Acadia University Honorary Degree Recipients Recognized for Philanthropy, Advocacy, and Compassion

Wolfville, NS (May 6, 2019) –Slightly more than 800 graduates will receive degrees during Acadia University’s 177thConvocation ceremonies May 12thand 13thin Wolfville. Following a tradition that began in 1848, the University will confer Honorary Degrees as part of the ceremony, this year to five deserving individuals who have demonstrated a passion for making our world a better place to live and fostering tolerance, acceptance, and understanding.

The five 2019 Honorary Degree recipients include:

Sunday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m.

Rick Hansen, CC, OBC – Doctor of Humanities:  Canada’s Man in Motion, Rick Hansen has been a tireless international advocate for a world without barriers for people with disabilities for more than 30 years.

Nancy Nason-Clark, PhD – Doctor of Divinity: Scholar, author and speaker, Dr. Nason-Clark founded the RAVE Project at UNB as a means of providing support to families of faith that have been shattered by domestic violence.

Monday, May 13 at 10:00 a.m.

Biliana Cicin-Sain, PhD – Doctor of Science: Dr. Cicin-Sain is a global expert on ocean and coastal governance who leads a global movement to incorporate oceans within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

David Huestis – Doctor of Humanities: Mr. Huestis (’63) is President and CEO of the Huestis Insurance Group, and has been recognized worldwide for his philanthropy, receiving the Silver and Bronze Wolf Awards – Canadian and World Scouting’s highest honours.

Monday, May 13 at 2:30 p.m.

Elder Joe Michael – Doctor of Humanities: Mi’kmaq Elder Joseph Michael is an inspirational spiritual leader within Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq community and a retired RCMP Officer who developed the RCMP’s Aboriginal Community Policing model still in use today.


Also at Monday’s afternoon ceremony, Acadia University will honour Raymond E. Ivany as the University’s first President emeritus.Ivany served as Acadia’s 15thPresident and Vice-Chancellor from 2009 to 2017.


First Africentric Master of Education Cohort

Sunday afternoon’s Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Theology, and School of Education ceremony will feature the first graduating class from Acadia’s Africentric Master of Education Counselling Cohort, an educational partnership between Acadia and the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute. Designed to address the under-representation of African Nova Scotian counsellors and Africentric perspectives in Nova Scotian school and community services, the School of Education recruited and hired qualified African Nova Scotian counsellors and anti-oppression educators to work with the students in a number of courses, and DBDLI provided teaching assistance on Africentric perspectives, theory, and practice. The cohort worked part-time on weekends, evenings, and in summer schools, to complete the degree in the summer of 2018 – adding 17 newly qualified, Africentric, and passionate counsellors to Nova Scotian schools and community agencies.

During the ceremony for this graduating class, Acadia will recognize Trevor Boyd (’08 and ‘19), a member of the Africentric Counselling cohort and graduate of Acadia’s Bachelor of Education program who taught in the Chignecto Region and who died suddenly last spring. Trevor was a well-respected young educator with tremendous potential and members of his family will represent him alongside his classmates.   

“I would like to congratulate all members of Acadia’s Class of 2019,” said Dr. Peter Ricketts, Acadia’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “Convocation represents a milestone achievement – not an end but a new beginning – for students and it is a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends. I also want to welcome our Honorary Degree recipients to the distinguished list of previous honorees who proudly represent Acadia and its worldwide alumni. We are all fortunate to share in the Acadia experience and to take its influence with us as we move forward in our lives and in our careers. I am looking forward to another magnificent Convocation weekend here in Wolfville.”

Weekend Schedule

All Convocation ceremonies are held in Acadia’s Convocation Hall, located in the historic University Hall that has graced the campus for almost 100 years. The Baccalaureate Service will be held in the Manning Memorial Chapel.

Baccalaureate Service

Sunday, May 12, 2019 - 10:30 a.m.

Faculty of Theology, Faculty of Arts, and School of Education

Sunday, May 12, 2019 - 3 p.m.

