Jan. 27, 2021

Your vote of confidence in our alumni makes a world of difference

Know an alum who's making waves? Nominate them for a 2021 Arch Award
Emily Hicks
Emily Hicks at 2019 Arch Awards Adrian Shellard

Next September may seem like a lifetime away. But for the folks behind the scenes of our annual Arch Awards — the UCalgary Alumni Association’s equivalent of the Oscars, held in the fall — preparations are already underway. Since 1985, UCalgary has toasted its A-list of extraordinary alumni with a red-carpet evening of speeches, videos, bubbly, food and more.

Nominations are now open for the 2021 Arch Awards (our first nomination cycle in the post-pandemic era, which is why we can’t share all the details of the celebration yet). To inspire some nominations, we thought we’d reach back across the years to ask a few Arch Award recipients one question...

What has receiving an Arch Award meant to you?

In short ... well, their answers weren’t short. If you have ever had doubts about the power of a trophy or plaque, read what these eight alumni have to say about their Arch Award.

Anila Lee

“Receiving an Arch Award was very special, because my actual university days were hard for me. The award signifies a milestone in my career that I can be proud of and, because it was my board at the Centre for Newcomers that nominated me after my first year as CEO, it was extra-special that my ‘bosses’ believed in me.

"To be honest, I give my awards to my mom. It’s because of her hard work and my dad’s that I got the education I did. As immigrants, they worked in jobs well below their education and experience and somehow managed to pay for all of my schooling. My dad passed away in 2012, but I hope, with my awards on his mantle in his home he shared with my mom, he knows I try to honour him every day.”

— Anila Lee Yuen, BSc’06, recipient of a 2017 Alumni Achievement Award and president and CEO of the Centre for Newcomers; member of the UCalgary Alumni Association Board of Directors

Lisa Dixon-Wells

“After spending a total of eight years as a student at the U of C, it was sometimes very easy to feel like I was just an I.D. number (and I still remember that number all these decades later). To be recognized for my hard work, and for the subsequent impact I have been able to make because of that I.D. number, is the ultimate validation that it was all worth it and that I have, in some way, made the U of C proud. The Arch Award has also reignited my own pride in being a UCalgary alumna.”

— Lisa Dixon-Wells, BPE’84, BEd’87, MEd’97, recipient of the 2018 Community Commitment Award and founder of the bullying-prevention program, Dare to Care

Simon Bryant

“It’s -35°C here today in Coral Harbour, Nunavut, but no worries; the warm vote of confidence I received along with the 2015 Arch Award has stayed with me ever since. These awards are meant to acknowledge accomplishments ... not something to live up to. So, I keep trying. After I’ve finally hung up my stethoscope, the Arch Award on my desk will remind me of the many fine people I studied and worked with, and those we tried to help. I see it as sort of a baton that gets passed along, too. I’m sure those in the future will carry it forward.”

— Dr. Simon Bryant, MD’91, recipient of the 2015 Alumni Achievement Award and long-serving physician in remote areas from Nunavut to Antarctica, as well as with Médicins San Frontières

Rahim Sajan

“The recognition by fellow human beings and, particularly, one’s peers was an incredible honour. It also left me with a responsibility to continue improving the lives of fellow graduates and future alumni. Quite frankly, the Arch Award has added wind in my sails to continue doing necessary work in civil society. Alberta is navigating one of the most challenging periods in its history and not all leadership or solutions on the way forward can come from, or needs to come from, conventional political or corporate leaders. It is now even more important that they come from civil society.”

— Rahim Sajan, BSc’01, BEd’03, MEd’20, recipient of the 2018 Alumni Service Award and co-founder and curator of TEDxCalgary

Robert Thirsk

“I was honoured many years ago to be recognized by the University of Calgary with the Distinguished Alumni Arch Award. It has been my belief that a solid post-secondary education can launch a person’s career dreams. That certainly was the case for me. The Distinguished Alumni Award provides me with a platform to reiterate this message to young Calgarians and to showcase my home university as being a bold, forward-thinking and relevant institution.”

— Dr. Robert Thirsk, BSc (Eng)’76, MDCM, astronaut, former UCalgary chancellor, recipient of the first Arch Award in 1985, the Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner

“My Arch Award is at my office where other students and alumni can see it and ask questions about my time at UCalgary. It reminds me of the awards night and how special that was. My mother, adult sons and colleagues were all there ... the celebration was both personal and communal in that everyone in the room was being acknowledged and recognized.”

— Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner, MDipl’05, PhD’11, recipient of the 2015 Alumni Achievement Award and CEO of the Calgary Counselling Centre

Emily Hicks

“Winning an Arch Award was a tremendous honour and it was a real pleasure to get to celebrate with so many of the people that have inspired, influenced and supported me along my journey. Being an entrepreneur is a hard slog and this was a very appreciated surprise. I am truly grateful for the family members, friends, teachers and mentors who have made me the person I am today and this was the perfect opportunity to reflect on that and celebrate.”

— Emily Hicks, BHSc’13, recipient of the 2019 Early Career Achievement Award and co-founder and president of FREDsense

Like any long-standing tradition, the UCalgary Alumni Arch Awards has evolved in its 36-year history. We now have six categories that recognize visionary alumni exemplars: Early Career Achievement; Alumni Service; Community Commitment; Career Achievement; International Career Achievement; and Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement.

As they have since 1985, the 2021 Arch Awards mark an excellent opportunity to recognize UCalgary alumni who are an inspiration to fellow graduates, current students and the community, both close to home and around the globe. Discover more about the nomination process.

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