Alumni appointed to the Order of Canada

Two U of S alumni have received one of the country’s highest civilian honours by being appointed to the Order of Canada.

Karim (Kay) Nasser and Harold Orr were recently appointed to the Order, which recognizes Canadians for their outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

Dr. Kay Nasser (Photo: Liam Richards)

Nasser, who earned his PhD and taught civil engineering at the U of S for 33 years, is a passionate long-time supporter of the university. His appointment to the Order is in honor of his contributions to civil engineering and community development, and for his philanthropy in support of education, health care and the arts.

Nasser and his family have donated more than $13.5 million to the U of S, and continue to support students annually through The Nasser Family Emergency Student Trust and the Nasser Scholarship Fund, which has helped hundreds of students over the years.

In addition to his support of the U of S, Nasser has been a pillar in supporting various community institutions from the Remai Modern Art Gallery, Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and all four city hospitals, including the new Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

Alumnus Harold Orr received both a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, and a Master of Science from the U of S, and is known as a pioneer of energy-efficient home building in Canada. His research led to the concept of passive solar design, which allows homes to retain heat from the sun through structural design. Orr’s appointment to the Order is in recognition of his contributions as a housing engineer who promotes energy efficiency and conservation in Canadian homes.

Threading the past into the present

Catherine Blackburn (center) with her sister and mother at the Saskatchewan Arts Awards, hosted by the Remai Modern. Blackburn’s artwork is inspired by her relationship with her family.

When Catherine Blackburn (BFA’07) enrolled in the Studio Art program at the University of Saskatchewan, she had never taken a formal art class. “I had the typical elementary art class experience, but nothing along the lines of learning to use a photography dark room or printmaking lab,” she explains. Arriving in Saskatoon with its bustling campus, Catherine set out to find her way—not only as an artist, but an individual.

Blackburn was born in Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, and lived in the nearby community of Patuanak before relocating to the rural town of Choiceland, Saskatchewan. As a member of the English River First Nation, she felt displaced from her community after the move. “I didn’t get to build relationships with my extended family the same way as my cousins or even my older siblings. This shift resulted in me not learning the Dene language, creating another barrier of communication when visiting. The traditional Dene ways of life didn’t play a large role in my life,” she explains.

The U of S would expose Blackburn to a number of different art mediums, from painting to printmaking. As she began to create, themes of identity, culture and language began to emerge in her practice: she began exploring her history and heritage. “What started as a place of disconnect really evolved into a place of celebration,” says Blackburn. “I feel my voice has grown stronger, I am more confident in myself—not just as an artist—but as a representative of Aboriginal voice and experience.”

Photograph courtesy of the artist

“But There’s No Scar?” (left) Beads on deer hide, by Catherine Blackburn. Detail (right). Photograph courtesy of the artist

These days Blackburn’s kitchen table moonlights as a workspace for her art. Scattered across the wooden surface are bags of brightly-coloured beads, thimbles, scissors and containers of porcupine quills. With a needle in hand, Blackburn threads one miniscule bead after another, until her artwork takes form. “It can take anywhere between two to 500 hours to complete a piece depending on the size and complexity of the pattern,” she explains.

Blackburn’s dedication to the craft has not gone unnoticed. This year, she was presented the RBC Emerging Artist Award by the Saskatchewan Arts Board. The award recognizes an emerging Saskatchewan artist who demonstrates exceptional promise through early notable accomplishments. In addition to the prestigious title, Blackburn was awarded a cash prize. “I feel incredibly honoured. It is validation but, being the perfectionist that I am, it is also pressure. Prestige has its place, but to cultivate it in a way that is beneficial on a community level is a goal of mine.”

Since proclaiming herself as an artist, Blackburn has worked tirelessly to not only earn a living with her craft, but to share her own journey with others. By connecting with her heritage through family members’ experiences and traditions, as well as her own, she hopes that her art will be a catalyst for continued dialogue about the Indigenous experience in Canada. “After viewing my work, I hope people have a clearer understanding of how different and expansive the Canadian experience is and to be empathetic towards those experiences. I hope they walk away wanting to be involved in this discussion.”

Photograph courtesy of the artist

“Our Mother(s) Tongue”, by Catherine Blackburn. Seed beads, pins, velvet, gel photo transfer, cotton. Photograph courtesy of the artist

For Blackburn, art has been a place where she has been able to find a voice. By merging traditional Dene practices with modern concepts, she is able to tell a story that uniquely hers. “As I get older and navigate my way through these feelings, my focus is no longer centered on the loss, but has evolved to appreciate my own perspectives and experiences. I have coveted those memories of the north and use them in making new ones as I connect the dots in my journey. It becomes a map of my growth and I can appreciate the ways in which traditions and culture have formed and inform my practice.”

