Improving access to education, advocating for health equity and mentoring a new generation of socially conscious entrepreneurs: The recipients of the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association's 2020 Awards of Excellence reflect Laurier’s commitment to its communities at home and the wider world.
“This year’s Awards of Excellence recipients illustrate the diverse ways members of Laurier’s alumni community are making a difference in their communities,” says Laurier President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy. “Each of the individuals recognized have made an outstanding contribution and we are proud of the honour they have brought to Laurier."
– President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy
Laurier paid tribute to its Alumni Awards of Excellence recipients during a virtual 2020 Awards of Excellence ceremony in October. Meet this year's honourees:
The Alumnus or Alumna of the Year Award is presented to recognize outstanding achievement by a graduate of any Laurier program who has brought honour to the university.
Jeremy Auger is changing the ways we teach, learn and work.
Auger is co-founder and chief strategy officer with Desire2Learn, an internationally renowned educational technology company best known for its Brightspace learning management system.
After completing Laurier’s Executive Master's in Technology Management program in 2012, Auger initiated a partnership between Desire2Learn and the university’s Faculty of Education to support the Educator and Leadership Institute, a Laurier-led program that works to improve teaching and leadership capacity in underserviced classrooms in Haiti, Egypt and Nepal.
“My time at Laurier instilled the importance of quality instruction and a community mindset,” says Auger. “I feel a deep sense of responsibility to help provide a quality education experience to learners regardless of geography. I am humbled and grateful to receive this award.”
Auger’s expertise is sought after. He is a member of the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Council, which advises on skills development and training priorities for the future of work and areas for policy and program innovation. He has also contributed to the transformation of the City of Kitchener’s downtown core as a member of the city’s economic development advisory committee. Auger is also a national board member with the Information Technology Association of Canada.
The Forever Golden Hawk Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna for an outstanding ongoing contribution to Laurier through support, volunteerism or service to the university.
Laurier's athletic programs scored a touchdown in the heart of Peter Izzio, fueling his desire to give back.
Izzio, a former football player and coach with the Golden Hawks, has been contributing to varsity sports and student athletes at Laurier for more than 25 years. In 2018, he created the Score to Win program, donating $100 to Laurier’s football program for every touchdown or field goal the team scores during home games. In 2019, Izzio extended Score to Win to the university’s women’s hockey program.
“My experience as a student athlete at Laurier has shaped who I am today,” says Izzio. “The passion and drive I have are a result of the relationships I made and the experiences I had at Laurier. My university experience has had a life-long impact on me and I hope my support for Laurier’s athletic programs can make a similar impact on other student-athletes.”
Izzio is also a generous volunteer. He has served on several athletic committees, including the football legacy fundraising committee and football dinner committee. He has also been recognized as a builder in the Golden Hawk Hall of Fame.
The Honorary Alumnus, Alumna or Alumni of the Year award is presented to individuals who have brought honour to Laurier and its community of alumni, students, faculty and staff through significant and often selfless contributions to the university or local, provincial, national or international communities.
Manfred and Penny Conrad are invested in a thriving community.
The Conrads are generous supporters of several innovative initiatives in Waterloo Region, including at Laurier. In 2010, the couple donated $1 million to Laurier’s Faculty of Music in support of music therapy research. Laurier officially named its music therapy research centre the Manfred and Penny Conrad Institute for Music Therapy Research in recognition of the gift. Celebrating its 10th year in operation in 2020, the institute connects clinical practice and research in music therapy.
The Conrads also support Laurier students through the Manfred and Penny Conrad Graduate Award of Distinction. The endowed scholarship is awarded annually to a Music Therapy master’s student who gives back to community through volunteer work.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna for work as a business founder or entrepreneurial leader with a demonstrated ability to generate business growth.
David Ceolin is helping the next generation of entrepreneurs build a better tomorrow.
Ceolin is the founder of Innovation Grade Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage Canadian technology startup companies challenging the status quo in healthcare, education and business. Ceolin founded the firm in 2009, after Pitney Bowes US acquired his digital marketing services company Digital Cement two years earlier. Under Ceolin, Digital Cement’s clientele included Kraft Foods, FedEx and the National Basketball Association.
“Laurier has a long tradition of successful alumni who have founded companies or helped to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” says Ceolin. “To be recognized as part of that group is an honour.”
Ceolin generously shares his expertise with Laurier students in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. He serves on the investment committee for the Laurier Startup Fund, which provides students hands-on investment experience. Ceolin also supports Laurier students in career planning, arranging panel events and supporting co-operative education positions.
The Award for Community Impact is presented to honour outstanding achievement by a Laurier alumnus or alumna to foster a better world through local, national or international initiatives.
Tracey Weiler’s life revolves around community. The Lazaridis School of Business and Economics instructor volunteers in leadership positions with organizations that support children and youth in Waterloo Region.
Weiler is the president of the Rotary Club of Waterloo and a trustee for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. Other organizations she has shared her time and talents with include the YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo, the Kids Ability Centre for Child Development Foundation, and Our Place Family Resource and Early Years Centre.
“I believe that it is our responsibility to give children the best possible start in life, both our own children and those in our community,” says Weiler. “It means a lot to me to volunteer and make a positive impact.”
Weiler’s volunteer efforts have been widely celebrated. An employee of Sun Life Financial Canada, she received company’s National Volunteer Award in 2018. Weiler also received the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers, awarded by the Governor General of Canada for exceptional volunteer achievements, in 2017.
The Young Alumnus or Alumna of the Year Award is presented to recognize outstanding achievement by a graduate 35 years of age or under who has brought honour to Laurier.
Doctor, advocate, educator and trailblazer: Latif Murji is these things and more.
Passionate about helping under-serviced communities, Murji practices family and emergency medicine in northern Ontario, including in Indigenous communities. He is also a lecturer in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and leads the novel health equity curriculum for medical residents at Scarborough Health Network. Murji has been recognized with prestigious awards for teaching, innovation and leadership.
Murji’s passion for healthcare equity was ignited while he was a student in Laurier’s Health Sciences program.
In 2012, he founded Stand Up for Health, a non-profit organization that develops technology-driven, experiential learning curricula in health equity for medical students. Murji recently returned to Laurier to deliver the keynote address at the Department of Health Sciences’ 10th anniversary celebration in September 2019.
"Laurier was where I met many of my closest friends," says Murji. "It was the community that supported my growth as a leader and an artist, and it was the academic environment which nurtured my passion for health equity. Stand Up for Health would not exist if it wasn't for the courses I took at Laurier, which gave me a framework to understand my own lived experiences and awakened me to the inequities in our society. I am so grateful to Laurier for the inspiration, the support and, most of all, the community."
The Student Alumna or Alumnus of the Year Award acknowledges outstanding achievements by a student in forwarding the objectives of the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association.
Daniel Cryderman made the most of his Laurier experience and helped other students do the same along the way.
Cryderman held numerous student leadership positions during his time at Laurier. An active member of Laurier’s Student Alumni Association, Cryderman served as director: volunteer recruitment, vice-president, and president. Outside of the Student Alumni Association, Cryderman welcomed new students to Laurier’s Waterloo campus as an Orientation Week icebreaker and served as captain of an intramural frisbee team.
“It is an incredible honour to be recognized as Laurier’s Student Alumnus of the Year,” says Cryderman. “Becoming an alumnus is bittersweet as my entire journey at Laurier, especially my time with the Student Alumni Association, has provided many opportunities to develop my network and career. I look forward to staying connected with Laurier and my fellow alumni.”