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SFU's Joanne Curry to receive honorary degree from Kwantlen

Joanne Curry played a key role developing and growing SFU Surrey. - Photo submitted
Joanne Curry played a key role developing and growing SFU Surrey.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Joanne Curry is so highly regarded in the world of advanced education that she works for one university and is about to receive an honorary degree from another.

Associate vice-president of external relations for Simon Fraser University, Curry will be awarded an honorary degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) next month.

“Joanne has served the cause of higher education locally, provincially and across Canada for nearly 20 years and we consider her one of our own in that respect,” said KPU president and vice-chancellor Dr. Alan Davis.

Davis called Curry an “education impresario” with a talent for creating environments where students can thrive and do great things.

“She has many special and rare abilities nurtured by hard work, dedication and persistence,” Davis added.

Curry was executive director of SFU Surrey for more than 10 years and led the startup of the SFU Surrey campus in City Centre, and in so doing was instrumental in building bridges and partnerships that connected the university with the larger community.

She spearheaded and implemented a community engagement strategy that led to a new institutional vision and mission to be Canada’s most engaged research facility, and productive partnerships with the City of Surrey, the Surrey School District, Fraser Health, the local business community and all levels of government.

Curry even co-founded the SFU women’s ice hockey team.

For her part, Curry credits a team of people for making SFU Surrey a reality and growing it from a few hundred students to more than 3,500 full-time students and more than 30 degree programs. But she admits her “heart sings” every time she makes the trek from her office at the Burnaby campus to visit SFU Surrey.

“It’s the vibrancy the students have added, the whole variety of programs and the fact we created them from scratch to be fresh and in-demand.”

And along with SFU Surrey, the area has also grown, says Curry.

“We moved into an empty office tower to begin with, and now the whole neighbourhood has changed. What gives me the most pride is the work we’ve done with the city and other institutions. It’s not a given that cities and other universities collaborate to benefit social and economic development, but here it is the case.”

Curry was also the executive director of the national TeleLearning Network between 1995 and 2002. A consortium of 30 universities and representatives from the public and private sector, the network advanced discussion on the learning in digital communication technologies that we see today.

Of her honorary degree, Curry says it’s an amazing thing to be recognized by a sister institution.

“I know KPU works hard to engage with the community, and we can do great things together.”

Currie and fellow honorary degree recipients Christine Brodie, Baltej Dhillon and David Aisenstat will receive their awards at KPU’s spring convocation in May.

Brodie is a retired teacher in the Richmond School District who spent her entire career supporting students with autism, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, social and emotional issues and other barriers to their education. She is also a longtime member of the KPU Foundation Board of Directors, and served as its chairperson from 2006-2011.

Dhillon is the Non Commissioned Officer in charge of the RCMP’s Federal and Serious Organized Crime intelligence unit. A KPU criminology alumnus who successfully lobbied to be the first RCMP member permitted to wear a turban, Dhillon showed unwavering courage in the face of opposition, intolerance and racism.

Aisenstat, who is president and CEO of The Keg Steakhouse & Bar chain, is well known for philanthropic efforts. He founded the Keg Spirit Foundation, which supports 300 Canadian charities, and personally climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise funds for Free The Children.

Honorary degrees are awarded to those honoris causa in recognition of dignified achievements or outstanding service to the public. Nominees are exceptionally distinguished: scholars, creative artists, public servants, persons prominent in the community and the professions, and others who have made significant contributions locally, nationally, or globally. Members of the community-at-large are invited to nominate honorary degree candidates.

 

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