The Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association (WLUAA) honoured 2021 recipients of its most prestigious awards, the Awards of Excellence, during a virtual event in September.
“These recipients enrich the student experience and positively contribute to Laurier’s reputation,” says WLUAA President Ryan Smith (BBA ’98), who hosted the awards ceremony. “These recipients also embody what Laurier strives to instill in all of its graduates: the value of leading a life of leadership and purpose.”
The Alumni Awards of Excellence – presented annually thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteer WLUAA board members – recognize achievements of alumni, students and friends of Laurier who have made significant contributions to the university community.
“All of this year’s recipients have taken the knowledge and skills they gained at Laurier to make the world a better place,” says Laurier President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy. “In doing so, they bring great pride to our university.”
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.
While studying at Laurier, Teresa Bennett served as the Student Alumni Association Waterloo campus president and volunteered as the president of Laurier’s Black Medical Leaders of Tomorrow. Bennett also volunteered at the neonatal intensive care unit at Grand River Hospital. Currently, she is a REACH Nexus research assistant at Unity Health Toronto, where she researches HIV stigma in the Canadian context.
“It means the world to me to be the recipient of the Student Alumna award of Excellence,” says Bennett. “My time at Laurier has been a pivotal part of my current successes as I was able to make such meaningful connections with my professors and peers alike, which afforded me opportunities in science, research, healthcare and beyond that continue to push me toward achieving my goals and excelling in my desired fields of study.”
Bennett is also involved with Black Outreach Leadership Directive, a province-wide education initiative seeking to increase the number of Black Ontario high school students attending university. She is also one of the youngest members on the youth committee board at Mount Zion Apostolic Church of Canada.
Eric Sanderson is currently in his fourth year at Laurier and is the Student Alumni Association president on the Brantford campus. Since his first year at Laurier, Sanderson has been involved with student engagement programs including Toast to the Graduating Class, Tag Day and National Philanthropy Day.
“This award is tremendously meaningful to me as it recognizes my contributions to the Laurier community,” says Sanderson. “From the first day I moved into residence from a small high school, Laurier has made me feel welcome and valued. This sense of community made me want to give back to the Laurier community so that other students can feel the same way that I felt. I will forever be grateful to Laurier for turning a shy 18-year-old into a confident and passionate young adult who now has all the necessary tools for success.”
Throughout the pandemic, Sanderson’s dedication to the Student Alumni Association and innovative spirit have remained strong.
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.
Matt Schnarr graduated from Laurier’s Communication Studies program in 1997. Adam Deremo graduated from the university’s BBA program in 2001. Together, they each spent 10 years working in the packaged goods industry with Kraft and Pepsi.
Through their work, the two noticed an opportunity. Energy drinks had become incredibly popular, but Schnarr and Deremo felt they didn’t taste great. They spent a year researching, conducting focus groups and raising almost $1 million through investors to create a new product. In August 2012, the pair launched AWAKE Chocolate. Within eight months of the launch, the AWAKE chocolate bar was sold in 6,000 stores across Canada.
“It's incredibly fulfilling to win this award from Laurier,” says Deremo. “I was still a BBA student when I decided that I wanted to one day build a brand from scratch, so to be recognized for doing just that is very rewarding. Laurier could hardly have played a bigger role in our success. It was the first place to sell AWAKE Chocolate and we've hired many fellow Golden Hawks over the years, so it would be fair to say that Laurier is a part of AWAKE's DNA.”
Schnarr and Deremo, along with a business partner, appeared on the television program Dragons’ Den in 2012 and their pitch won them investment support from Laurier alumnus David Chilton (BA '95, DLitt '06) and Tony Chapman, CEO of Capital C. Since then, AWAKE has developed additional products and expanded into the U.S. market.
Throughout their entrepreneurial journey, Schnarr and Deremo have remained steadfast Laurier supporters. From donating products to support initiatives including the Student Alumni Association’s Happy Hawks exam break and Thrive Kits to hosting after-work socials and mentoring future entrepreneurs, Schnarr and Deremo have continued to be champions of their alma mater.
“I love Laurier,” says Schnarr. “I have only fond experiences of my time there and enjoy coming back to experience the campus and network with the students. Many of our best employees have been Laurier graduates. It is a great place to hire from, as Laurier does a wonderful job selecting high quality people and enriching their education through experiences in and out of the classroom.”
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.
T'áncháy Redvers – a Dene/Métis two-spirit social justice warrior, writer, creator, facilitator and multidisciplinary performer belonging to Deninu Kųę́ First Nation in Treaty 8 Territory – is the co-founder of We Matter, an organization dedicated to uplifting Indigenous youth through positive support to address the suicide crisis and lack of mental health supports within Indigenous communities.
We Matter has made a positive impact in the lives of thousands of Indigenous youth and their communities across Canada and around the world. As the only national Indigenous-led, youth-centred organization with this mission, We Matter plays an important role in the empowerment of young Indigenous people.
“Acknowledgment from Laurier of the work and advocacy I have dedicated myself to is acknowledgement of Indigenous youth voices, needs and vision,” says Redvers. “It is critical now more than ever to honour the diverse realities and hopes of Indigenous young people across this country.
