MRU honours four community builders with honorary doctorates at spring convocation
by Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Publishing Editor
Mount Royal University (MRU) awards four distinguished Calgarians for their notable achievements and community service during this year’s spring convocation. Honorary Doctors of Laws were given to National Indigenous poet Louise Bernice Halfe (Sky Dancer), campus elder and spiritual advisor Clarence Wolfleg Senior, former police chief Christine Silverberg and energy industry executive Hal Kvisle.
As the only post-secondary institution in Alberta holding a drive-in style convocation, more than 600 students out of the 1,937 graduating students are expected to attend the eight ceremonies that were held from June 7 to 10.
Each award recipient addressed the guests and graduates in separate ceremonies. The ceremony has an outdoor stage with screens and the attendees can listen to the audio through the 88.5 FM on their radio inside their vehicles. Students and families who are unable to attend in person are able to watch a livestream of the convocation online.
Halfe received an Honorary Doctor of Laws in front of graduating students from psychology, anthropology and sociology. She is an internationally renowned poet and Indigenous elder.
Before enrolling in 1974 in Mount Royal College’s Social Work diploma, she survived being taken away from her family and being forced to attend a residential school at seven years old.
After dropping out from Mount Royal, she took therapy and eventually found a loving life partner and raised children of her own. Halfe also sought out for more education in University of Regina back in 1991 with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
After Halfe began taking English literature courses at the University of Saskatchewan in the 90s, she published numerous poetry books. Being a poet, elder, teacher and many other things, MRU has welcomed Halfe on a variety of occasions. She was a speaker in two Under Western Skies presentations, a conference about the environment, community, and culture in North America. She was also featured in an Indigenous Studies speaker series in 2014.
Wolfleg, who is also known as Elder Miiksika’am, is another residential school survivor and indigenous Elder who received the same honorary award. Miiksika’am received the honorary award in front of graduates from child studies, education, health and physical education and social work.
Miiksika’am is known for meeting with leaders and students associated with the Iniskim Centre. As a campus elder and spiritual advisor, he brings students, faculty and staff to external Indigenous ceremonies and community members. He also engages with students during field schools and classes as well as leads ceremonial smudging.
Miiksika’am also doesn’t shy away from speaking to students about restorative justice, residential schools and treaties. He even tells stories from his own experience or those passed down from his elders.
Silverberg received the honorary award in front of the graduates from the Faculty of Arts. She is known for shattering the glass ceiling of Canadian law enforcement when she became the first female chief of a major Canadian city’s police service through her appointment as the chief constable of the Calgary Police Service in 1995.
Before arriving in Calgary, Silverberg also became the first female police recruit in Mississauga. She also led a Community Relations and Crime Prevention Bureau and later a Special Accidents and Investigations team when she became a part of the Peel Regional Police.
Years after serving the Calgary Police Service, Silverberg studied law and eventually established Silverberg Legal where she became active in civil and family litigation, advocacy and regulatory defence.
Kvisle received the honorary Doctor of Laws award in front of the Bissett School of Business and School of Communication Studies graduates.
From being appointed as the CEO of TransCanada and Talisman Energy (at different times) to being part of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, Kvisle was well known in the energy sector. But his efforts also extend to his advocacy for education.
Back when Mount Royal was still a college, Kvisle served as the chair on the Board of Governors. Through his term, he was able to acquire funds for the construction of the Bissett School of Business, secure university status from the provincial government and co-chaired the $250-million Changing the Face of Education fundraising campaign. This campaign enabled the construction of the Riddell Library and Learning Centre and the Taylor Centre for Performing Arts.
Full-time students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science with a major or minor in biology, chemistry or physics also benefit each year from a scholarship funded by Kvisle.
The convocation concluded with families and guests honking in their vehicles with applause in support of the graduates and the awardees.
“Class of the spring of 2021, you are truly remarkable. Not only did you fill the requirements of your chosen discipline, but you did it during a pandemic. You are persistent and you are resilient. And today we celebrate that,” said MRU President and Vice-Chancellor Tim Rahilly, PhD.