As 2023 rang out and the new year dawned, the highest national, provincial and municipal honours were bestowed.
Thirteen members of the Western community are being celebrated through these awards ─ from leaders in medicine, music and business, to innovative researchers, academics and community volunteers.
Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is one of our country’s highest honours, recognizing people across all sectors of society who have made extraordinary and sustained contributions to the nation. Last month, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, announced 78 new appointments to the Order of Canada, which included two Western graduates.
Ardyth Brott, LLB’93
Executive Director, Brott Festival
For her contributions to the Canadian orchestral community, and for her sustained support for youth involvement in music.
Ardyth Brott has served as the executive director of the Hamilton-based Brott Music Festival for 36 years. The festival was founded by Brott’s late husband and internationally recognized Canadian conductor Borris Brott in 1988. It is considered Canada’s largest orchestral music festival.
Brott also helped establish the Brott Opera program, dedicated to offering talented emerging professional opera singers the opportunity and experience of performing with a full symphony orchestra. She also created the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, where she served as executive director for the past 35 years.
Called to the Ontario Bar in 1995, Brott is also the best-selling author of the picture book Jeremy’s Decision, illustrated by acclaimed artist Michael Martchenko. She also wrote Here I Am and The Loneliest Piano.
Dr. Francine Lemire, current student, Master of Clinical Science in Family Medicine
Former Executive Director and CEO, The College of Family Physicians of Canada
For her accomplishments as a Paralympic medallist in cross-country skiing and for her exemplary leadership in family medicine.
Dr. Lemire has worked in family medicine for more than 25 years. For the past two decades she has been involved with the College of Family Physicians of Canada, including most recently as the executive director and CEO. In that role, she helped to shape the delivery of family medicine on a “pan-Canadian scale.” She promotes family medicine and primary care as part of a robust healthcare system. Speaking at parliamentary and senate committee meetings, she has helped influence federal healthcare policy in areas such as medical assistance in dying, elder care, and health and human resources planning.
An above-the-knee amputee, Lemire came in fourth in cross-country skiing in the 1984 games and two gold medals at the 1988 Paralympic Winter Games in Austria.
Order of Ontario
Eight members of the Western community were named to the Order of Ontario, including faculty and alumni. They were among 25 new appointments recently announced by Edith Dumont, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Chancellor of the Order of Ontario.
The Order of Ontario is the province’s highest honour. The award recognizes outstanding people who have made exceptional contributions to help build a stronger province, nation and world. Members of the Order come from all walks of life and represent various sectors of society, including public service, business, journalism and health care.
Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke (Former internal medicine and geriatric medicine resident)
Medical Director, North East Specialized Geriatric Care Centre
Described as “a transformational trailblazer and true visionary,” when Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke became the first geriatrician in Northeastern Ontario, she was addressing a glaring need throughout the region.
Clarke initiated a care of older adults training program and opened clinics in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay, Parry Sound and James Bay. She is being recognized for her “relentless efforts, which have led to the evolution of geriatrics care.”
Clarke said she had positive role models throughout her life, including grandparents who aged well. She completed both her internal medicine residency and geriatric medicine residency at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Clarke credits the division of geriatric medicine as “key to helping establish the program in Sudbury,” with special mention to Dr. Michael Borrie. “Without him, it would not have been possible,” she said.
Claire Crooks, professor and director, Centre for School Mental Health, Faculty of Education
Professor Claire Crooks’ appointment to the Order of Ontario recognizes her groundbreaking work as a clinical psychologist and researcher specializing in violence prevention among adolescents. She has trained thousands of social workers, mental health professionals and judges, inspiring a national movement to address youth mental health.
Crooks co-developed the “Fourth R”, a relationship-based approach to reducing dating violence and delinquency among youth, a program now used in thousands of schools throughout Canada and around the world. In 2022, Crooks received the annual WORLDiscoveries Vanguard Innovator of the Year award for her work developing the program.
Building on the foundation of the Fourth R, Crooks and her team recently developed the Healthy Relationships program. The program aims to equip youth to work through questions and stressors, that, when left unmanaged, can contribute to mental health challenges down the road. The project attracted funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, allowing it to expand its focus to support 2SLGBTQIA+ and Indigenous teens. Learn more.
Gervan Fearon, PhD’99
President, George Brown College
Former president and vice-chancellor at Brock University, Brandon University and serving currently as President of George Brown College, Gervan Fearon has a vision for equity, inclusion and community empowerment. A veteran educator, he leads efforts to provide transformative education opportunities that benefit learners, industry and the greater community. Fearon’s influential contributions to the white paper, Towards a Vision for the Black Community, pioneered ideas for positive change.
Blake Hutcheson, BA’83
Blake Hutcheson is being celebrated for his business acumen, leadership and philanthropy. “His leadership extends beyond the boardroom with a passion for giving back to many community groups and raising millions of dollars for those less fortunate,” his nominators write.
Hutcheson has been in senior leadership roles with OMERS and its real estate arm Oxford Properties for 14 years, including four years as president and CEO of OMERS and nine as president and CEO of Oxford Properties.
He is a former recipient of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40.
