Four people noted for achievements in social justice, early childhood education, sustainable agriculture and music will be recognized with honorary degrees at fall convocation at the University of Victoria.
Renowned social activist and Gitxsan First Nation member Cindy Blackstock, former BC lieutenant governor and sustainable farming proponent Judith Guichon, early childhood education leader Peter Moss, and acclaimed singer and teacher Mitsuko Shirai will all receive the university’s highest academic honour at fall convocation ceremonies.
Cindy Blackstock earns a Honorary Doctor of Laws for work as a social justice pioneer and dedicated advocate for Indigenous children. With 30 years of social work experience in child protection and the rights of Indigenous children, she is a professor in McGill University’s School of Social Work and adjunct professor and director of the First Nations Children’s Action Research and Education Centre at the University of Alberta. Blackstock also serves as executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.
Judith Guichon earns an Honorary Doctor of Laws. Before she began her six-year term as lieutenant governor in 2012, Guichon owned and operated Gerard Guichon Ranch Ltd. in the province’s Interior region. Guichon’s family had owned land in the Nicola Valley since 1878 and maintained a tradition of farming, ranching and related community service.
Guichon’s many contributions include serving as president of the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association. She has also served with the Provincial Force on Species at Risk, the Ranching Task Force of BC, the British Columbia Agri-Food Trade Advisory Council, the Fraser Basin Council of British Columbia, and as a director of the Grasslands Conservation Council of BC. She and her family have long promoted holistic farm management and an approach to farming that seeks to preserve ecosystems, maintain plant species, protect water quality and reduce use of fossil fuels.
Guichon received the Order of BC in 2012. In her role as lieutenant governor, Guichon developed priority programs reflecting her background of stewardship, including the creation of Stewards of the Future, which aims to reconnect high school students with the natural world. Guichon lives in Quilchena, BC, near Merritt.
Peter Moss, Honorary Doctor of Education, is professor emeritus at England’s University College London and recognized for his international work in early childhood education, in particular the relationship between employment, care and gender, with a special focus on parental leave policies. Moss coordinated the European Commission’s expert group on childcare and other measures to reconcile employment and family responsibilities. The breadth and quality of the group’s work resulted in more than 30 published reports and enhanced its international reputation.
In 2004, Moss co-founded the International Network on Leave Policies and Research, which today brings together experts from 40 countries with a shared interest in a policy area that has since become a central issue in the modern welfare state.
Mitsuko Shirai, Honorary Doctor of Music, is regarded as one of the world’s great interpreters of the German lied, a form of poetic art song that is set to classical music. She was born and raised in Japan and began her vocal studies there at the Musashino Music Academy in Tokyo. She received a grant to continue her training at the Hochschule der Künste in Stuttgart, Germany.
Shirai is one of the most frequently recorded lieder singers of modern times. She is distinguished not only by her many stellar concert performances and recordings, but also by her illustrious teaching career. For more than 27 years, Shirai has taught at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe, one of Germany’s top professional music institutions, where she has attracted musicians from around the globe to study with her. She has conducted numerous workshops in Germany, Austria, Finland, the United States and Japan. Many of her students have gone on to become the bright lights of today’s concert stages.
A total of 1,492 UVic students receive degrees, diplomas and certificates at the November ceremonies. Blackstock’s honorary is during the Nov. 13, 10 a.m. ceremony; Guichon on Nov. 13 at 2:30 p.m.; Moss on Nov. 14 at 10 a.m.; Shirai on Nov. 14 at 2:30 p.m.