The University of Victoria presented its highest academic honour to four community leadersduring fall convocation ceremonies this week.
Honorary doctor of engineering recipient Lynn Conway is a computer scientist and engineer who helped pioneer modern information technology. She’s also a leading activist for transgender rights.
Conway helped pave the way for the first superscalar computer in the 1960s, taught at MIT and developed an Internet-based system for silicon chip prototyping, leading to today’s semiconductor design.
Fired by IBM in 1968 as she underwent gender transition, Conway rebuilt her career in “stealth mode” – taking a new name and starting over as a contract programmer. Since 1999 she’s been a leading voice for the transgender community and was included in Time magazine’s 2014 list of 25 transgender people who have influenced American culture.
Darren Entwistle, receiving an honorary doctor of laws, is a Canadian telecommunications industry leader whose entrepreneurial spirit is matched by his commitment to community involvement and corporate social responsibility.
Entwistle became president and CEO of TELUS in 2000 at the age of 37, and began the work of growing the company into a global leader in data and wireless services. He navigated industry, regulatory and competitive challenges in the most turbulent period in Canadian telecommunications history.
Mike Harcourt, also receiving an honorary doctor of laws, is a champion for sustainability and for people living with physical disabilities.
Harcourt served as Vancouver’s mayor for six years beginning in 1980, a period highlighted by his participation in planning Expo 86. Harcourt worked with the province to safeguard the city from debt while welcoming 22 million visitors to the world’s fair. As B.C. premier from 1991 to 1996, Harcourt’s legacy includes the introduction of new guidelines for forest management, the resolution of land-use conflicts, and a commitment to protecting 12 per cent of the province’s land base.
After leaving politics, Harcourt intensified his interest in sustainability issues and co-authored the urban development book, City Making in Paradise. In 2002 he suffered a severe spinal cord injury, and in the book Plan B; One Man’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph he offers his story of recovery. He also became involved in the Rick Hansen Foundation and the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries.
Simon Whitfield, receiving an honorary doctor of laws, is a four-time Olympic triathlete who reached the pinnacle of his sport and became a role model and mentor, particularly for young people.
At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Whitfield earned the first gold medal in triathlon. Eight years later, at the Beijing games, he earned a silver medal. He was Canada’s flag bearer at the opening of the 2012 London Olympics in recognition of his athleticism and commitment to fair play.
Since retiring from competition, in addition to being a father and business owner, Whitfield has remained an ambassador for sport and health, working with KidSport and PowerToBe, and speaking with students about finding their passions and setting goals.