Seven Distinguished Canadians to Receive Honorary Degrees at 2019 Trent University Convocation Ceremonies

April 1, 2019

Philanthropists, journalists, First Nations and human rights advocates, and conservationist to be awarded Trent’s highest honour

Silhouette of a graduate on the stage at a convocation ceremony at Trent University Symons campus.

Joining the ranks of decades of esteemed honourees, seven distinguished Canadians will be presented with an honorary degree from Trent University at the upcoming June 2019 convocation ceremonies.

The 2019 recipients include a Durham Region developer and philanthropist; a nurse practitioner and researcher serving First Nations communities; one of Canada’s greatest conservationists; a former Toronto Star editor and journalist rights advocate; protector of rights for First Nations children; founder of NOW magazine and social change activist; and a defender of the legal status of Indigenous women.

"I am delighted to award honorary degrees to this year’s inspiring recipients,” said Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University. “All of these individuals are devoted to valued ideals that we uphold at Trent while making a significant difference in our society at large.”

The following individuals will be presented with Trent’s highest honour at this year’s ceremonies:

Jerry Coughlan – May 30, 2019 – 2:00 p.m. ceremony, Trent University Durham GTA
Durham Region developer and philanthropist will be awarded an honorary doctorate of laws for his community leadership and generous support of organizations throughout the region.

Mae Katt – Monday, June 3, 2019 – 2:00 p.m. ceremony, Peterborough
Primary healthcare nurse practitioner, researcher and justice advocate will be honoured with an honorary doctorate of laws for her work in the area of First Nations health.

Mark Angelo – Tuesday, June 4, 2019 – 10:00 a.m. ceremony, Peterborough
Conservationist , educator and communicator will be recognized with an honorary doctorate of science for his work in the area of river conservation in Canada and throughout the world.

Michael Cooke – Tuesday, June 4, 2019 – 2:00 p.m. ceremony, Peterborough
Board chair of Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and former Toronto Star editor, will be awarded with an honorary doctorate of literature for his innovative contributions as a journalist, editor and human rights advocate.

Dr. Cindy Blackstock – Wednesday, June 5, 2019 – 10:00 a.m. ceremony, Peterborough  
Executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada will be recognized with an honorary doctorate of laws for her advocacy and commitment to social justice for Indigenous peoples including youth and women.

Jeannette Corbiere Lavell – Wednesday, June 5, 2019 – 2:00 p.m. ceremony, Peterborough
Community worker and advocate for the legal status rights of Indigenous women will be awarded with an honorary doctorate of laws for her efforts toward protecting equality and recognition for First Nations women and children.

Alice Klein – Thursday, June 6, 2019 – 10:00 a.m. ceremony, Peterborough
Co-founder, editor and publisher of NOW magazine, social advocate and president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression will be honoured with an honorary doctorate of laws for her dedication to truth in journalism.


Jerry Coughlan
Jeremiah (Jerry) Coughlan of Ajax, Ontario is a well-known developer based in the Durham Region. The founder of Coughlan Homes (J.F.C. Developments) is also known for much more than the houses and commercial buildings such as the Deer Creek Golf Club that his company has created. The master builder, visionary and community leader is revered by the local community for his generosity, humility and kindness.

As the youngest of 11 children, the self-made business man started his own construction business at the age of 20 in 1968 with a loan from his mother and a passion for learning. Known as the “boy builder,” he would ask accomplished developers to look at their plans so he could learn from the best in the business. Believing that he has been lucky in his career, Mr. Coughlan was eager to share his own success to give back to the community that supported him. Early on, he founded the Jeremiah and Mildred Coughlan Foundation to support high school students and students in financial need. Without sponsorships provided by the foundation, these students would not have been able to afford a university education.  

Mr. Coughlan has since donated over $15 million dollars to local organizations that have special meaning to him including the construction of a new building at the Ajax-Pickering Salvation Army, the Shoulder Centre at the Ajax-Pickering Hospital, the Ajax-Pickering Hospital Foundation in support of the new North Pickering Health and Wellness Centre and Grandview Children’s Centre which will be naming a building at their new state-of-the-art centre in his honour.

Mae Katt
Virginia May Katt (Mae Katt) is a member of Temagami First Nation (Ojibway) and a justice advocate. She is a primary health care nurse practitioner with an expansive skill set in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Her forty-year career as a clinician, health administrator, educator, advocate and researcher has been dedicated to improving all aspects of First Nations health in northern communities.

Ms. Katt develops programs and teams to treat prescription dependence and provide opiate addiction treatment. Her work on a program at a First Nations high school lead to a significant drop in student opioid use. Her efforts with drug addiction have also received media attention from outlets including the Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, and were featured in the documentary, Rings of Fire.

As a member of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, she developed best practice guidelines regarding substance abuse. Ms. Katt also worked in senior management positions at Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health (Ontario) and Nishnawbe Aski Nation, representing many Ojibway and Cree First Nations in northern Ontario. She developed the Native Nursing Entry program at the School of Nursing at Lakehead University and became its first coordinator.

Mark Angelo
British Columbia’s Mark Angelo has travelled more than 1,000 rivers throughout the globe, perhaps more than any other person. Declaring that rivers are the arteries of the world, he is a devoted conservationist, paddler, educator, researcher and high-profile communicator dedicated to protecting and conserving our Canadian and international waterways. He was named as one of Canada's 100 greatest modern-day explorers by Canadian Geographic magazine.

