Honourary doctorates bring excellence and inspiration to Spring Convocation 2023

University of Waterloo awards ten honourary degrees in ceremonies University Relations As part of celebrations for Spring Convocation 2023, the University of Waterloo proudly welcomes a new group of honourary doctorates.

Honourary doctorates are bestowed upon exceptional people who have contributed to the Waterloo community or to the country at large. Including some of Canada’s finest artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, philanthropists and distinguished public figures, an honourary doctorate is among the highest recognitions of extraordinary service and excellence the University bestows.

"These recipients provide inspiration to our graduates and our University community as we celebrate their achievements and impact in their respective fields," says Dr. Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. "It is our honour to welcome this year’s honourary doctorates among our ranks."

At this year’s spring convocation, Waterloo welcomes a new cohort of ten honourary doctorates.

Cristina Amon

Dr. Cristina Amon is the Distinguished Alumni Professor and former dean at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Under her visionary leadership, U of T’s engineering program has become a global hub for interdisciplinary research and education and a shining example of diversity and inclusion for women, People of Colour and Indigenous peoples in the engineering profession. She has been elected a fellow or honorary member of all major professional societies in her field. A pioneer in computational fluid dynamics for thermal designs subject to multidisciplinary constraints, Amon’s research is in thermal transport in nanoscale semiconductors, energy systems, EV batteries and biomedical devices.

John Borrows

Dr. John Borrows is a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation in Ontario and is professor and Loveland Chair of Indigenous Law at the University of Toronto. He is an internationally recognized scholar of Indigenous legal rights. Borrows is an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Trudeau Fellow and a Killam Prize and Molson Prize recipient. Borrows also received the Indigenous Peoples Counsel designation from the Indigenous Bar Association for honour and integrity in service to Indigenous peoples, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Law and Justice and the Governor General’s Innovation Award.

John Buzacott

Dr. John Buzacott, a former management sciences engineering professor, is a pioneering figure in production and operations management. Buzacott’s work in developing a unified framework and rigorous scientific foundation of the approaches currently used in the design, planning and control of manufacturing and service systems has inspired scholars worldwide. His innovative use of stochastic models to explain many phenomena occurring in manufacturing and service organizations has also distinguished him as an exceptional researcher and educator. As a founding member of the Waterloo Management of Integrated Manufacturing Systems research group at the University of Waterloo, his contributions to manufacturing analysis and modelling work continues to be globally recognized.

Rola Dagher

Rola Dagher, a leading figure in the Canadian technology sector, has made it her mission to empower those around her. Immigrating to Canada from war-torn Lebanon with an infant in the 1990s, Dagher worked as a retail salesclerk before becoming the president of Cisco Systems Canada and currently as Dell Technologies’ global channel chief. Rola sees diversity as the foundation for building a high-performance workforce and is a vanguard of inclusive excellence. Dagher has been named a WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, the Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) Woman of the Year and is an RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winner.

Trevor Hastie

Dr. Trevor Hastie is John A. Overdeck Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Stanford University and a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. He has made seminal contributions to statistical computing, modelling, and machine learning, with over 200 research articles and six books. He helped develop the statistical modelling environment behind the R computing system that we all use today, invented or co-invented many important tools in modern statistics and authored numerous highly acclaimed statistical software. Having guided several generations of statisticians and data scientists with his work, Hastie is one of the most influential statisticians of our time.

Seana Bridget McKenna

Seana McKenna is a Canadian artist and director in theatre, television and film. She has been a member of the Stratford Festival for 30 seasons, performing in over 50 roles. McKenna is a member of the Order of Canada and is the recipient of three Dora Awards, a Jessie Award and a Genie Award. McKenna shows great versatility in her roles and has challenged conventional Shakespearean theatre norms as one of only a few female performers to take on the roles of Richard III, Lear and Julius Caesar. She has also received the Tyrone Guthrie Award in recognition of her contributions to mentorship.

Debra Pepler

Dr. Debra Pepler received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Waterloo and is a registered psychologist in Ontario. She is a distinguished research professor in the Department of Psychology at York University and a senior adjunct scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children. As a clinical and research psychologist, she has contributed to psychology through her ground-breaking work in bullying, aggression and other forms of violence experienced by marginalized youth. Her work has changed how professionals understand the frequency, intensity and impacts of children’s experiences of aggression and violence, helping to shape and inform Canadian public policy on violence reduction within schools.

Arlie Petters

Dr. Arlie Petters received his PhD in mathematics from MIT in 1991. At Duke University (1998 to 2019), he was the Benjamin Powell Professor of Mathematics and a professor of physics, economics and business. Since 2020, he has served as the provost at New York University Abu Dhabi. His outstanding scholarship resulted in numerous honours, including the inaugural Blackwell-Tapia Prize (2002). Petters was selected by the National Academy of Sciences to be part of the permanent Portrait Collection of Outstanding African Americans in Science, Engineering and Medicine (2006), and named by the Queen of England to membership in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (2008).

Yanxin Wang

Dr. Yanxin Wang is professor of hydrogeology and environmental engineering at the China University of Geosciences (CUG) in Wuhan. He is also the president of CUG and head of the State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology. Wang’s research has produced major advances in understanding of the sources, fate and transport of contaminants in groundwater systems. Wang spearheaded the development of innovative remediation and management strategies that protect millions of people from contaminated drinking water. Under Wang’s visionary and effective leadership, CUG has become one of China’s top institutions in science and technology.

Mark Willcox

Dr. Mark Willcox is a medical microbiologist and professor in the School of Optometry and Vision Science at University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. His laboratory focuses on understanding the etiology of adverse events and comfort during contact lens wear. His research includes examining mechanisms of adhesion of ocular microbes and the development of novel antimicrobial surfaces. He also studies tear film proteomics and lipidomics, their relationship to contact lens comfort and how tears may serve as biomarkers for diabetes and cancer. Recent awards include the Korb Award from the American Optometric Association (2020) and the Barry Collin Medal from Optometry Australia (2017).