June 17, 2024

Annual awards shine spotlight on UCalgary’s outstanding community members

2024 Calgary Awards and Calgary Black Achievement Awards recognize significant achievements
A collage of six people
Top row from left: Naser El-Sheimy, William Rosehart, Patrina Duhaney. Bottom row, from left: Heather Culbert, Clem Martini, Elaine Cairns

There is no doubt that, each year, individuals linked to the University of Calgary make significant and lasting impacts on their community. This year, the City of Calgary honoured several of these remarkable individuals at the 2024 Calgary Awards, while the Calgary Black Chambers honoured recipients at the Calgary Black Achievement Awards, both ceremonies in recognition of the significant contributions to enhancing the lives and social fabric of the city and beyond.

The recipients were announced during ceremonies on June 12 and 14.

Meet the UCalgary community’s 2024 Calgary Awards and Calgary Black Achievement Awards recipients:

Calgary Black Achievement Award (Education)

Dr. Patrina Duhaney, PhD

This award recognizes a Black educator whose educational practices are making a positive impact in the lives of students in the community or an educator whose educational practices are making a positive impact in the lives of Black youth in the community. This award is sponsored by Bow Valley College.

Duhaney, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work, is actively combating anti-Black racism through her roles as an educator, scholar, and activist. As chair of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force, she spearheads initiatives to foster inclusion and celebrate Black excellence within the university and beyond. Her far-reaching impact is also seen in the creation of a summer program empowering Black youth. 

Recognized for her commitment to social justice, Duhaney was awarded the 2023 Faculty Award for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and nominated for the Women Breakthrough Award. She has also secured over $1.3 million in funding for projects focused on creating inclusive spaces and addressing systemic anti-Black racism. 

Calgary Black Achievement Award (Youth Achievement Award)

Douye Igoniderigha

This award recognizes Black individuals under 30 years of age who are positively impacting people around them and making a difference in the community.

Douye Igoniderigha, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Science at UCalgary, has made a significant contribution to the community, driven by his philosophy of inclusivity and growth. This first-generation Nigerian-Canadian has successfully secured over $850,000 in funding to enhance opportunities for Black students and create mental health workshops for immigrant and refugee women. As a co-founder of For the Diaspora and the Black Science Student Network, Igoniderigha has tirelessly worked to provide resources and foster connections for minority students. His outstanding leadership and academic excellence have earned him the esteemed Ted Rogers Future Leaders Scholarship. Beyond UCalgary, Igoniderigha has served as vice president of a national nonprofit and led initiatives to assist Black newcomers.

Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement Award

Elaine S. Cairns, BA’89, BEd’91

This award goes to Calgarians who, over the past 25 years or more, have made significant contributions to the community that improved the quality of life for citizens or brought recognition to the city. 

Cairns, co-executive director and co-founder of the Further Education Society of Alberta (FESA), is recognized for her more than 30 years of dedication to education and literacy. As a specialist, mentor, facilitator and trainer, Cairns champions women’s leadership and literacy and has significantly influenced both provincial and federal literacy policies. 

Best known for co-authoring the award-winning Literacy and Parenting Skills (LAPS) program, Cairns has empowered vulnerable parents to enhance their literacy skills and foster those of their children. Beyond her work with FESA, Cairns has partnered with Indigenous-serving agencies to develop relevant curricula for low-literate learners and has provided training in remote Indigenous communities. 

Her strength-based integrated approach has successfully uplifted low-literate learners and their supporting organizations. Upon her retirement this year, Cairns leaves behind a legacy of commitment to women’s leadership and transformative literacy advocacy.

Calgarian of the Year Award

Heather Culbert

Calgarian of the Year is awarded to an outstanding individual Calgarian who, within the last five years, has made extraordinary contributions to the community, as a volunteer and/or as a professional, that improved the quality of life in Calgary or brought recognition to the city.

Culbert, a dynamic leader with a passion for community enhancement, has dedicated the last decade to numerous philanthropic and advancement initiatives in Calgary. Culbert was a co-Fellow for the Haskayne School of Business’s Jarislowsky Fellowship in Business Management Program from 2020-22. 

After a successful career in the oil and gas sector, Culbert has served as chair of SAIT’s Board of Governors and co-chaired the Promising Futures Campaign, and co-founded Board Ready Women, Axis Connects and the Calgary Influential Women in Business (CIWB) awards. Her commitment extends to her work with the Alberta Cancer Foundation, United Way of Calgary and Area, and the United Way World Leadership Council

Most recently, Culbert championed UCalgary’s new Arthur JE Child Comprehensive Cancer Centre, co-chairing the OWN.CANCER capital campaign to raise more than $250 million. With $225 million already donated, the comprehensive cancer centre, set to open its doors later this year, promises to significantly improve survival rates and outcomes for individuals battling cancer in Calgary and Alberta.

