Bookmark and Share

Five Trent University Alumni Award Winners Share their Inspiration and Insights

Young entrepreneur who turned learning disability into revolutionary assistive technology company is among five exceptional alumni honorees

Five Trent University Alumni Award Winners Share their Inspiration and Insights
Five Trent University Alumni Award Winners Share their Inspiration and Insights

A cognitive psychology researcher, a technology entrepreneur, a pioneer in midwifery and health education, an award-winning CBC production executive, and a high school principal: though their careers span many different fields, all can trace the beginnings of their success stories back to their experiences as Trent University students.

Five exceptional Trent alumni were recognized for their outstanding contributions to their fields and to the university at the 9th Annual Alumni Awards Ceremony, held in the Barbara Frum Atrium at the CBC Production Facilities in Toronto on Saturday, May 3. More than 100 alumni, staff, faculty and special guests gathered to celebrate the achievements of Jennifer Dettman ‘88, an award-winning producer at CBC; Dr. Chris Michael Herdman ‘74, a professor at Carleton University involved in advancing scientific research; DJ Cunningham ‘01, a young entrepreneur who turned a learning disability into the source for revolutionary technology; Dr. Farah Shroff ‘83, a leading educator in midwifery and a social justice activist; and Michael J. Nolan ‘69, past principal at St. Peter’s Secondary School and a long-time Trent volunteer leader.

“Speaking with active, passionate, accomplished alumni – and honouring those who have distinguished themselves in diverse fields – brings home so much of what we work to achieve at Trent University,” said Dr. Steven E. Franklin, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University. “Your success, your impact in the world, the ways in which you make a difference – to art and culture, education, public service, business, ethics, philanthropy, and science – these express the very best of who we are as a university.”

Dr. Franklin himself was also celebrated with an honorary membership of the Trent University Alumni Association (TUAA): he and Anne Wright, chair of Trent’s Board of Governors, were both recognized for their significant contributions to both the University and the Association.

“Trent University exists to inspire and equip the next generation – individually and collectively – with the passion, confidence, skills and intellectual rigour to advance their communities and the world,” said Don Tapscott ’66, chancellor of Trent University, during his closing remarks for the evening. “We have an exceptional opportunity over the next year to shine a light on the success of our alumni, faculty expertise, innovations in teaching and research, and Trent’s unique approach to delivering an education that is both personal and purposeful.” 

The evening featured memorable musical performances by Trent alumnus Nick Ferrio ’06 and friend Jay Swinnerton, and delicious food by Farm and Wild. Special guests included members of the University’s Board of Governors, president of the Trent University Alumni Association Bob Taylor-Vaisey ’66, Trent alumnus and emcee Jack Roe ’73, and several previous Alumni Award winners.

“It was such an honour for Trent’s Alumni Association to have this opportunity to celebrate and recognize alumni for the contributions they are making in their work and communities,” said Lee Hays, director of Alumni Affairs at Trent. “There was a great sense of pride and appreciation in the Barbara Frum Atrium on Saturday evening as the award recipients reflected on how Trent’s faculty and intimate learning environment created a space for them to explore, collaborate and find their own path.”

At the event, alumni were honored in four award categories: the Distinguished Alumni Award; the Spirit of Trent Award; Young Leader Award, and the Tony Storey Service Award.

The 2014 Alumni Awards recipients are:

Distinguished Alumni Award
Presented based on a person's achievement and leadership in their field. Recipients show leadership in business, industry, a profession or in public life. They have brought honour to Trent University through endeavours which have earned them prominence within their field.

Jennifer Dettman ’88
Ms. Dettman is an award winning producer and is widely recognized within the Canadian television and media industry for her influential impact and visionary leadership. As one of the country’s most well-respected broadcasting executives, Ms. Dettman has built her career with CBC and is currently the executive director of Studio and Unscripted Content. In this role, Ms. Dettman oversees all factual entertainment, unscripted comedy, live event specials and arts programming for CBC Television (including Dragons’ Den, Battle of the Blades and others). She also oversees all sports programming including Hockey Night in Canada (the most successful hockey program in history), the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, 2014 FIFA World Cup Soccer and the 2015 Pan Am Games to be held in Toronto. She puts her fingerprint on a full third of programming content including the development, production and commissioning of all talk shows, game shows, afternoon lifestyle, reality, live event specials, unscripted comedy, arts programming and sports. Ms. Dettman is also known for being the producer of the massive One Million Acts of Green campaign that inspired Canadians coast-to-coast and saved 100 million kg of greenhouse gases in just 100 days. This is a major accomplishment that epitomizes her vision, knowledge and perseverance. 
Ms. Dettman received her BA in Politics from Trent and a degree from the Ryerson Ivey School of Business in 1994. Ms. Dettman also holds leadership training degrees from Banff Executive Leadership, Niagara institute, and Richard Ivey School of Business.

