Nipissing announces 2018 honorary degrees

Nipissing University is celebrating six individuals with an honorary degree, the university’s highest distinction, during convocation 2018, June 5 in Brantford and June 7 and 8 in North Bay.

Nipissing is proud to bestow honorary degrees to:

  • The Right Honourable David Johnston and Mrs. Sharon Johnston, Tuesday, June 5 at 2:30 p.m. in Brantford
  • Major Brenda Tinsley, Thursday, June 7 at 9:30 a.m. in North Bay
  • Mr. George Couchie, Thursday, June 7 at 2 p.m. in North Bay
  • Mr. Paul Kennedy, Friday, June 8, at 9:30 a.m. in North Bay
  • Senator Yvonne Boyer, Friday, June 8, at 2 p.m. in North Bay

“Convocation is a special moment that represents a very important accomplishment for our graduates and their families and we are honoured that these exceptional individuals will help us celebrate by accepting an honorary degree,” said Dr. Mike DeGagné, president and vice-chancellor of Nipissing University. “Their acceptance of our highest distinction, an honorary degree, demonstrates their support of Nipissing University and marks a new and important connection with our institution. We look forward to celebrating with our honorary degree recipients for many years to come.”

All North Bay convocation ceremonies will be held at the Robert J. Surtees Student Athletics Centre at Nipissing University. The ceremony in Brantford takes place at the Sanderson Centre.

The Right Honourable David Johnston and Mrs. Sharon Johnston

The Right Honourable David Johnston was born in Copper Cliff, near Sudbury, Ontario.  He attended Harvard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963, and was twice selected to the All-American hockey team on his way to being named to Harvard’s athletic hall of fame. He later obtained Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Cambridge and Queen’s University.

Mr. Johnston’s professional career began in 1966 as assistant professor in the Queen’s University law faculty. He moved on to the University of Toronto’s law faculty in 1968 and became dean of Western University’s law faculty in 1974. He was named principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University in 1979, serving for 15 years before returning to teaching as a full-time professor in McGill’s Faculty of Law. In 1999, he became the fifth president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, serving until 2010. 

Mr. Johnston became the 28th governor general of Canada, in 2010, and served in that capacity until 2017.  His seven-year vice regal mandate—the third longest in Canadian history— was characterized by inclusiveness, dedication, energy and ambition in quest of a smarter, more caring Canada and a better world.

Sharon Johnston was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario completed her studies in physical and occupational therapy at the University of Toronto in 1966. She completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Western Ontario, a Master of Science at McGill University, and obtained her PhD in Rehabilitation Science at McGill University. 

Mrs. Johnston began her working career in Kingston, Ontario, as a psychiatric occupational therapist with young adults at Kingston General Hospital, and then as a therapist at Beechgrove, a treatment centre for young children with learning and behavioural problems. When the Johnston family moved to Toronto, she worked at the Crippled Children’s Centre in Occupational Therapy.

An avid horse-riding enthusiast, Mrs. Johnston ran a horse-training centre for 12 years out of Chatterbox Farm, in Ontario, which she shared with her husband. She published her first novel, Matrons and Madams, a fictional account of life in southwestern Alberta during a colourful, post-Great War era, based on her grandmother’s experiences. 

In 2016, Mrs. Johnston was appointment Honorary Captain (Navy) for Military Personnel Command of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Major Brenda Tinsley

Major Brenda Tinsley joined the Canadian Armed Forces out of Hamilton, Ontario in 1996 as a member of a proud military family. She attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston and graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Military and Strategic Studies in 2000.   

After graduating from the Weapons Control Courses at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations (CFSACO) and 51 Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) Operational Training Unit she was posted to 21 AC&W Sqadron North Bay in 2002.  Between 2002 and 2004 Major Tinsley worked as a Weapons Controller; earning additional qualifications as both a Senior Director and a Tactical Fighter Controller.  In 2004 she was posted to the Alaskan NORAD Sector where she worked as a WC and SD, and spent her final year as the Director of Current Operations for the 176 Air Control Squadron.   

Major Tinsley began her long involvement in the training realm with a posting to CFSACO, first as an instructor and then the Standards Officer between 2004 and 2008.  In 2012 she was posted to Winnipeg as the Executive Assistant to the Commander of 2 Canadian Air Division (2 CAD).  

