B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and international climate-change activist Greta Thunberg will receive honorary degrees from the Universitry of British Columbia.
UBC announced the news in a March 31 news release that named 16 others who will be receiving honorary degrees—the university's highest honour—in late May this spring.
(The names of the other 16 recipients—including four prominent members of B.C. First Nations and three renowned medical researchers—are included at the bottom of this article.)
Henry, a former epidemiologist-physician with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, is the official face of the provincial response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and is widely known as a calming influence and a dispenser of scientifically validated information.
Thunberg became known globally after she led a solo strike at age 15 against government inaction on the climate crisis in her native Sweden, which led to international actions by students and others demanding action by their respective governments on meeting carbon-emissions targets, among other things.
“I am delighted to bestow honorary degrees to Dr. Henry and Ms. Thunberg, along with all of our remarkable recipients this spring,” UBC president and vice chancellor Santa J. Ono said in the release. “Dr. Henry and Ms. Thunberg have served as leading voices in the midst of two of the most significant crises we collectively have ever faced: the global pandemic and climate change. They are truly an inspiration to us all at UBC.”
Henry's degree will be a doctor of science, awarded by UBC Vancouver, while Thunberg will receive a doctor of laws from UBC Okanagan. The university's other honorary degree is doctor of letters.
UBC Okanagan's principal and vice chancellor, Lesley Cormack, said in the release that the degree recipients are "a remarkable group of people that are making a difference in their communities, both globally and locally".
“It is an honour to have Dr. Henry and Ms. Thunberg, together with all 18 recipients this year, join the UBC community," Cormack said. "As a university that is committed to bold thinking and social and technological innovation, their contributions to the most urgent issues of our day—including public health and climate change—are critical in our journey towards a better, safer and more sustainable future.”
The other 16 honorary-degree recipients this year are:
- Theresa Arsenault, an Okanagan business lawyer who established the Aboriginal Access Award at UBCO to help Indigenous students who are encountering financial roadblocks to higher education
- Shashi Assanand, founder and executive director of the Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Service Society, which has provided counselling and support to more than 43,000 immigrant and refugee women and children experiencing family violence
- Irwin Cotler, a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada who has been referred to as “Counsel for the Oppressed” and “Freedom’s Counsel,” represents the leading political prisoners in the world today
- Dame Sally Davies, an eminently respected British medical scientist and former Chief Medical Officer for England who was instrumental in creating the National Institute for Health Research, now the largest national clinical research funder in Europe
- Peter Dhillon, a second-generation farmer, entrepreneur, and UBC alumnus well known for a wide range of community service and philanthropy in the areas of health care, child humanitarian support, education and sport
- Dr. Victor J. Dzau, an internationally acclaimed scholar in the field of cardiovascular medicine and genetics who helped create the science underlying the class of drugs known as ACE inhibitors, used globally to treat hypertension and heart failure
- Esi Edugyan, a renowned Victoria author (Washington Black) known for crafting thoughtful and sweeping historical novels that deal with the legacies of race and displacement
- Al Hildebrandt, a Kelowna-based technology entrepreneur with an extraordinary record of community and humanitarian service
- Dr. Tasuku Honjo, a Nobel laureate and renowned Japanese physician-scientist best known for his work in discovering a critical pathway in the immune response to cancer cells
- Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, one of the world’s most eminently regarded Holocaust historians who achieved international recognition when a British writer and Holocaust denier sued her for libel and lost—the sweeping victory of which was depicted in the 2016 film Denial
- Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band of the Okanagan Nation, who has consistently emphasized economic development as a means to improve his people’s standard of living
- Garry Merkel, a member of the Tahltan Nation, who has had a long-term interest in the culturally relevant education of Indigenous peoples
- Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, a distinguished university leader, scholar and accomplished businesswoman who has been an influential advocate for universities as vehicles to advance social and economic growth
- Elder Jessie Nyberg, a member of the Canoe Creek Band of the Secwepmc (Shuswap) Nation, a traditional Indigenous and academic scholar, and visionary leader and community builder
- Elder Roberta Price, a member of the Coast Salish Snuneymuxw and Cowichan Nations, who has been instrumental in helping to create shared spaces for both Indigenous and Western approaches to healing and health for more than 30 years
- Paul Thiele, who overcame his own visual impairment to study comparative literature at UBC, before going on to become the co-founder, architect and head of UBC’s Crane Library, an invaluable resource centre for visually impaired students for more than 50 years