Blackburn’s artwork can be viewed here.

Happy holidays, from your Alumni Association President

For many of us, the holiday season is a ‘finish line’ of sorts; a proper demarcation point between the end of the year and the promise and possibility of the year ahead.

This year, the U of S Alumni Association continued its celebration of 100 years and millions of memories. During our centennial, we brought the celebrations to our alumni throughout the country and across the border with several alumni guest speakers. The 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Alumni Association was the perfect opportunity to re-connect with our alumni who have made their mark in Saskatchewan and beyond.
As we recognized 100 years of the Alumni Association, it was also a year of firsts. We celebrated volunteerism–an essential component of Saskatchewan’s DNA–at the inaugural Volunteer Summit in March. Lending your time and talent is a great way to stay connected with your alma mater in 2018.

We also welcomed back hundreds of alumni to campus for our first-ever Alumni Weekend with an action-packed schedule of events and activities to cap off our centennial festivities. Stay tuned for details on our next Alumni Weekend in 2018.

Huskie pride was on full display at Homecoming 2017, as more than 8,000 fans packed Griffiths Stadium to cheer on the Huskies to victory over the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Homecoming was an amazing opportunity to connect with our alumni, and experience first-hand the excitement and enthusiasm of our alumni and future alumni.

In October, we honoured nine superlative alumni at the Alumni Achievement Awards. This year’s class of award recipients personify the great heights that can be achieved with a degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

As an alumna, I am inspired when I get the opportunity to share time with our alumni. Each alum has an interesting story about why they chose to pursue education at the U of S. They each have a unique career path and accomplishments; they are leaders and innovators; they are philanthropists and educators; researchers and athletes; activists and actors; and they embody how our university serves our communities and the world.

The holidays are also an important time to reconnect with your family and friends. As members of the 150,000-strong alumni community, we share a lifelong connection to this proud university we call our alma mater. In 2018, I encourage you to take advantage of this special bond. There are many opportunities and events and we welcome your involvement.

On behalf of the Alumni Association board of directors and staff, best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season and health and happiness in 2018!

Kelly Strueby (BComm’84)
President, University of Saskatchewan Alumni Association

Sociology professor receives national equity award

Quinlan, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and an associate member of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, accepted the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Equity Award at a CAUT meeting in Ottawa on Nov. 25.

In her nomination, Quinlan was cited as a “fearless” researcher who combines academic scholarship with effective work for the betterment of society. She is active in promoting fair hiring practices and combating sexual violence.

Quinlan was a driving force behind the 2016 stage production With Glowing Hearts: How Ordinary Women Worked Together to Change the World (and Did). Based on Quinlan’s research into the historical role of women in Canada’s labour movement, the play received the Best of Fest Award at the PotashCorp Fringe Festival and brought awareness of a little-known chapter in history to a large audience.

Quinlan is a founding member of the Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Among other roles, she has served in the Women’s Reference Group of Saskatchewan’s Labour Force Development Board and been a board member of the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre and the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.

The mighty Hughes returns

As the leading institution in Canada for building reconciliation, it was a natural fit for the University of Saskatchewan to host one of Canada’s foremost advocates in the court systems concerning colonization.

Alumnus of Influence Ted Hughes (BA’48; LLB’50) and author Craig McInnes visited the College of Law for a book signing and public talk as part of the U of S Canada 150 Book Series. The biography, The Mighty Hughes: From Prairie Lawyer to Western Canada’s Moral Compass, details the life and career of Hughes, and as the title implies, there is no space for mediocrity between its pages.

Ted Hughes (left) and The Might Hughes author, Craig McInnes (right) sign copies of the book at their event in the College of Law

Hughes’ career has spanned an impressive 60 years in the Canadian judicial system. As a respected senior judge in Saskatchewan, and as deputy attorney general and conflict of interest commissioner for British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, Hughes earned a reputation as someone who would deliver the right resolution. Noted for defending principles that underpin the best of our society, his career carried the weight of mending unethical politicians; advocating for children in care; defending equal rights for women in the legal system; and drawing attention to what Hughes believed were the disastrous effects of colonization on Indigenous people.

When asked about the grandiosity of the title—of his life—his response is, unsurprisingly, fair.  “I never felt any pressure with the moral compass designation because I’ve always enjoyed my work,” he says. “Any judge that has the ability to take away the freedom of his fellow citizens understands that that is a pretty onerous piece of responsibility that no judge takes lightly.”

Mighty Hughes touches on a moment of great impact for the legal legend—a day in court that redefined his understanding of the legal system.