Promoted to her current rank in 2013, she remained at 2 CAD as the Qualification Manager for Aerospace Controllers.  In 2014 Major Tinsley deployed as part of Roto 0 for OP IMPACT, working as both A5 Plans and A3 Operations.  

Posted to the Canadian Air Defense Sector in 2016, she returned to North Bay where she qualified as a Mission Crew Commander and was Alpha Flight Commander within 21 Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron before assuming command of 51 Aerospace Control and Warning (Operational Training) Squadron.

George Couchie

Mr. George Couchie lives on Nipissing First Nation with his wife Carolyn and three children. He is a former national powerlifting champion. Mr. Couchie’s spirit name is Zoongiday which means ‘strong heart’ in Ojibway. He is a member of the Red-tailed Hawk (Gibwanasii) Clan.

Mr. Couchie has over 33 years of policing experience, including 12 years designing and delivering award winning Native Awareness Training Programs and Initiatives to youth and to members of the Ontario Provincial Police, as well as to other government employees and teachers.  A gifted communicator, Mr. Couchie speaks from the heart and uses personal stories and humour to broach difficult issues. He has been honoured with many awards for his commitment to educating adults and working with youth, including: An Eagle Feather from the Community of Nipissing First Nation for youth programs and volunteerism in 2005 and again in 2013, the Order of Merit of the Police Forces of Canada in 2013, the Queens Jubilee Award in 2012, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Union of Ontario Indians in 2007, an Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner’s Citation for Community Service in October 1999 for developing the school program, Walking the Path, an Organizational Award for Anti-racism Initiatives for the Walking the Path program in 1999, a nomination for National Native Role Model in 1997 by Nipissing Federal Member of Parliament, Bob Wood, an Ovation Award from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services 2008.

Paul Kennedy

Mr. Paul Kennedy has been the host of CBC Radio’s Ideas since 1999, when he succeeded the legendary Lister Sinclair. However, Mr. Kennedy’s association with the program goes back more than thirty years, to 1977, when he made his first contribution to Ideas with a documentary called, The Fur Trade Revisited.

The project took him on a 1,600-kilometer journey paddling down the Mackenzie River from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean. His interests encompass the environment, sport, travel, food, music, art and biography. His work engages what he describes as, "the core curriculum of contemporary culture." In the course of his work, Mr. Kennedy has travelled across Canada, throughout North America, to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Mr. Kennedy has won national and international recognition for his work, including an ACTRA award for best Canadian radio documentary for a program called, War on the Home Front, co-authored with Timothy Findley; the B'nai Brith Media Human Rights Award for a series called, Nuremberg on Trial; and an Armstrong Award presented by Columbia University. In 2005, he was awarded the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Special Citation for Excellence in Ocean Science Journalism for his eight-part series, Learning from the Oceans.

Mr. Kennedy has a BA from Queen's University, an MLitt from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He did post-graduate work at the University of Toronto where he studied with Marshall McLuhan.

Senator Yvonne Boyer

Senator Yvonne Boyer is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario with her ancestral roots in Ireland, the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, the Red River and with the Turtle Mountain Chippewa.

With a background in nursing, including in the operating room, she has over 21 years of experience practicing law and publishing extensively on the topics of Indigenous health and how Aboriginal rights and treaty law intersects on the health of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. A member of the Law Society of Ontario and the Law Society of Saskatchewan, Senator Boyer earned her Bachelor of Laws from the University of Saskatchewan, and her Master of Laws and Doctor of Laws from the University of Ottawa. In 2013, she completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship with the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre at the University of Regina. She is a former Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness at Brandon University.

In addition to running her own law practice, she came to the Senate of Canada from the University of Ottawa, where she was the Associate Director for the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics and a professor in the Faculty of Law. She worked previously as counsel to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, legal advisor to the Canadian Nurses Protective Society, and an executive with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the National Aboriginal Health Organization.

Senator Boyer has served on the boards of the Champlain Local Integrated Health Network and Save the Children Canada. She is a former Canadian Human Rights Commissioner and an appointed Member of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, First Nations Appeal Tribunal. Senator Boyer is one of eight people from across Canada chosen to be a holographic narrator in the Turning Points for Humanity Gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.