Faculty of Pure and Applied Science

Monday, May 13, 2019 - 10 a.m.

Faculty of Professional Studies

Monday, May 13, 2019 - 2:30 p.m.

To learn more about the Convocation program or to watch a live-streaming webcast of each Convocation ceremony, visit the Convocation website.


Read more about this year's Honourees: 

David Huestis – Doctor of Humanities

David Huestis graduated from Acadia University with his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 1963 (Dalhousie 1966).  He returned to Saint John to make sure a certain nurse, his wife Faye of 51 years, didn’t slip away. Faye and David have three children, Paul, Peter and Jennifer and two grandchildren Xavier and Oliver. Mr. Huestis is President and CEO of the Huestis Insurance Group, Atlantic Canada’s largest independent brokerage operating in more than 40 communities throughout New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

The commitment “to make the world a better place” is a core value of his business, which comes from deep within himself.  An active member of his church community, he’s been a leader in different service groups, New Brunswick Health organizations and Scouting movement.  Among his many volunteer responsibilities, he chaired the Centracare Hospital Board, Past President Scouts Canada, member &, Chairman for the Audit Committee for World Scout Foundation (51 million members).

For his sustained commitment to public service, he has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Gold and Diamond Jubilee medals as well as Scouts Canada’s Jubilee medal, the Silver Wolf (Canadian Scouting’s highest award) and the Bronze Wolf (World Scouting Highest Award).

A generous philanthropist, in 2016 Mr. Huestis and his wife Faye, revealed their most public donation when they became the anchor donors to Acadia’s science complex renovation project. The David Huestis Innovation Pavilion is the centrepiece of an Acadia complex that fosters research, innovation and community economic development.  Additionally he has provided several scholarships for Innovation and Acadia Divinity College.   His support for Acadia faculty and students and the work they perform to benefit Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, stands as a gift for a lifetime for the University, positioning it for success in the 21stcentury.


Nancy Nason-Clark, PhD – Doctor of Divinity

Dr. Nancy Nason-Clark is a leading scholar, teacher, and advocate in the worldwide effort to reveal instances of sexual violence, assault and abuse of women and support these survivors in their recovery. Her particular expertise is discussing domestic violence in homes that are also deeply grounded in religion or spirituality. Working from her home base at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Dr. Nason-Clark is the author of numerous books and refereed scholarly papers, and is a sought-after speaker and workshop leader in the faith community. Her work has taken her to India, Eastern Europe and Caribbean and her books have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese.

A Professor of Sociology at UNB, Dr. Nason-Clark completed her Ph.D. in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in London, England. She served as chair of UNB’s Department of Sociology from 2008 until 2016, twice as Acting Associate Dean of Arts, and twice as Acting Director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research. Dr. Nason-Clark served as editor of the international journal Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review from 2000-2006 and she is Past-President of the international Religious Research Association, has served as President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion and as President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Dr. Nason-Clark founded the RAVE Project at UNB as a means of providing support to families of faith that have been shattered by domestic violence. Her view is that religious congregations silence incidents of abuse and her work is committed to providing direct support to families and individuals as well as equipping faith leaders and religious scholars with the tools to intervene and help rebuild lives and communities. 


Elder Joe Michael – Doctor of Humanities

Mi’kmaq Elder Lawrence Joseph Michael is a highly regarded inspirational and spiritual leader within Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq community, Indigenous communities across Canada, and on Acadia’s campus, particularly with students interested in learning traditional knowledge. Most notably, “Joe Mike” was the first Mi’kmaq member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when he was appointed Special Constable on the Indian Brook First Nation and it was during his 25-year RCMP career that he earned the respect he enjoys today from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities for his unique contribution to Canada’s justice system.

