U of G Profs, Student Named Women of Distinction

May 02, 2014 - News Release

Three University of Guelph representatives received honours from the 19th annual Women of Distinction Awards Thursday night.

The awards were presented by the YMCA-YWCA to Guelph women who are inspirational leaders. This year's U of G recipients are Prof. Emma Allen-Vercoe, Prof. Jacqueline Murray and student Jolène Labbé.

They were among 45 women nominated for achievements in nine categories.

Allen-Vercoe, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received the science and research award for her research and efforts to change health-care practices by including effective caretaking of the human “inner ecosystem.”

“It’s flattering and exciting to be recognized,” Allen-Vercoe said. She joked that her unusual career built around “human poop” is part of what makes her a woman of distinction.

“But we are doing work that is making a difference in people’s lives.”

Allen-Vercoe created the “robo-gut” scientific laboratory at U of G, which mimics the environment of the large intestine. In 2013, she released a groundbreaking discovery that a synthetic “poop” she created to replace human fecal matter in stool transplants can cure gastrointestinal infections caused by Clostridium difficile, a toxin-producing bacterium.

Thanking her family and colleagues, she said: “I enjoy being part of the community there. I have never felt as comfortable and supported at a workplace as I do at U of G.”

The education and training award went to Murray, a history professor and director of the first-year seminar program on campus. She was recognized for her creativity and innovation, and for being a mentor and role model for students.

Murray said she was honoured to represent “remarkable women who contribute so much to their communities.”

“I am grateful for my students who continue to inspire me.” She said she’s also motivated by those working to transform education “in classrooms in Guelph and in classrooms around the world.”

Murray won a 2014 3M National Teaching Fellowship, considered Canada’s top teaching honour, and supports inquiry-based learning. She has made three volunteer trips to Ghana and raises money for education and rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

“As we celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of women in Guelph and Canada, let us remember the girls and women who bravely, tenaciously seek education in the face of tremendous obstacles,” she said.

In presenting her award, U of G president Alastair Summerlee said: “Education is a lifelong adventure and the foundation and structure for future success. Its power to change and improve lives is phenomenal.”

The young woman of distinction award went to Labbé, who completed a bachelor of arts and science (international development and biology) this month. She called the award “humbling,” pointing to the calibre of young women in the category. “It’s an incredible honour to receive this award on behalf of these women.”

While at U of G, Labbé was the student co-chair of the University’s United Way campaign, helped with strategic planning for a primary school in Kenya, was a peer helper and worked with the multi-faith resource team.

“Guelph is an incredibly supportive and creative community,” she said.

Several other members of the U of G community were nominated for 2014 Women of Distinction awards: Brenda Whiteside, associate vice-president (student affairs); Tania Archbold, a research technician in Animal and Poultry Science;Premila Sathasivam, human anatomy teaching program and body donation program manager; Prof. Helen Hambly Odame, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development; Sue Bennett, director of university relations; Kathy Hanneson, co-ordinator of the College of Arts media centre; and students Fawn Turner, Naythrah Thevathasanand Alexis Wagner.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1