“My time in the Faculty of Social Work Indigenous Field of Study program was transformative and instrumental in better understanding my role as a helper. During my time there, I felt supported, connected and challenged by the mentors around me – all of which aided in my courage and inspiration to continue the important work I truly believe is needed to ensure the safety and wellness of my Indigenous community.”
Redvers’ debut book of poetry, Fireweed, was released in 2019. Redvers is also a model with Nordstrom and appeared in a prominent company campaign promoting diversity and inclusiveness.
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.
In the short time since graduation from Laurier’s Health Science program in 2018, Emin Nawaz has made an exceptional contribution to helping communities respond to climate change, as well as address mental health challenges – two pressing issues of our time.
In her role as a policy analyst at Health Canada’s Climate Change and Innovation Bureau, Nawaz has demonstrated exceptional leadership, technical expertise and devoted effort helping communities across Canada manage the health risks of climate change. Nawaz has also been recognized for her commitment to wellness within her workplace through practical initiatives to support mental health.
“I am incredibly honoured to be recognized as Laurier’s Young Alumna of the Year,” says Nawaz. “Laurier will always hold a very special place in my heart and I feel extremely grateful for the community that has inspired me to grow both personally and professionally.
I’ve been able to develop lifelong relationships with friends, faculty, staff and mentors who have provided me with an immense amount of support. Laurier continues to shape the person that I am today and I hope to always embody its values of inspiring lives of leadership and purpose.”
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.
Bob Armstrong graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965 and has been an exceptional friend and supporter of Laurier ever since.
After graduation, Armstrong went on to become a highly respected investment manager in institutional and retail sales. He founded several successful companies and is known as one of Canada’s foremost asset managers for high-net worth individuals and foundations.
Throughout his career, Armstrong has done much to make Laurier and its communities proud. For more than 30 years, Armstrong and his wife have generously given back to their communities through the Marion Armstrong Charitable Foundation, which places a focus on helping individuals with intellectual disabilities and children fighting cancer.
Armstrong has also been a proud champion and supporter of Laurier, donating generously to the university. Additionally, Armstrong has contributed to the development of Laurier and the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics through his advice and guidance. From his long and successful career to his extensive philanthropic work, Armstrong has made a positive impact.
“From Shinerama in my first year during frosh week, we learned to give back to the community,” Armstrong says. “Now, fittingly, in retirement we are contributing actively and financially to Laurier. The circle is closed.”
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.
The co-founder of Galvanize Worldwide, Jeff Gadway is a sought-after marketing leader with experience spanning corporate, digital, social and product marketing. He has led more than 20 product launches and marketing programs for products including smartphones, software, applications and cloud services.
Gadway serves as an ideal example of the values of mentorship and volunteerism that Laurier strives to encourage in its students. He continues to give back to his alma mater through his active role as a teacher, mentor and supporter of the entrepreneurial community at Laurier.
“I thought my relationship with Laurier was over when I graduated,” Gadway says. “I couldn't have been more wrong. It simply changed. Over the last 14 years my experiences with Laurier remain a source of energy, a testbed for new ideas and a catalyst for personal and professional growth.
“Whether it is as a mentor to LaunchPad companies; coach for Enactus; judge for case competitions; guest lecturer or part-time faculty member in the Lazaridis School, working with Laurier staff and students gives me a great sense of pride and fulfilment. Being recognized with the the Forever Golden Hawk award is a great honour. It's a reminder that the impact that Laurier has during some of the most formative years of our lives continues to pay dividends well beyond the time we spend on campus.”
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.
During his tenure as dean of the Faculty of Music, Glen Carruthers was an inspiring leader, a caring mentor and a passionate advocate. During his 10 years at Laurier, Carruthers played a key role in raising the reputation of Laurier’s Faculty of Music and growing and enhancing its programming. Carruthers passed away on Dec. 24, 2020 at the age of 66 after a battle with cancer, leaving a lasting legacy at Laurier and within the Canadian music community.
Within the Faculty of Music and the university community as a whole, Carruthers was known for his unwavering commitment to students and for the warmth and generosity he showed to everyone he met. Prior to joining Laurier, he served as dean of the School of Music at Brandon University from 1998 to 2010 and served 10 years at Lakehead University, where he was the founding chair of the Department of Music.
“Glen was always a student at heart and had many Laurier courses in mind to pursue after retirement,” says Glen’s wife, Heather Carruthers. “He would have been so delighted to become a ‘forever’ member of the family of Laurier Alumni.
“It is important to note that Glen was able to achieve what he did at Laurier because of all the fantastic people he worked with, be it staff, students, faculty, administration, or the community. It was thanks to their support and cooperation that so many of his visions for the Faculty of Music could come to fruition.”
Under Carruthers’ leadership, Laurier introduced its Master’s in Community Music program in 2013 and the Bachelor of Music in Community Music in 2016. In 2015, he helped launch the Laurier Conservatory of Music and negotiate acquisition of the Beckett School of Music. He was also the driving force behind Laurier’s Making Space for Music fundraising campaign.
Carruthers held many professional titles over the years and served as chair of several national and international organizations. He was especially proud to be appointed an honorary member of the Canadian University Music Society in 2016 and receive the Arts Leadership Award from the Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans in 2018. Carruthers published more than 100 articles in the field of musicology.