Summerlee Earns ‘Award of Highest Honour’ in Japan

September 24, 2012 - News Release

University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee has received an international award for contributions to improving higher education, biomedical research and humanitarian work in Africa.

He received the “Award of Highest Honour” from Soka University in Japan earlier this month.

“I was surprised and humbled,” Summerlee said, “especially to see that I stand in illustrious company who have already received the award.”

Previous recipients include the former presidents of Zambia, Bulgaria and Colombia, Nobel Peace Prize winners, prime ministers, and the late John Kenneth Galbraith, a U of G graduate and renowned Harvard University economist.

"The award ceremony was very touching and moving,” Summerlee said. “It was particularly meaningful to be honoured by an institution that truly shares a similar commitment to students in the way that Guelph does.”

Daisaku IkedaSoka University, located in Hachioji, a suburb of Tokyo, was founded by Daisaku Ikeda, an educator and philosopher and president of Soka Gakkai International, a worldwide Buddhist network. Its students are encouraged to use education to promote peace and to contribute to society.

Summerlee was recognized for his leadership at Guelph, especially for promoting a “philosophy of putting students at the centre of all undertakings,” said Hideo Yamamoto, Soka University’s current president.

Yamamoto also noted Summerlee’s award-winning teaching and research, particularly his physiological studies of hormonal control of pregnancy, birth and lactation. Summerlee discovered that the hormone relaxin — produced in the ovaries to relax the pelvis and permit birth — also acts directly on the brain.

Summerlee has visited the Dadaab famine refugee camp in Kenya and worked to improve access to education for girls and women there.

During his visit to Japan in September, Summerlee presented Ikeda with an honorary degree from the University of Guelph-Humber. Ikeda was nominated for the honour for his lifelong commitment to inspiring students to promote peace but was unable to travel to receive the award.

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