, the resolution of land-use conflicts, and a commitment to protecting 12 per cent of the province’s land base.

Since leaving politics, Harcourt has intensified his interest in sustainability issues, holding a variety of leadership positions and co-authoring the urban development book, City Making in Paradise.

In 2002 he suffered a severe spinal cord injury, and spent time in rehabilitation to regain 80 per cent function. In the book Plan B; One Man’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph he offers his story of recovery. He also became involved in the Rick Hansen Foundation and the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries.

Simon Whitfield (honorary doctor of laws, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m.) is a four-time Olympic triathlete who reached the pinnacle of his sport and became a role model and mentor, particularly for young people.

Whitfield surprised the world when, at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, he earned the first gold medal in triathlon. Eight years later, at the Beijing games, he pulled off another unexpected performance, claiming a silver medal. He was Canada’s flag bearer at the opening of the 2012 London Olympics in recognition of his athleticism and commitment to fair play.

Since retiring from competition, and apart from being a devoted father and business owner, Whitfield has remained an ambassador for sport and health. He works with KidSport and PowerToBe, organizations focusing on youth and healthy living programs. He frequently visits schools to talk to students about finding their passions and setting goals.

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Media contacts

Ian Case (Director of Ceremonies) at 250-721-7632 or iancase@uvic.ca

Mike McNeney (Alumni Communications) at 250-721-7642 or mmcneney@uvic.ca

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Keywords: convocation

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