Joy MacDermid, BSc’87, MSc’92, PhD’99
Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Professor Joy MacDermid’s dedication to putting the patient first has created a powerful legacy. Her research in the research in the 1990s and subsequent global workshops brought patient-reported outcomes into the decision-making process for the first time. Her commitment to sharing knowledge with patients inspired a long-overdue paradigm shift. She is a founding member of the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and has attracted a new generation of surgeons and scientists, elevating the voices of women in fields where they had long been absent.
MacDermid’s expertise is wide-ranging as a physical therapist, hand therapist and epidemiologist. She is co-director of the clinical research lab at the Roth|McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre. MacDermid has been recognized as a Distinguished University Professor in both physical therapy and orthopedic surgery at Western, where she also teaches in the Advanced Health Care Practice program in upper extremity rehabilitation. She holds a Canada Research Chair in MSK Health Outcomes and Knowledge Translation and is the James Roth Chair in Musculoskeletal Measurement and Knowledge. MacDermid holds cross-appointments to the departments of surgery and epidemiology at both Western and McMaster University.
Fred Possmayer, PhD’65
Professor Emeritus, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Fred Possmayer’s gift of life to children the world over has been deemed “incalculable.” When the Western Professor Emeritus began investigating Respiratory Distress Syndrome in 1971, it was a leading cause of neonatal morbidity. Possmayer’s laboratory’s development of the Bovine Lung Extract Surfactant (BLES) changed these dire outcomes. BLES is now a standard treatment around the world, saving thousands of premature newborns. This breakthrough treatment was recognized as one of the top five discoveries in Ontario, along with insulin.
Possmayer has received many honours for his work. In 2009, he earned one of the first-ever Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research Awards. In 2019, Possmayer received the Professional Achievement Award from the Western Alumni Association for his “superior achievement in his field and for serving as a role model for newcomers, setting standards of excellence to which others can aspire.” Read more.
Peter Simon, MMus’82
President and CEO, Royal Conservatory of Music
Peter Simon has a reputation for “reshaping Ontario’s musical education landscape one student at a time.” During his 33-year tenure as president of The Royal Conservatory of Music, Simon’s efforts have seen it transform into one of the world’s most respected music institutions.
Among his many achievements, Simon created Learning Through the Arts. The program reaches hundreds of thousands of students in schools across Canada, along with seniors and Indigenous youth. He also spearheaded the creation of Koerner Hall, acclaimed as one of the finest acoustic venues in the world.
Gary Slaight, BA’73
President and CEO, Slaight Communications
As president and CEO of Slaight Communications, Gary Slaight continues to shape Canada’s entertainment landscape by supporting Canadian artists. As CEO of Standard Broadcasting, founded by his late father, Allan Slaight, Gary transformed the company into a leading force. Committed to making a difference, he continues the family’s philanthropy by supporting various causes, including healthcare, mental health, social services, at-risk youth, Toronto theatre and emerging Canadian artists.
In 2005, Slaight was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. He recently received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, in recognition of his work as a “pioneering broadcast executive and a leading patron of the arts.”
Mayor’s New Year’s Honour List 2024
The London, Ont. Mayor’s New Year’s Honour List is an annual recognition of persons who have contributed in an outstanding manner to the London community.
The 2024 honourees, selected within 11 categories of achievement, include three Western graduates.
Evelyn Chertkow, BA’82
Volunteer guide, Museum London
Named in the Distinguished Londoner category, which recognizes outstanding contribution to community collaboration or acts of good will by giving back to our city.
Evelyn Chertkow began her volunteer role as a tour guide at Museum London in 1970. She continues to conduct tours at the museum, where, for more than 53 years, she has “generously shared her knowledge and experience with students of all ages, (inspiring) youth to think critically about art and find the wonder within it.”
In addition, her nominators wrote, “Evelyn has supported artists and their work, contributing to the thriving art community London has enjoyed while she has resided here. She has also given back with generous donations of artwork to the museum to complement the many pieces within a collection she has used to educate and inspire countless youth in London.”
Don Pollock, HBA’73
Named in the Age Friendly category, which recognizes outstanding contributions to empowering older adults and advancing an age friendly community.
Don Pollock’s interest in the impact of demographics on retirement has led him to write two books on the topic: Retirement Hell: Byproduct of a Middle Class Under Siege and Avoiding Retirement Hell Using Old School Strategies. and has written two books on the topic. It is also what drives him as an advocate on senior issues for the past decade with an emphasis on reducing elder abuse.
Pollock was president of the London St Thomas Chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons from 2018 to 2023. In 2023, he helped found the not-for-profit group, Navigating Retirement. This group focuses on the needs of senior Londoners, offering seminars, speakers and a newsletter at no cost to ensure there are no financial barriers to accessing the information.
Jamie Walls, BA’14
Named in the Safety and Crime Prevention category, which recognizes contributions to a safe and secure community.
Jamie Walls has been a member of the London Search and Rescue (LSAR) team since 2005. LSAR assists London Police Services, Ontario Provincial Police, and eight other local police forces in searches for missing or lost persons.
The Western criminology graduate is being recognized for his work as a volunteer trained in missing person behaviour, search patterns and clue and evidence handling, psychology of survival, emergency management and standard first aid.
Walls served on the senior leadership team as deputy commander until October 2020, before being elected as commander of the team. His main task was to oversee the transition of the LSAR team from a division under St. John Ambulance to their own independent organization. When LSAR left St. John Ambulance, Walls led the team through transition to be a non-profit organization and eventually a registered charity.