Community Achievement Award (Youth)

Laiba Nasir

The Youth Achievement Award, sponsored by UCalgary, is presented to an individual Calgarian, 18 years old or younger, whose exceptional achievements improved the quality of life in Calgary or brought recognition to the city.

While most students in Grade 10 are trying to figure out life in high school, Nasir founded the Medically Autonomous Youth Society to address gaps in medical education for Calgary's youth. The society has produced guides for 12 local clinics to aid the transition from paediatric to adult health care. 

In addition, Nasir is a leadership volunteer at the Calgary Distress Centre, a STEM advocate for rural Indigenous students, a youth consultant for Alberta Health Services, and a collaborator with Canadians for Global Care. She also contributes to TAKMIL-Canada, which educates more than 3,000 out-of-school children in developing countries. Nasir's impressive achievements, including her selection as a delegate for the 2024 Experiences Canada National Youth Forum and more 35 debate awards, make her a beacon of positive change in Calgary.

International Achievement Award

Dr. Naser El-Sheimy, PhD’96

The International Achievement Award recognizes an exceptional Calgarian whose volunteer and/or professional activities have gained international acclaim or brought recognition to Calgary.

El-Sheimy, a renowned professor of geomatics engineering at UCalgary’s Schulich School of Engineering (SSE), has developed advancements in mobile mapping and positioning technology, transforming the way we navigate. His groundbreaking work underpins everything from smartphone location capabilities and Google Street View, to helping self-driving cars navigate, firefighters locate wildfires and rescue teams find people in distress. 

As a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair, he is a mentor, entrepreneur and founder of TECTERRA, Canada's largest geomatics innovation hub. TECTERRA has sparked hundreds of Canadian startups, injecting millions of dollars into our economy while fostering local talent through scholarships and entrepreneurial training. Though rooted in Calgary, El-Sheimy's influence is global, with collaborations spanning Europe, Asia and the Middle East. His achievements have positioned Calgary as a centre of excellence in global navigation research.

Community Achievement Award (Education)

Dr. William Rosehart, PhD 

This award is presented to an individual Calgarian who has enhanced learning opportunities for Calgarians or brought recognition to Calgary due to outstanding academic achievement in their field.

As the Schulich School of Engineering’s (SSE) dean, Rosehart is a fervent advocate for excellence in engineering education through innovation and community engagement. Since his appointment in 2014, he has led the expansion of SSE’s curriculum, launching new undergraduate and graduate programs that have increased student access to the engineering profession. These initiatives include new undergraduate programs in sustainable systems engineering and biomedical engineering, and a one-year Master of Engineering software specialization. 

His dedication to community building has resulted in numerous youth outreach activities, inspiring future engineers. His leadership has not only broadened engineering opportunities in Calgary, but has also strengthened the local community and economy by producing skilled graduates who contribute to local industries.

W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

Clem Martini, BFA’82

The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize is awarded in honour of acclaimed Calgary writer W.O. Mitchell and recognizes literary achievement by Calgary authors.

Martini is a celebrated playwright, novelist and screenwriter with more 30 plays and 13 fiction and non-fiction books to his credit. His text on playwriting, The Blunt Playwright, is employed by colleges and universities across the country. His books include Upside Down: A Family’s Journey Through Mental Illness; the W.O. Mitchell Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness; and the 2018 Alberta Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year, The Unravelling

A passionate advocate on issues associated with suicide, mental illness-related stigma and family caregiving, Martini has been a member of the Canadian Mental Health Commission and an invited speaker at a number of conferences, symposia and health-related gatherings. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a recipient of the ATB Financial Healing through the Arts Award, and a professor of drama in the School of Creative and Performing Arts, at UCalgary.

Creating meaningful progress

"The University of Calgary takes immense pride in acknowledging the selfless efforts of our community members," says Amanda Affonso, BA’00, associate vice-president of alumni, community and partnerships.

"Seeing so many of UCalgary's faculty, staff and alumni celebrated annually at the Calgary Awards and at this year's Calgary Black Achievement Awards is truly heartening. The dedication and commitment exemplified by this year's honourees clearly demonstrates that the University of Calgary is a place to start something incredible. 

"Whether it's sparking conversations that strengthen our collective bonds, launching initiatives that uplift community members, developing cutting-edge technologies that transform the way we navigate, penning literary works that shine a light on mental illness, or filling the gaps in medical education for Calgary’s youth, our honourees have proven the power of entrepreneurial thinking in creating meaningful progress.”

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