Dr. Chris Michael Herdman ’74
Dr. Herdman has been a faculty member at Carleton University since 1988 where he is currently a professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, as well as scientific director of Carleton University’s Centre for Visualization, Simulation and Modelling (VSIM). During his 25 years at Carleton, Dr. Herdman has distinguished himself as a psychologist and inter-disciplinarian, but particularly as a leader in the establishment and scientific direction of VSIM where he is also the team’s principal investigator. Dr. Herdman has demonstrated unwavering commitment to advancing scientific research, attracting approximately $43M in research funding. He is accredited with securing funding of $28.8M for the Centre, not only $14M from federal and provincial government agencies, but also close to $15M from industry partners. Dr. Herdman’s own research approach is to link basic research in human cognition (such as attention) to the design, implementation and evaluation of advanced human-machine systems through the use of modelling and virtual reality simulations.
      Under Dr. Herdman’s direction, the VSIM Centre has developed over 20 industry partners from across Canada who are actively engaged in research and development. The Centre is also directly connected to key government agencies and research labs, including the NRC, Transport Canada, and Defense R&D labs across Canada. As the director, Dr. Herdman ensures the Centre is very involved in education and outreach, providing hands-on projects for high school students, sponsoring over 50 public tours and demonstrations for government research agencies and federal/provincial government ministries, as well as hosting diplomats, scientists and officials from all over the world.
      Dr. Herdman received his Honours B.Sc. in Psychology in 1979 from Trent University and subsequently a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Alberta. 

Young Leader Award
Recognizes young alumni who have shown outstanding leadership throughout their first 10 years of alumni status either in their professional career and/or community, public or humanitarian service and are 35 years of age or younger.

DJ Cunningham ’01
When Mr. Cunningham was 17 years old, he enlisted with the Canadian Forces. During his time with the Forces, he learned once very important lesson: he learns differently. Mr. Cunningham’s passion and expertise grows out of his deep personal understanding of learning disabilities and from this firsthand experience that he learns differently. After the Forces, Mr. Cunningham received a Bachelor of Business degree from Trent University. When Mr. Cunningham attended Trent, he discovered assistive technologies and was able to take his wisdom from the military of how he learned differently and match that to different pieces of technology. Armed with this knowledge, a door to independence and academic success opened and Mr. Cunningham has now been a user of Assistive Technologies for the past 10 years.
      His lifetime of experiences has resulted in him co-founding his company, LEARNstyle. Mr. Cunningham currently leads a team of over 26 employees, all of whom have either direct or personal experiences with learning disabilities. His pioneering vision for the use of Assistive Technology has grown and his philosophy denotes that although it is “truly necessary for some, it is also extremely beneficial for all.” Now, Mr. Cunningham is revolutionizing the methodology for determining a student's preferred learning style with a web-based, gamified inventory tool called PULSE which stands for Personal Use Learning Style Evaluation. When deployed, PULSE will provide the possibility of substantial operational efficiencies for schools to achieve improved student success and achievement. Mr. Cunningham is also currently featured as an Education Changemaker though the MaRS Centre in Toronto.

Spirit of Trent Award
Presented to alumni who have made a difference, through contributions to the University, the alumni association or the community.

Dr. Farah Shroff ’83
Dr. Shroff’s time at Trent was filled with adventure and activity. She was the elected student to serve on Trent’s Board of Governors and participated widely in campus life. Dr. Shroff was involved in a wide range of sports and clubs, wrote articles for The Arthur, performed as a solo singer at various Trent events, acted in plays, performed as a dancer and participated in social justice activities on campus.
Throughout her thirty-year career, Dr. Shroff has continued to demonstrate the values and lessons she learned at Trent. She is passionate about making the world a better place through her leadership and enduring contribution towards midwifery, holistic health, social justice and community wellness. After earning a degree in biology and native studies from Trent, Dr. Shroff went to the University of Manchester and earned her Master’s Degree in Primary Health Care with Distinction and earned her PhD at the University of Toronto. Dr. Shroff was the Social Scientist of Canada’s first midwifery education program at Ryerson University, which was rated as the world leader in midwifery education. Dr. Shroff also taught within the sociology department at Trent University from 1992-1994. As a testament to her prolific work, in October 2012, Dr. Shroff was invited as part of the Canadian delegation that observed the Ukrainian elections. She now teaches part-time at the University of British Columbia in the Medical School’s Department of Family Practice and the School of Population and Public Health, and works as a consultant in health and social issues. She is also a teacher of yoga, dance and self-defense.
Currently Dr. Shroff is very active in her home community in British Columbia where she works closely with First Nations people to address environmental concerns. Throughout her travels around the world with her family, as well as her numerous accolades, Dr. Shroff has proven herself not only a distinguished academic and teacher but also an enthusiastic and joyful ambassador for Trent University.

