Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 06, 2000

U of G to award seven honorary degrees at summer convocation

The University of Guelph will award seven honorary degrees and 1,900 degrees and diplomas during spring convocation ceremonies June 13 to 16 on Johnston Green.

Honorary degree recipients include renowned children's author Robert Munsch, a former member of Guelph's Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, and retired potato breeder Gary Johnston, who invented the Yukon Gold potato at Guelph. Other honourees are Queen's University historian Donald Akenson, University of Virginia psychology professor Mavis Hetherington, University of California veterinary scientist Frederick Murphy, retired Guelph plant science professor George Jones and Canadian soil scientist Gerard Bolt. In addition, Prof. Tom Funk, Agricultural Economics and Business, will receive the John Bell Award in recognition of his teaching and leadership. Geoffrey Sumner-Smith, retired clinical studies professor, is also being named University Professor Emeritus.

Akenson will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree and give the convocation address June 13 during the opening-day ceremony for the College of Arts at 10 a.m. Akenson is a is the author of 15 history books and five novels. He is considered a prime force in reorienting the writing of Canadian history. His book The Irish in Ontario was named one of the 20 most important publications in social science in the past 50 years by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and his work Conor received the Trillium Prize in 1995. Other awards and honours include the Molson Prize Laureate in 1996; the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order in 1993; Writer in Residence, Villa Serbelloni, the Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy, in 1993; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984; and Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada in 1976. At the 2:30 p.m ceremony for OAC diploma graduates, Funk will receive the John Bell Award and deliver the convocation speech.

Ceremonies June 14 will recognize graduates of the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences. Munsch will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree at the morning ceremony and will give the convocation address. He is one of Canada' best-known children's authors. He has written 33 children's books, many of which have been translated into other languages. His book Love You Forever was the best-selling children's book in Canada from 1986 to 1988. In 1994, the New York Times named it the best-selling children's picture book in the United States, with eight million copies sold. Others of his books, notably The Paperbag Princess, have appeared in several university curricula dealing with children's literature as well as women's studies. He received the Order of Canada in 1999 and was named Canadian Booksellers Association Author of the Year in 1991.

At 2:30 p.m., Hetherington will receive an honorary doctorate of letters and address graduands in the afternoon. She has received wide recognition for her distinguished work on research and policy related to children and families. She studies childhood psychopathology, personality and social development, stress and coping in children and families and is the author of 11 books and 60 papers and has worked as a clinical psychologist.

On June 15, Prof. John Philips, Molecular Biology and Genetics, will deliver the convocation address at the morning ceremony for the College of Biological Science. At the afternoon ceremony for the Ontario Veterinary College and the College of Physical and Engineering Science, Murphy will receive an honorary doctorate of science degree and address the graduating class. He is dean emeritus and a professor of virology in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. The author of 350 articles, invited papers, book chapters and reports, he is known for his contributions to virus characterization and taxonomy, the understanding of viral transmission and pathogenesis, and the study of new, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. His work led to the identification and characterization of Marburg and Ebola viruses and elucidation of the pathogenesis of diseases in humans, monkeys and guinea pigs. He was honoured for this work with the Presidential Rank Award of the U.S. Government.

Ontario Agricultural College degrees will be awarded at 2:30 p.m . June 16, along with honorary doctorates of science to Johnston, Jones and Bolt. Bolt will also deliver the convocation address.

Johnston was a research scientist with Agriculture Canada, and was seconded to U of G in 1953. He was renowned as a world-class potato breeder. In addition to the Yukon Gold, Johnston was involved in the introduction of a number of other registered varieties that have been used in commercial production, including the Red Gold, Rose Gold, OAC Temagami Trent and Simcoe. Nine of these are still grown by Ontario seedsmen.. Johnston retired from U of G in 1980, but is still actively involved in breeding new potato cultivars.

Bolt held the Chair of Soil Chemistry and Social Physics at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. Most universities have separate chairs in soil chemistry and soil physics, but Bolt held both positions at his university because of his world reputation in both fields.

He served as president of Commission I (Social Physics) of the International Soil Society and later president of Commission II (Social Chemistry). He is the author of 104 refereed publications and two books, which colleagues say are "scientific gems and marvels of insight."

Jones has worked as a public school teacher, flying officer, professor and research director. He is credited with developing corn from a minor crop grown in southwestern Ontario into the dominant feed crop of central and eastern Canada. He spent 19 years working on field crop development, especially corn and soybeans, and chemical weed control in all field crops. His plant breeding resulted in the licensing of more than 70 corn hybrids, two barley cultivars, four soybean cultivars and one winter wheat cultivar. Before joining U of G, Jones served as a flying officer and navigator with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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