Joe Mike joined the RCMP as restorative justice principles and practices were beginning to take root in Canada. He grew up with Mi’kmaq as his first language and deeply respectful of methods of traditional knowledge and practices, and he combined this knowledge with contemporary policing practices to increase cross-cultural awareness and develop the RCMP’s Aboriginal Community Policing model that remains part of the force’s cadet training program in Regina. Before retiring from the RCMP as Detachment Commander, he became the force’s Pipe Carrier responsible for performing sacred rituals and ceremonies and helping all races better understand Aboriginal culture.

In 2014, he formed Weaving River Consulting, a cooperative venture with three other colleagues aimed at promoting balance between contemporary and traditional knowledge, teachings, and practices to organizations and individuals. His relentless passion for educating youth has made him a regular visitor to university campuses in Nova Scotia and at Acadia in particular where he played a key role in the Mawio’mi of 2015 and again in 2017. In addition to his consulting and teaching, Joe Mike carves talking sticks that have made their way around the world and are a symbol of his belief in the power of story-telling and finding balance.


Rick Hansen, CC, OBC – Doctor of Humanities

Rick Hansen is Canada’s Man in Motion. Over the past 40 years he has become a champion for accessibility and philanthropy. He is easily one of Canada’s most recognizable and influential personalities.

On the way home from a fishing trip, Mr. Hansen was in a car accident and thrown from the back of a pickup truck. At age 15, he injured his spinal cord and was paralyzed from the waist down. His new reality came with challenges, but with determination, a sense of humour and a lot of heart, he found a way to keep doing the things he loved, and began to make new dreams.

In 1976, Mr. Hansen enrolled at the University of British Columbia and became the first person with a disability to graduate with a degree in Physical Education from the university. He channeled his natural athletic ability into track and wheelchair marathoning. Between 1980 and 1984, Mr. Hansen won six Paralympic medals. He also won nineteen wheelchair marathons, three world champions in wheelchair racing between 1979 and 1984, and nine gold medals at the 1982 Pan Am Games in Halifax.

In 1985, Mr. Hansen embarked on his Man in MotionWorldTour, a historic 26-month, 34 country, 40,000 km wheelchair marathon.Fueled by his two original dreams of a world without barriers for people with disabilities and a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury, The Tour raised $26 million and changed the way people with disabilities were perceived. Mr. Hansen established The Rick Hansen Foundation in 1988, and for over 30 years, the Foundation has raised awareness, changed attitudes, and improved the quality of life for people with disabilities. Currently, Mr. Hansen and the Foundation are rethinking how people of all ages and abilities access the spaces where we live, work, learn and play.The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™(RHFAC) is the only program that rates, certifies and showcases accessible buildings.

Mr. Hansen has received numerous honours, including being named a Companion of the Order of Canada, and a member of the Order of British Columbia. To date, he has received 21 honorary degrees worldwide.


Biliana Cicin-Sain, PhD – Doctor of Science

Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain who received her PhD in political science from UCLA and completed her postdoctoral training at Harvard, is President of the Global Ocean Forum, and past director of the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy and Professor of Marine Policy at the University of Delaware.

An expert in the field of integrated coastal and ocean governance, she has authored over 100 publications in the field, and has forged international collaboration among all sectors of the international oceans community to advance the global oceans agenda, as founder and president of the Global Ocean Forum. She is currently working on addressing the oceans and climate nexus in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, especially in mobilizing the Roadmap to Oceans and Climate Action 2016-2021 and in leading the UNFCCC Ocean Action Days as well as contributing to the UN negotiations on marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. 

Dr. Cicin-Sain’s international ocean work has been recognized through a number of awards, including, inter alia, 2019 Prince Albert I of Monaco Grand Prize of Marine Sciences; 2018 Pioneer of the High Seas, French National Sea Center, France; 2017 Champion of the Ocean award, Monmouth University; 2010 Laureate for the Elizabeth Haub Award for Environmental Diplomacy; 2010 honorary doctorate in maritime law by Korea Maritime University; 2007 US Coastal Zone Foundation Award; 2007 Elizabeth Mann Borgese Meerespreis (Prize of the Sea), Germany; 2002 co-recipient of the Ocean and Coastal Stewardship Award (US).

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