Hughes was presiding over a murder case where the defendant was taking the stand in his own defence. It was apparent, Hughes recalls, that the defendant was very frustrated with the process.

Continue reading

Alumnae starring in play chosen for Singapore festival

An acclaimed stage play developed by Department of Drama faculty and alumni will represent Canada at an international fringe festival in Singapore this January.

Displaced, a story of three female refugees fleeing to Canada at different points in history, was co-written by Associate Professor Natasha Martina (with Sue Mythen). After several successful performances in Canada, the play caught the attention of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, which selected it to be presented at its Jan. 17–28 festival in 2018 as one of four highlighted shows from around the world.

The stars of Displaced (left to right): Emma Laishram, Anna Mazurik (BFAHon’16) and Jacqueline Block (BFA’14). (Photo: S.E. Grummett)










Displaced debuted in 2015 at the Montreal and Saskatoon fringe festivals, earning nominations for best English production and best English text in Montreal. The showhas since drawn crowds around Saskatchewan as part of the 2017 Live Five Independent Theatre season and received four prizes at the recent Saskatoon and Area Theatre Awards.

“The response was overwhelming,” says Martina, who also produced and directed the play. “I think people really wanted to support this piece because it has a message of equality and acceptance and the need to be inclusive.”

The global developments that have made this message so resonant in recent years—including ongoing refugee crises, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump—didn’t factor into the creation of the play, Martina says. She began researching and writing Displaced in 2011 with a simpler goal: telling a story that would have personal meaning to her as a child of immigrants.

“I just knew that immigration and starting a new life was a very large aspect of my growing up: seeing my parents start from nothing to create their own business, to employ 125 people, and to share all the traditions I grew up with that were in two cultures.”

The stars of Displaced include drama alumnae Jacqueline Block (BFA’14) and Anna Mazurik (BFAHon’16). Amberlin Hsu (BFAHon’16) is the stage manager and lighting designer. Assistant Professor of Drama Carla Orosz (BFA’04) designed the set and costumes.

Before heading to Singapore, the cast and crew will give a single performance of Displaced in Saskatoon on Jan. 20. Details and ticket information for that event can be viewed here.

Displaced is produced by Ground Cover Theatre. The Singapore trip is funded by the High Commission of Canada, Creative Saskatchewan and the College of Arts & Science.

Written by Chris Putman

Fall Convocation award winners

Three U of S alumni will receive special distinction at the University of Saskatchewan’s Fall Convocation on Oct. 28.

Margret Asmuss (BA’85, MCTGED’89)
President’s Service Award
A proud alumna who completed both her Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Continuing Education degrees at the U of S, Margret Asmuss has served as sustainability co-ordinator for the past 13 years. She has helped develop the Office of Sustainability and helped implement the Campus Sustainability Plan, which provides a framework for integrating sustainability into university activities. Asmuss also plays a role in the Sustainability Living Lab, which provides students with project-based courses and offers professional development for faculty. Her combination of knowledge, expertise and readiness helps others achieve their sustainability goals.

Carey Simonson, (BE’91, MSc’93, PhD’98)
Distinguished Graduate Supervisor Award
Carey Simonson earned his bachelor’s, master’s and a PhD in mechanical engineering at the U of S, where he has served as a professor since 2001. The Graduate Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Simonson received the NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation in 2015 and was awarded $423,465 in NSERC grants in September. Winner of the U of S Graduate Students’ Association Teaching Excellence Award in April, Simonson has supervised 50 graduate and postdoctoral students. Simonson is a Fellow of ASHRAE, the premier society in his research field, with more than 56,000 members from 130 countries.

Harold Chapman, (BSA’43)
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Harold Chapman has spent a lifetime committed to the co-operative movement as a builder and educator. Chapman, who was born in Saskatoon, graduated from the U of S with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture back in 1943, spent decades helping develop farming, fishing, trapping and housing co-operatives in the province, and was the first director of the Co-operative Institute in Saskatoon. Since retiring in 1982, he has remained involved with the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives located at the U of S and celebrated his 100th birthday this year by being inducted into the Order of Canada.

U of S astronomy graduates’ research is out of this world

Hope Boyce (BSC’16) and Taylor Bell (BSC’16) have spent many evenings on the Physics Building rooftop observatory expanding their knowledge of, and passion for, astronomy.

But these U of S alumni have more in common than simply their love of stargazing. Boyce and Bell completed Bachelor of Science degrees in physics in Saskatoon and have gone on to study in the astronomy Master’s program at McGill University. Recently, Boyce and Bell each published a research article in The Astrophysical Journal, a world-renowned research journal devoted to recent developments, discoveries, and theories in astronomy and astrophysics.

