Acadia stalwarts receive prestigious Arthur L. Irving Medal of Commitment

One of Acadia University’s highest honours, the Arthur L. Irving Medal of Commitment, has been awarded to three outstanding members of the Acadia community: Libby Burnham (’60, ’00); Dr. Kelvin Ogilvie (’63, ’64, ’83); and Sandra Irving (’74, ’17).

The presentation was made by Arthur Irving (’52, ’03), the Medal’s first recipient, and University President Dr. Peter Ricketts at a ceremony in the K. C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens on May 11.

This prestigious award recognizes individuals who demonstrate a strong connection to Acadia, whose accomplishments and contributions have brought distinction to the University and helped to define its unique and eminent position among Canadian post-secondary institutions.

The medal was first presented in 2013 during Acadia’s 175th-anniversary celebrations to Arthur Irving, the longest-serving Chancellor in Acadia University’s history, in recognition of his transformative contributions as a guide, mentor and benefactor, and his unsurpassed commitment as a champion for the University. President Emeritus Ray Ivany (’20) was awarded the Medal in 2017 for his exceptional commitment to Acadia, its students, faculty and staff, and the people of Nova Scotia.

The medal is only presented when the honour is warranted by the outstanding calibre of a nominee.

“We are very proud to honour Libby, Kelvin and Sandra – for their deep commitment and exceptional contributions to Acadia University,” said Chancellor Emeritus Arthur Irving.  They have all gone above and beyond in helping Acadia – and we are forever thankful.”


Libby Burnham C.M., K.C, DCL (’60, ’00 HON) has been described as a woman of firsts. She was the first woman to graduate from Acadia and pursue a law degree, the first female president of Dalhousie’s previously all-male debating club, and the first female Chancellor of Acadia University, serving from 2011 to 2018.

A well-respected and nationally recognized legal, business, and political advisor, Burnham has had a long and distinguished law career in both New Brunswick and Ontario, where she advocated for political and legislative reforms in New Brunswick, Ontario, and across Canada. With a profound understanding of the corridors of power, Burnham used her personality, reputation, and influence to empower and encourage women to have a larger presence in corporate boardrooms, professional organizations, government, and public life. Burnham helped found Equal Voice, a national organization to help elect more women to public office in Canada.

A mother of three, all of whom attended Acadia, and a grandmother of two, Burnham has been recognized on several occasions for her leadership. She is a member of the Order of Canada and has received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilee medals.

She received the Dalhousie Law School Weldon Award for unselfish public service; the Metropolitan Toronto YWCA’s Woman of Distinction Award for Public Affairs, and she is an honorary life director of the Canadian Club of Toronto. Burnham has also been recognized numerous times in the Canadian Who’s Who, a publication of accomplishments and contributions of notable Canadians, as well as the Who’s Who of Canadian Women, and the Ivey Women in Management Newsletter Directory, Women in the Lead.

Sandra Irving C.M., O.N.B. (’74, ’17 HON) is a champion of the transformative value of education, a leader in supporting health research, and a powerful advocate for the outstanding contributions of Canadian academics.

She attended Acadia University and holds a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction from the University of New Brunswick and a Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Toronto.

Sandra Irving is a community leader in Atlantic Canada. Together with her husband Arthur, she supports education through student scholarships and mentorship at colleges and universities across Canada and New England. She worked closely with her husband Arthur, Acadia’s Chancellor Emeritus, in building the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre, the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens and the Arthur Irving Scholars program at Acadia University.

She is a strong proponent of research. In her work with the President’s Advisory Council of the Royal Society of Canada she championed the creation of the Atlantic Canadian Chapter, supporting research and teaching by our country’s leading scholars.

As a cancer survivor, she is dedicated to contributing to cancer research, education, care and survivorship.

Sandra Irving is an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Member of the Order of Canada, and has received Queen Elizabeth II Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilee Medals. Sandra received a Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian Award and was awarded the Rotary Club of Saint John’s Paul Harris Fellowship for exemplifying the Rotary motto of “service above self.”

She is an Honorary Degree recipient from Acadia University, the University of New Brunswick, Saint Mary’s, and Dalhousie University.

The Honourable Kelvin K. Ogilvie C.M., Ph.D.,D.Sc., F.C.I.C., HCol., Senator(r) (’63, ’64, ’83) was President and Vice-Chancellor of Acadia from 1993 to 2003. During that time, Acadia became one of the most high-tech and innovative campuses in North America, to such an extent that the Smithsonian Institution acknowledged its pioneering role for the Acadia Advantage program.

Once nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Dr. Ogilvie is a leading expert on biotechnology, bio-organic chemistry and genetic engineering. His scientific accomplishments include developing the chemistry of the “Gene Machine,” an automated process for manufacturing DNA. He is the inventor of Ganciclovir, a drug used worldwide to fight infections that occur when one’s immune system is weakened.

Named a Steacie Fellow in 1982, he was admitted to the Order of Canada in 1991, and in 1992 received the Manning Principal Award as Canada’s outstanding contributor to innovation. He has written and spoken extensively on the challenges facing Canada as a nation and the role of the knowledge economy, post-secondary education and entrepreneurship.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Dr. Ogilvie to the Canadian Senate in 2009. Dr. Ogilvie was Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, co-Chair of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying in 2016, and from 2009 to 2015, served as Chair of the Health Research Caucus. His term on the Senate finished in November 2017.



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