The continued remarkable contributions of Trent alumni to the betterment of their communities and, in many cases, the world as a whole, will again be celebrated this fall as the Trent University Alumni Association (TUAA) presents the 2020 Alumni Awards.
“We are pleased to celebrate the 2020 award winners and share with the entire Trent community just how proud we are of their contributions and accomplishments,” said Lee Hays, director, Alumni Engagement & Services. “The recipients are outstanding examples of the impact of a Trent education.”
This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, recognized for their leadership and prominence within their field, include: Peterborough’s own Rhonda Barnet ’87, president and chief operating officer of AVIT Manufacturing; Dr. Mark Gessner ’84, professor at the Berlin Institute of Technology; Dr. Peter Ross ’81, vice-president of research for Vancouver-based Ocean Wise; and Dr. Jamie Benidickson ’67, professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa.
All 2020 awards will be presented this fall as part of a series of online events. The full listing of the 2020 Alumni Awards winners, also including Spirit of Trent, Young Leader, and Paul Delaney awards are listed below:
Distinguished Alumni Awards
Recipients of these awards demonstrate leadership in business, industry, a profession or in public life. These honoured members of the Trent community have earned prominence in their field (or beyond) with vision, commitment, creativity and leadership.
Rhonda Barnet ’87, B.Sc. Mathematics
The president and chief operating officer of AVIT Manufacturing (formerly Steelworks Design
co-founded with her husband Don Barnet), Ms. Barnet’s passionate promotion of small to medium-sized Canadian manufacturers has turned heads. Her recent appointment to the federal government’s Industry Strategy Council is a testament to the widespread respect she has earned.
A director with the Kawartha Manufacturers’ Association, Ms. Barnet sat as chair of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) for six years – the first woman to serve in that role – and launched CME’s Women In Manufacturing Working Group to elevate the role and participation of women in the Canadian manufacturing sector.
Ms. Barnet has stayed closely connected to the University as a guest speaker and panel member as well as volunteering with the alumni mentoring program. In addition, her staunch commitment to the betterment of the Peterborough community-at-large has been and remains clear. Her tireless volunteer work was at the heart of her 2017 induction into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.
Prof. Jamie Benidickson ’67, B.A. Honours History
The author of several heralded books and publications related to environmental law, Dr. Benidickson has taught at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law for decades while holding administrative executive positions with a number of academic, professional and voluntary organizations.
Prof. Benidickson’s 2019 book, Levelling the Lake, won the prestigious Albert B. Corey Prize. A past executive director of both the Council of Canadian Law Deans and the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals, he has served as director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Academy of Environmental Law since 2004. In addition, his expertise has benefited several inquiries, including the Royal Commission on Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada and the May 2000 Walkerton E. coli outbreak inquiry.
A long time Trent community volunteer, Prof. Benidickson has served as chair of the THB Symons Trust Committee, and has mentored current and graduated students. In 2014, he was a panelist for the Ideas That Change The World Symposium held as part of Trent’s 50th anniversary celebration. Prior to that, he was a contributing author for the book Tom Symons: A Canadian Life.
Dr. Mark Gessner ’84, B.Sc. Honours, Biology
A widely and highly-respected scientist in terms of his countless contributions to the advancement of freshwater and ecosystem science, Dr. Gessner has, since 2011, been a professor at the Berlin Institute of Technology and a department head at Berlin’s Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), serving as the acting director of the latter until January 2020. Prior he held several positions with the departments of aquatic ecology and limnology in Eawag, Switzerland.
Beyond his academic work, Dr. Gessner has served on numerous boards and committees around the globe, including currently held positions with France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the German Water Science Alliance, the International Society of Limnology and the European Science Foundation. In 2019, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III in France and elected a fellow of the Freshwater Biological Association based in the United Kingdom.
In the lab and in the field, Dr. Gessner’s many heralded contributions to freshwater and ecosystem science have ranged from detailed methodological studies to experiments aimed at gaining mechanistic insights into ecosystem processes.
Dr. Peter S. Ross ’81, B.Sc. Honours, Biology
The vice-president of research for Vancouver-based Ocean Wise, Dr. Ross is a leading international authority on ocean pollution, having penned more than 150 articles and book chapters on the fate and effects of pollutants in the oceans. As such, he has advised conservation teams around the globe on matters pertaining to chemical regulation, at-risk species and ocean health. So passionate is Dr. Ross about this area of study, he moved to the Vancouver Aquarium to continue his work following federal funding cuts to marine mammal research in 2014.
