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Date: October 12, 2012

UVic To Award Four Honorary Degrees

The University of Victoria will confer honorary degrees in November to four individuals for their achievements in improving Indigenous-settler relations, promoting local history, and pioneering the new science of “nanophotonics.”

Lieutenant Governor Steven Point and Mrs. Gwendolyn Point, journalist/historian Dave Obee, and scientist Naomi Halas will receive honorary doctorates during fall convocation ceremonies, Nov. 13–14 in the University Centre Farquhar Auditorium. In all, 1,257 graduands will be receiving degrees, diplomas or certificates.

The Honourable Steven L. Point, OBC, (Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl), Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Honorary Doctor of Laws
Her Honour, Mrs. Gwendolyn Point, (Shoysh qwel whet), Honorary Doctor of Education

To be presented at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 14

Their Honours have provided outstanding public service and unparalleled work in bringing genuine reconciliation and mutual understanding between Indigenous and settler British Columbians and they are among the most respected leaders within the Coast Salish territory (on which UVic is situated).

His Honour, Steven L. Point has served as the 28th lieutenant governor since 2007, a five-year term that ends in the coming weeks. He was the first Indigenous person to hold the position of the official representative of the Queen. In 2010, with the help of master carver Tony Hunt, he completed a dugout canoe carved on the grounds of Government House to symbolize unity and the bridging of cultures.

He was previously the chief commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission and served for 15 years as an elected chief of the Skowkale First Nation. He also served as the tribal chair of the Stó:lō Nation Government, and he was honoured as grand chief by the chief of the Stó:lō Tribal Council. He is an alumnus and former instructor of the Native Law program at the University of Saskatchewan. He became a provincial court judge in February 1999.

Her Honour, Gwendolyn Rose Point has worked tirelessly to promote education and First Nations language renewal in her community, the province and nationally. She is an instructor of social work and history at the University of the Fraser Valley and a driving force behind the advances that have been made by the Stó:lō in education, linguistics and cultural awareness.

In her many years as the manager of education at the Stó:lō Nation offices in Chilliwack, she dramatically extended the First Nations curriculum within the Fraser Valley School District and helped to improve outcomes for First Nations students in the K-12 system.

Mr. Dave Obee, Honorary Doctor of Laws
To be presented at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 13

A noted journalist, Dave Obee is also a distinguished author, historian and genealogist. He is the editor-in-chief of the Victoria Times Colonist and a frequent contributor of features on local history. He is a co-founder of the annual Times Colonist Book Drive, raising more than $1.5 million in 15 years for education and literacy projects on Vancouver Island.

Obee played a key role in the digitization of the British Colonist and ensuring that the rights to the early newspaper were granted to UVic. His 2008 book, Making the News, is a comprehensive history of Victoria and Vancouver Island as told through newspapers and archival sources dating from 1858.

He produced Destination Canada, considered the most comprehensive guide to resources for immigration researchers. A sought-after speaker on genealogy, he has given more than 300 presentations on topics including “Stalin’s Secret Files” and “Mining the Canadian Census.”

Dr. Naomi Halas, Honorary Doctor of Science
To be presented at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 14

Based at Rice University in Houston, Dr. Naomi Halas is a pioneer in the emerging field of “nanophotonics” – the interaction between light and structures at a scale 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

She is the inventor of nanoshells – tiny particles that can be used in biomedicine, including photothermal cancer therapy. Her key finding was that nanoshells (basically coated spheres with an inner core of glass and an outer core of gold) can capture and focus light around them.

One potential application of nanoshells in cancer therapy involves harnessing their ability to convert light into heat to thermally destroy a solid tumor while minimizing damage to healthy cells.

Halas hopes that the technology will dramatically improve the prospects of people suffering with cancer and that it could be used as a general approach for removing lumps in a variety of soft tissue types.

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Media contacts:

Joy Davis (Ceremonies & Events) at joydavis@uvic.ca or 250-721-7632
Mike McNeney (Alumni Communications) at mmcneney@uvic.ca or 250-721-7642

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