Mr. Angelo is the founder and chair of BC Rivers Day and World Rivers Day, celebrated in over 60 countries around the world. He is the chair emeritus of the Rivers Institute of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). He has been recognized with the Order of British Columbia, the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. He was also honoured with the United Nations Stewardship Award, the National River Conservation Award and was inducted into the Fraser River Hall of Fame. He earned the Barsby Award for lifetime achievement, the highest award bestowed by the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

Mr. Angelo is a fellow of the Explorers Club and Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. He continues to work with river-related and environmental organizations throughout the world and mentors young people.

Michael Cooke
Michael Cooke is known as the longest-serving editor in the Toronto Star’s recent history. His journalism career began at the age of 17, working as an apprentice newspaper reporter on Britain’s Fleet Street before immigrating to Toronto in the 1970s and landing a job on the copy desk of the Toronto Star. Under his leadership, The Star won the JF Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism at the Canadian Journalism Foundation Awards in 2010, 2011 and 2014. Mr. Cooke was known for incorporating the use of technology and social media into the paper’s coverage of events including the 2010 Toronto G20 summit and protests.

However, he began a new story in 2010. Dedicated to social justice and the protection of individual and civil liberties, Mr. Cooke joined JHR and is now serving as board chair of Canada’s largest, international media development organization that trains journalists to report on human rights and governance issues in their communities.

Mr. Cooke has been travelling and teaching pro bono throughout Africa. He has also taught for other NGO’s in Uganda, Myanmar and Bangladesh. From abroad he files stories, conducts journalism needs assessments, and workshops about issues including the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Mr. Cooke also inspired a training program with media across Canada. Going forward he will continue to help journalists prosper in the digital age and work with humanitarian projects and human rights reporting.

Dr. Cindy Blackstock
Dr. Cindy Blackstock is a member of the Gitxsan First Nation and the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. The internationally recognized activist and scholar has been described as “the greatest civil rights heroine in our country,” “a moral voice” and one of “Canada’s foremost spokespersons for the rights of First Nations children.”

Throughout her 25-year career in social work, the professor at the McGill University School of Social Work, implements evidence-informed solutions and Indigenous knowledge to address modern-day inequalities faced by First Nations children and youth.  As the creator of Touchstones of Hope, a process that unites public child welfare practitioners and members of First Nations communities, Dr. Blackstock is creating a large reconciliation movement.

In 2007, Dr. Blackstock, along with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, launched a complaint showing discrimination against reserve-based children through systemic underfunding and lack of services. Hailed as a landmark case, the 2016 ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Government of Canada to end discriminatory practices.

In 2017, Amnesty International awarded Canada's Indigenous rights movement its Ambassador of Conscience Award. Dr. Blackstock was included as a representative of Canada's Indigenous peoples. Her work has received recognition from: the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (Indspire), the Indigenous Bar Association, Frontline Defenders, the Assembly of First Nations, BC Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Law Society of Upper Canada (Law Society of Ontario), the Broadbent Institute, Canadian Labour Congress and more. 

Jeannette Corbiere Lavell
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell was born into the Wiikwemikoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island. She is an Anishinaabe kwe community worker who has dedicated her decades-long career to raising the status of Canadian Indigenous women. She pursues equality and recognition for First Nations women and children. Since 2008 she has continued to serve as Anishinabek Nation Citizenship Commissioner. In addition to pursuing human rights, she is also focused on water protection.

Soon after her marriage in 1970 to a non-Indigenous man, Ms. Corbiere Lavell lost her legal status.  As this condition did not apply to Indigenous men, she brought forward a court challenge to the Indian Act. Initially this challenge failed, but eventually inspired other challenges, leading to action toward gender discrimination and success and fairness for Indigenous women.

Ms. Corbiere Lavell was the president of both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Nishnawbe Institute and Anduhyaun Inc., an organization that supports Indigenous women and children in their efforts to maintain their cultural identity, self-esteem, economic, physical and spiritual well-being. Ms. Corbiere Lavell founded the Ontario Native Womens Association (ONWA) and was a Cabinet appointee on Ontario’s Commission on the Native Justice System. She worked as a community consultant for the Government of Ontario and also worked as a principal and a school teacher.

She was invested into the Order of Canada in 2018. The Ontario Native Womens Association established the Jeannette Corbiere Lavell Award in 1987, which is presented each year to deserving Indigenous women demonstrating similar qualities and dedication. She was awarded an honorary degree from York University in 2016 for her work as a Native women’s rights activist and educator. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Governor General’s Person Award in 2009 in recognition of those who fight for women’s rights in Canada.

Alice Klein

Alice Klein is a social activist, writer, entrepreneur, eco-feminist and unapologetic social change advocate. She is also the veteran editor, CEO, and owner of NOW, Toronto’s longest running, free alternative media organization. She co-founded NOW in 1981 to address the need for an alternative press to cover cultural and social movements that were being ignored by mainstream media. Reaching half a million print and digital readers, Ms. Klein freely admits that the progressive publication serves as a crusader for social and environmental justice.

In the era of #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movement, Ms. Klein emphasizes the need for independent journalism. She is a former president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), serves on its board along with that of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia based in Washington, D.C., and in the past has also served on the boards of the Centre for Social Innovation and the Toronto Arts Council. She is a founding member of Green Enterprise Toronto (GET) and one of the co-creators of and Project Democracy.

In 2000, Ms. Klein was named one of the 100 Graduates Who Shaped the Century by the University of Toronto Alumni Association. In 2010, she received The Living Institute Cultural Innovator Award for her work on NOW, and in 2012 received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. 

Learn more about Trent University’s 2019 convocation ceremonies:

About Trent University
One of Canada's top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that's personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent's unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent's students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent's Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham Greater Toronto Area, delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA.

For more information, contact:
Kate Gennings, communications and media relations officer, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x6180 or

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