Awards Honour Excellence in Teaching, Service, Academics

June 01, 2009 - News Release

Summer convocation marks the presentation of prestigious University of Guelph awards for academic achievement, teaching and distinguished service.

The John Bell Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to university education, will be presented to Prof. Ernie McFarland, a faculty member in the Department of Physics since 1974. He is being honoured for making important contributions to course and curriculum development, for being a pioneer in physics education research, and for being a mentor to many graduate students and faculty.

McFarland has won numerous teaching awards over the years, including a 3M Teaching Fellowship, an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Award and a Canadian Association of Physicists Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He is also well-known for doing science demonstrations on CTV’s Good Morning Canada and for the Fantastic Physics Fun Show he has performed at many local elementary schools.

Former Board of Governors chair Michael Walsh will receive the Lincoln Alexander Medal of Distinguished Service. It honours an individual who has played a pivotal role in the functioning of U of G and who has influenced the quality of academic life.

Walsh’s relationship with the University began more than 40 years ago as an undergraduate student. He went on to earn three Guelph degrees. A successful investment banker and business consultant, he joined B of G in 1996, serving as vice-chair from 1999 to 2003 and as chair from 2003 to 2005. Walsh and his wife, Virginia Trimble Walsh, also a U of G graduate, are also principal donors to the University and are members of the Presidents’ Legacy Council for lifetime giving.

The W.C. Winegard Medal, U of G’s top undergraduate convocation award, will be presented to Melanie Wills, who is graduating with a B.Sc. in molecular and cellular biology. Named for former U of G president Bill Winegard, the award recognizes both academic achievement and contributions to campus and community life.

A President’s Scholar, Wills is the first student to be accepted directly into Guelph’s PhD program in molecular and cellular biology. As an undergraduate, she discovered the overexpression of signalling protein in brain tumours, a breakthrough that resulted in having her research published. Her long list of scholarships includes the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship and the Millennium Foundation Provincial Excellence Award. Wills has also been a driving force behind the Sharpcuts Guelph Indie Film and Music Festival and is founder of an independent photography and film production house.

The Forster Medal, U of G’s top convocation award for graduate students, goes to Jennifer Ball, who is graduating with a PhD from the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development. The award is named for the late Donald Forster, a former president of U of G, and recognizes academic achievement, motivation, leadership and citizenship.

Ball hopes to continue her research on the role of spirituality in women’s peace building in Uganda. She has already written a book titled Doing Democracy With Circles, has published numerous journal articles and conference papers, and has presented at more than 25 conferences. In addition, she has been a guest lecturer in Uganda.

U of G will also present three Governor General’s Awards during summer convocation. The awards were created in 1873 by Lord Dufferin, Canada’s third governor general, to recognize academic excellence. The gold medal honours achievement at the graduate level, the silver medal goes to the undergraduate student with the highest marks, and the bronze medal is awarded to the Ontario Agricultural College diploma student with the top marks.

Winner of the gold medal is master’s of fine arts candidate Joel Herman. Silver medals will go to Wills, who finished her undergraduate career with six final grades of 100 per cent, and Emily Santander, a biological sciences student who is graduating with a 97-per-cent average. The recipient of the bronze medal is horticulture diploma student Lisa Lee Anne Jones, who achieved an average of 92.7 per cent.

This year’s winner of the Walter Vaughan Medal is history student Christi Garneau-Scott. Named for a former secretary of Senate, the medal recognizes the contributions of a student member of Senate. In addition to serving on Senate, Garneau-Scott was the Central Student Association’s academic commissioner, participated in the Board of Undergraduate Studies and received the Brian D. Sullivan Award for exemplary service as a student leader.

For media questions, contact U of G Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982

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