Hope Boyce (BSC’16) and Taylor Bell (BSC’16).

Boyce’s article, “An Upper Limit on the Mass of a Central Black Hole in the Large Magellanic Cloud from the Stellar Rotation Field,” is a continuation of research she began as an astronomy student at the U of S. Her paper is the first to put a limit on the mass of any central supermassive black hole in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

“Searching for a black hole in another galaxy advances the community’s knowledge about the formation and evolution of many galaxies and their black holes, including our own,” she explains. “Pure astronomy research helps us answer fundamental questions about physics and our place in the universe.”

Meanwhile, Bell explores the exoplanet WASP-12b in his journal article, “The Very Low Albedo of WASP-12b from Spectral Eclipse Observations with Hubble.” Bell’s measurement of the planet’s surface brightness—or its reflectiveness—reveals that it is essentially pitch black and reflects only six per cent of the light from its host star. As the planet is tidally locked with a parent star, there is an even divide between day and night. The day side of the planet is 2,600 degrees Celsius, while the night side is believed to be 1,000 degrees Celsius.

“By observing planets like this we can better understand how hydrogen breaks apart and goes back into a molecule at different points on a planet as it heats up and cools down,” Bell explains. “In that way, we can learn something about the planet’s chemistry and physics.”

Stan Shadick, astronomy lecturer and physics/astronomy lab instructor at the U of S, is delighted with the recent accomplishments of the two young graduates.

“The Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at the U of S has a long tradition to training respected professional astronomers,” Shadick says. “The university is proud to see both Boyce and Bell continuing this tradition and making such important new discoveries at the beginning of their professional careers.”

Boyce’s full journal article
Bell’s full journal article

Alumni competing in World Masters Tour in Saskatoon

At 30 years old, Michael Lieffers (BEd’10) has already traveled to 16 countries. When asked where the best world adventures take place, he’s quick to respond with hometown pride—Saskatoon. One can imagine Lieffers’ excitement when he found out the sport he loves most—3×3 basketball—would be hosting the World Masters Tour on his home turf.

Michael Lieffers (left) playing against team Ljubljana. (Photo credit:

On July 14-16, Saskatoon Tourism in partnership with Canada Basketball, will be hosting the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters. The tournament will host 12 teams from around the world.

3×3 basketball is inspired by several forms of street-ball and known for its urban, innovative spirit. Loud music, masses of spectators, quirky locations (such as downtown Saskatoon) are paired with a stripped-down version of basketball: a small, three-a-side team, half a court and one net. With over 250 million players worldwide, 3×3 basketball is one of the most played recreational sports. Lieffers credits his experience on the University of Saskatchewan’s basketball team not only for his love of 3×3, but for helping him develop off the court. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Huskies—from the incredible coaches to the solid teammates I had, the Huskies really set a precedence in sport in my life.”

Lieffers and his teammates still connect with the Huskies often scrimmaging together or using their court for practice. In the case of the Saskatoon team, 3 of the 4 members are Huskie alum. It was through playing together as Huskies that Lieffers and his 3×3 teammates Nolan Brudehl (BScKin’13) and Michael Linklater bonded.  Now they’re looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd. “We’re thrilled to have our family, friends, and the university community cheering us on,” he said. “We want to thank everyone for their support and show them what we’ve been a part of for all of these years”.

As 3×3 basketball will be a sport in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Lieffers is excited for the game to continue to gain popularity and recognition. The Saskatoon Masters tournament will offer an amateur tournament; Lieffers hopes that youth come out to experience the unique quality of the sport. “It’s given me the opportunity to play professionally with some of the people I love most, travel the world, and still manage to start a family and focus on a building an academic career,” he says.

Alumnae honoured for excellence in teaching

Alumnae Erica Thompson (MEd’15) and Andrea Regier (BEd’01) were two of 11 teachers honoured at the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence in Ottawa. The award honours exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers for their remarkable achievements in education and for their commitment to preparing their students for a digital and innovation-based economy.

Andrea Regier (BEd’01) (photo: Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

Regier is a teacher at Bishop James Mahoney High School in Saskatoon. From creative games and music in the classroom, to challenging educational experiences in state of the art research facilities; Regier was recognized for helping her students reach great heights.

Thompson’s background of feminist literature and Indigenous land-based education influences her teaching style. She creates problem-solving activities while honouring and validating the knowledge of the community in order to reach curricular outcomes. Thompson currently works at Chief Julius School in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories.

Read more on Erica Thompson’s and Andrea Regier’s special recognition.

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