U of G Well Represented at Women of Distinction Awards

May 09, 2008 - News Release

A faculty member, a student and a graduate of the University of Guelph have been named recipients of the 2008 Women of Distinction Awards by the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph.

Cyndy McLean, director of the University's Health and Performance Centre, was the honorary chair of the 13th annual event held Thursday night at the River Run Centre.

This year's recipients are: Prof. Belinda Leach, University Research Chair in Rural Gender Studies and program director for Rural Women Making Change; Ekaterina Smolina, a fourth-year biomedical sciences student and Rhodes Scholar; and Mary McEwen, who earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics and business from Guelph in 1967 and a master's degree in 1981.

Leach, Smolina and McEwen were among 34 women who were nominated for their achievements in 10 categories: arts and culture; business, labour, the professions and entrepreneurs; education and training; public service; science, technology and research; voluntary community service; wellness and health; young woman of distinction; and the turning point award.

McEwen was honoured with a lifetime achievement award for dedicating 30 or more years of service and being a tireless advocate and mentor for women.

"I am deeply honoured," said McEwen. "I want to thank the people at the University of Guelph for all the work they have done for women and for me through this nomination. I really appreciate this."

McEwen has helped with fundraising efforts at the University since graduating in 1967. She has also served on a number of committees, including the Canadian Federation of University Women national and provincial boards, and is past president of the Guelph board. She is a member of the board of directors for the Homewood Health Centre and is a vital part of the Volunteer Centre of Guelph-Wellington, having chaired the steering committee and currently sitting on the executive committee.

Leach was named the recipient of the science, technology and research award for her efforts through her research and volunteer work to improve women's lives and empower and inspire women to achieve their own goals.

"I want to thank the YMCA-YWCA for putting together this very important event because it recognizes the work of women in our community," said Leach. "I think it's wonderful to give that work the significant recognition it deserves."

The sociology professor is the lead researcher for Rural Women Making Change, a community/university research alliance. She has also volunteered her time and skills at Oxfam Canada, where she was a member of the Women and Work Policy Working Group and the gender development policy team. Her work has won her much recognition, including a Presidential Distinguished Professor Award from U of G and the John Porter Memorial Book Prize from the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association.

Smolina was honoured with the Young Woman of Distinction Award for her academic excellence and volunteer work.

"This event is a wonderful way to recognize all that goes on in this community," she said. "You have my full gratitude."

Smolina has won a number of awards for her academic success. She arrived at U of G as a President's Scholar in 2004, won the Lionel Bradley Pett Scholarship for the highest average in biomedical sciences during her third year and graduated this year ranked as a top student, consistently achieving 90 to 100 per cent in her courses. In addition to her academic achievements, she is dedicated to volunteering and has been involved in a number of organizations related to health care, peace building and international development. She has also travelled to India and Costa Rica, where she helped communities with construction work, taught English and volunteered in rural hospitals.

Ten other members of the U of G community were nominated for Women of Distinction Awards and recognized during Thursday's event. Prof. Judith Thompson, English and Theatre Studies, was a nominee in the arts and culture category. Prof. Dale Smith, Pathobiology, was nominated in the education and training category. Profs. Kathleen Brophy, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, and Deb Stacey, chair of the Department of Computing and Information Science, were nominees in the science, technology and research category. Prof. Ann Wilson, English and Theatre Studies, was nominated in the voluntary community service category. Angela Orton, manager of intercollegiate programs in the Department of Athletics and head coach of the women's basketball team, and Lynda Davenport, director of Student Health Services, were nominees in the wellness and health category. U of G students Kira Kumagai, Shannon Westgarth and Momina Mir were nominated in the young woman of distinction category.

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