Convocation Awards Honour Excellence

June 02, 2014 - News Release

University of Guelph faculty and student awards for teaching, service and academic achievement will be presented during summer convocation June 9-13.

Top faculty awards will be presented to Prof. John Walton, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, and Prof. Joanne O’Meara, Department of Physics.

Walton will receive the Medal of Merit, awarded to a retired professor for outstanding contributions to teaching and other areas that improve academic life and character.

A U of G professor since 1979, Walton authored more than 100 publications before retiring in 2009, and headed numerous teaching and service efforts, including overseeing the B.Sc.(Agr.) majors. He developed a course that led to U of G’s outstanding participation each year in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge.

O’Meara will receive the John Bell Award for outstanding contributions, named for the late Prof. John Bell, a classicist and former department chair.

She holds positions with the Canadian Association of Physicists and chaired the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Revitalization. She develops teaching materials for high schools and the public, and appears regularly on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet. A U of G professor since 2002, O’Meara won the Presidential Distinguished Professor Award and Medal for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Physics (Canadian Association of Physicists).

The W.C. Winegard Medal, U of G’s top undergraduate convocation award, will be presented to Alexis Wagner, a fourth-year biological engineering student. Named for former U of G president Bill Winegard, the award recognizes academic achievement and contributions to campus and community.

Wagner, a star varsity field hockey player and President’s Scholar, was a two-term student senator and vice-president (academic) of the Engineering Society. Her research has been recognized by the American Society of Plastic Engineers, the Canadian Society for Bioengineering and Project SOY. She founded Guelph Golden Gears, a volunteer network of 150 engineering students; coached a youth hockey team; and volunteers for several community agencies.

The Forster Medal, U of G’s top convocation award for graduate students, goes to PhD integrative biology student Amanda Naumm. Named for the late Donald Forster, a former U of G president, the medal recognizes academic achievement, leadership and citizenship.

Naumm, who researches food authenticity and traceability, developed probes for devices to verify seafood species using DNA barcodes and received an inaugural commercialization fellowship from the Office of the President. She helped co-ordinate Let’s Talk Science, a program that links graduate students with local youth to promote science education and literacy.

This year’s winner of the Walter Vaughan Medal is Naythrah Thevathasan. Named for a former secretary of Senate, the medal recognizes the contributions of a student member of Senate.

A senator for four terms, Thevathasan served as student Senate caucus co-chair in her final year. The biomedical science student led a Supported Learning Group with the U of G Library. In 2013, she won a national fellowship from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada. She has also volunteered for several local and global initiatives.

U of G will present three Governor General’s Awards during convocation. The gold medal for top graduate student goes to Sarah Plosker, who graduated with a PhD in math last fall with an average of 95.75 per cent. Two Silver medals for top undergraduate marks will be awarded. They will go to Laura Thompson, an honours BSc student who majored in applied math and statistics (co-op ) and graduated in the winter semester with an average of 97.23 per cent, and Andrew Halligan, a B.comp (co-op) student who is graduating with an average of 96.75 per cent. Robin Crossley, a student at U of G’s Kemptville Campus, will receive the bronze medal for top marks among Ontario Agricultural College diploma students.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982,

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