Tony Storey Service Award
Presented to an alumni volunteer who has demonstrated a significant and long-term commitment to the Trent University Alumni Association (TUAA).

Michael J. Nolan ’69
Over the past 40 years, Mr. Nolan has provided broad and thoughtful service of the highest quality to Trent University, all marked with the quiet dedication and selflessness which marks a true friend of Trent. Mr. Nolan earned a Bachelor of Arts at Trent before attending the University of Western Ontario where he received his Bachelor and Masters of Education. While at Trent, Mr. Nolan was one of the first rowers and helped to establish the first rowing crew. This same spirit of pioneering has influenced his service to Trent alumni and the University: the importance of adopting new endeavors, approached through measured, courteous and collaborative teamwork.  
Mr. Nolan’s volunteerism first started as a councilor on the Trent University Alumni Association (TUAA), which extended through the 1970s leading up to his presidency of TUAA from 1983 to 1986. After his role as president, he served as the alumni representative on the Trent University Board of Governors from 1987 to 1990, then as a regular board member from 1990 to 1996. From 2005 to 2008 Mr. Nolan served as the co-president of the Peterborough Chapter of the TUAA. It was under his presidency that the inception of regional Chapters was embraced. More recently, he helped in the thoughtful planning of Alumni House. Currently, Mr. Nolan is the lead co-chair of the Alumni Division of the Legacy Campaign.
Mr. Nolan’s leadership role with the TUAA has helped to accelerate awareness of the Association and the value of alumni relations within the broad Trent community. He has led the way in developing long-term strategic planning for the Alumni Association and fostered that development by initiating and hosting the first TUAA retreat at his home, which brought together alumni, faculty, staff and the Board to help create the distinct framework of TUAA. With that same sense of fostering, Mr. Nolan and his wife have opened their home on many occasions to welcome Trent alumni and friends.    

Honorary Alumni Membership
Presented to a person who has made a significant contribution to the life of the University or the Association and who is selected by the Council of the Association, to be known as an honorary member. Dr. Franklin and Ms. Wright are receiving honorary membership to recognize outstanding service as their terms come to an end in June.

Dr. Steven E. Franklin, president and vice-chancellor, Trent University
Dr. Steven Franklin was installed as Trent University’s seventh president and vice-chancellor in July 2009. During his tenure, Dr. Franklin has led an ambitious collaborative enterprise to renew Trent’s vision and planning processes, overall strategic directions, and academic structure to build on the traditions and outstanding legacy of Trent University. His accomplishments include putting in place the University’s first Integrated Plan, launching key initiatives to strengthen Trent’s academic excellence, strategic enrolment management, financial stability, and community engagement.
Under Dr. Franklin’s leadership, the University expanded its program offerings to include degrees in Sustainable Agriculture, Journalism/Media Studies, Social Work, Aquatic Studies, Archaeology, Psychology, Sustainable Studies and Education. The University also expanded its Oshawa Campus, officially moving to its current location on Thornton Road in 2012. Dr. Franklin oversaw the expansion of the Peterborough campus with the opening of the Trent Community Sport and Recreation Centre and the Justin Chiu Stadium; the Life and Health Sciences Building; Bagnani Hall at Traill College, Trent’s graduate college; and the reopening of the Stanley Adamson Powerhouse, which now generates 3.9 megawatts of electricity, provides a large portion of the University’s power supply and is an added revenue source for Trent.
Dr. Franklin holds a Diploma in Forest Management from Lakehead University, a Bachelor of Environmental Studies, Masters of Arts in Physical Geography and a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Remote Sensing. He has held academic and administrative appointments at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Calgary, Memorial University, and the University of Waterloo.  Just prior to taking office at Trent University, Dr. Franklin was the vice-president of research at the University of Saskatchewan (2003-2009). His term as president and vice-chancellor at Trent ends June 30, 2014

Anne Wright, chair, Board of Governors, Trent University
Ms. Anne Wright joined the Trent University Board of Governors in July 2007. She was chair of the Board’s Advancement Committee from 2008 to 2010, chair of the Board’s Executive Committee from 2009 to 2010, and became board chair on July 1, 2011. A chartered accountant, Ms. Wright is an experienced board member with fund raising and government relations expertise. As a volunteer, she served as national president of the Canadian Diabetes Association and as a director of Belmont House, and chaired Belmont's $10 million capital campaign. In her association with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, she was on the Board and chaired the Institute's Foundation board. Resident in Port Perry, she chaired the board of Lakeridge Health in Durham Region. Ms. Wright previously served on the boards of Durham Hospice and the Auxiliary to Lakeridge Health Port Perry and previously served on the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Posted on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

Read More News ยป