Among several awards Dr. Ross has received is a 2012 Deputy Minister’s Commendation Award for his work as an expert witness at a commission inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River. He has also been recognized by the International Society for Marine Mammalogy.
Serving as a volunteer advisor with several groups, including his current role as Canada’s representative on the Marine Mammal and Seabird Advisory Panel, Dr. Ross led the launch of Pollution Track, the first monitoring program for pollutants in the waters of coastal British Columbia.
Spirit of Trent Award
This award recognizes those who make a difference in the Trent community and continue to demonstrate the values and lessons learned at Trent. Often unsung in their accomplishments, recipients of this award strive to make a difference, and continue to shine the spirit of Trent into their corner of the world.
Bob Taylor-Vaisey ’66, B.A. Honours, History
Most recently the curator of Professor T.H.B. Symons’ extensive archival material, Mr. Taylor-Vaisey, by way of his own consulting firm, has handled records management, and document production and processes for litigation, for corporate clients. Prior he worked in document management and as a corporate archivist for 30 years with Imperial Oil Limited, and served the University of Toronto as an assistant archivist.
Over the past 10 years, Mr. Taylor-Vaisey has consistently dedicated his time to Trent, serving as Alumni Association president from 2011 to 2015, during which time he reconstituted the association, rejuvenated membership, and activated several new initiatives. As a member of the 50th anniversary steering committees for both Trent and Champlain College, he was key in the planning of events marking both milestones. He currently sits as a member of the Alumni College Liaison Team and the task force on alumni college engagement.
Mr. Taylor-Vaisey’s roll-up-his-sleeves work ethic has benefitted the community-at-large as well, clearly visible in his current roles as vice-president of the Peterborough Historical Society, chair of the Trent Lakes Parks, Recreation and Culture Advisory Committee, and member of the Kawartha Land Trust to name but a few of his volunteer roles.
Young Leader Award
This 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.
Chris Chang-Yen Phillips ’08, B.A. Honours, Environmental Science and International Development Studies
Currently podcasting coordinator and grant writer/fund developer with CJSR 88.5 FM in Edmonton, Mr. Phillips is also designing a course on Writing About Science for the University of Alberta where, since early 2019, he has also volunteered with the Dino Lab, cleaning and preparing fossils gathered from Alberta sites.
Mr. Phillips’ final year at Trent saw him selected for the Peter Gzowski Internship at CBC Radio. That experience, as well as writing for Arthur, the student newspaper, led to work in the community radio field upon his return to Edmonton. A highlight was his four years volunteering as producer and show co-ordinator for Terra Firma, a nationally syndicated CJSR environmental news program that won a national award for its focus on diverse topics such as marine enforcement of shark poaching laws in the Pacific Ocean.
Outside of the radio studio, Mr. Phillips volunteered for four years as emcee and live auctioneer at fundraisers for the Sombrilla International Development Society, and promoted Edmonton’s history as the city’s fourth historian laureate.
Paul Delaney Outstanding Young Philanthropist Award
This award recognizes a student or a recent alum whose work in philanthropy makes them an outstanding model for Trent students to emulate, and whose impact reverberates across borders, boundaries and disciplines. This award is a legacy to alumnus Paul Delaney ’64, who dedicated his life to the values of social responsibility and global citizenship.
Elizabeth Thipphawong ’05, B.B.A., Business Administration
Implementing CARE International’s Remote Ethnic Women strategy in Laos, Ms. Thipphawong’s current focus is on the intersection of Indigenous women and climate change. This role sees her work closely with remote communities on climate adaptation and the advocacy of gender responsive climate policies. Similar work on behalf of Cuso International as a gender advisor preceded her current role.
For three years, Ms. Thipphawong was a presenter at the United Nations annual Framework Convention of Climate Change and, in 2019, she was a Canadian delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
In Peterborough from 2012 to 2017, Ms. Thipphawong worked for the Canadian Red Cross Society as a member of the Disaster Management Team and in organizational development, working with local and national partners to further the society’s mandate. As an Emergency Response Team supervisor, she participated in numerous deployments. During this same period, she was a member of the speakers’ bureau for the New Canadians Centre.
At Trent, in her role with the Peterborough student co-op, Ms. Thipphawong supported students in education, awareness and direct services to better access affordable housing. She also worked for several years as a contract photographer for Trent’s Indigenous Studies department.
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.
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