2016 Alumni of Influence

Eleven new recipients were recognized on March 18, 2016.

See the List

7th Annual Gala & Award Ceremony


The 2016 Alumni of Influence


Brenda Baker - BFA '81

Award-winning author, performer and recording artist Brenda Baker has presented her music on stages from coast to coast. After receiving her BFA from the University of Saskatchewan in 1981, she continued to study theatre and writing.

From 2000 to 2004, she was the star of Prairie Berry Pie with Brenda Baker, a national television series for children. She has recorded five critically acclaimed CDs and her musical story, The Old Elephant's Christmas, aired as on SCN.

An accomplished author, Baker received the 1999 Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction for her collection of short stories, The Maleness of God. Her 2015 novel Camp Outlook won both the 2015 Saskatchewan Book Award for Children’s Literature and the 2015 USA-Canada High Plains Book Award.

In 2005 Baker founded Kids of Note, the hit choir for children with and without disabilities who love to sing. She received honours for this project from the Saskatoon Society for Community Living, the Saskatoon Preschool Foundation, Child and Youth Friendly Saskatoon, and was named one of Saskatchewan’s “Fifteen Most Amazing Women” by Prairies North Magazine. She has also been recognized as a Saskatoon YWCA Woman of Distinction (2001), was inducted into the Saskatoon Women’s Hall of Fame and received a Saskatchewan Centennial Medal.

In 2007 Baker launched Nexstage Live Music Performance Coaching to help emerging musicians develop their shows. As a coach she has been a guest at many conferences and worked with clients in Los Angeles, Texas and South Carolina.

Baker lives in Saskatoon with her husband, writer Arthur Slade, and their seven-year-old daughter, Tanaya.


Sanjay Bakshi - BSc '92, MSc '94

A Saskatchewan, Canada native of Indian descent, Sanjay Bakshi’s strong interest in computer graphics originated from when he used to program graphic algorithms on an Apple2. Bakshi grew up in Balcarres, Saskatchewan, where his parents were teachers. He completed BSc (’92) and MSc (’94) degrees in computer science at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was encouraged by Darwyn Peachey (BSc'78, MSc'83) to pursue his love of computer graphics.

In 2002, Bakshi joined Pixar Animation Studios, where he is now Supervising Technical Director. His skills were first applied in the studio’s Tools department, where he worked on Academy Award®-winning films Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Cars as tools developer.

Bakshi previously worked as the groom lead on the Academy Award®-winning feature Ratatouille, in which his role can be described as a digital hairdresser responsible for the hair on humans and the fur on rat characters. To engage an audience, the hair of either a talking rat or an eight-foot tall monster must blow in the wind in a “natural” way, which requires a unique mixture of imagination and science. To accomplish this, Bakshi studied rat hair for more than three years for Ratatouille and continued to work on it for Monsters University. He then served as the supervising technical director on Monsters University, and most recently held the same role for Disney•Pixar’s 2015 feature, The Good Dinosaur.

Bakshi currently resides in Piedmont, CA.

1. What is your favourite memory about your time in Arts & Science?

Meeting my wife Valerie Bakshi (an English Major) who attended Arts & Science at the same time as I did.

2. How did your Arts & Science education help you in your career?

I got a great foundational education. I have had the good fortune to work and collaborate with people from some of the “top” universities and I think I held my own :) I thank the College of Arts & Science.

3. What advice would you offer to current students in Arts & Science?

Find out what you are really passionate about pursue it. Your working life is a long time.


Ruth Cuthand - BFA '83, MFA '92

Ruth Cuthand was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and grew up in various communities throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan. Of Plains Cree heritage, she finds inspiration for her work in Aboriginal culture and memories of her childhood. Through her work she explores the frictions between cultures, the failures of representation and the political uses of anger.

Cuthand earned BFA (’83) and MFA (’92) degrees from the University of Saskatchewan. Her first solo exhibition, “S. Ruth Cuthand: The Trace of Ghost Dance,” was held in 1990 at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. Since then, she has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions. Her nationally acclaimed retrospective exhibition, “BACK TALK (works 1983–2009),” curated by Jen Budney for the Mendel Art Gallery has toured Canada since 2011. Her work can also be seen in the exhibition “Oh Canada!” initiated by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) currently touring Canada.

Over 25 years, Cuthand has built up a prodigious body of work in a wide variety of media, including drawing, painting, photography, sculpture and video. Her works are united by a distinctive, raw aesthetic and on-going focus on the legacies of colonialism and Indigenous-settler relations in Canada. Budney has called her voice as an artist “honest, fierce, intelligent, political and darkly humourous.”

Cuthand has been a mentor to many young artists, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. She taught art and art history at First Nations University for over two decades, demonstrating traditional beading alongside contemporary art media. She has been an advisor and board member at TRIBE Inc., Canada’s first Aboriginal artist-run organization, for 20 years, and has collaborated with curators at AKA artist-run centre and (the now defunct) Red Shift Gallery. She was a recipient of the Saskatchewan Artist Award at the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Awards in 2013.


Brian Gable - BA '70

Renowned editorial cartoonist Brian Gable was born in Saskatoon in 1949. He grew up on a farm near Rosthern where, in that venerable prairie tradition, he attended a one-room school. In 1960 his family moved to Saskatoon, at that time just under 100,000 citizens but a teeming urban metropolis for a 10-year-old farm boy.

In 1965 Gable was accepted into the pre-architecture program at the University of Saskatchewan. While Calculus and its complexities came between Gable and the practice of architecture, other parts of the program, including painting, design, drawing and English, spoke strongly to him.

It was during a first year English survey class that a fellow student, noting Gable’s endless doodling in the margins of his notes, mentioned that The Sheaf was looking for a cartoonist. Over the next three years he submitted cartoons to the student paper and took his first tentative steps in learning about the craft of satire.

Gable graduated with a BA in 1970 and moved to Toronto to enroll in the College of Education at the University of Toronto. Graduating with a BEd in 1971, he taught secondary school art in Brockville, ON, for the next nine years. He took up his cartoonist’s pen once more and began freelancing editorial cartoons for the local paper, The Brockville Recorder and Times.

In 1980, The Regina Leader Post hired Gable as an editorial cartoonist. He remained there until 1987, when he accepted a position as editorial cartoonist for The Globe and Mail, a position that he still holds.

Gable’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Time Magazine, The Guardian, Prospect Magazine and numerous other publications. He has been nominated for the National Newspaper Award 15 times and has won the award six times.

1. What is your favourite memory about your time in Arts & Science?

My favourite memory of my time as an Arts & Science student was the emerging discovery, thanks to my excellent professors, that fine art was a discipline that, with work, one could improve at. Furthermore, some aspect of the fine arts could actually become a tangible career route. For a 19-year-old interested in painting this was terrifically empowering and provided me with the idea that a career in the fine arts was a real possibility. Unknown to me at the time, my time spent cartooning at The Sheaf sowed the seeds of what became a life-long vocation.

2. How did your Arts & Science education help you in your career?

Prior to my studies at the U of S, I regarded fine art as a recreational activity, a hobby. During my years at the U of S, I came to realize how the fine arts are fundamentally woven into the evolution of civilization. This awareness has been central to my observation of politics, popular culture and society in general, the focus of my career as a satirist.

3. What advice would you offer to current students in Arts & Science?

Enjoy every minute of your time at university. These moments when you can focus without distraction on your academic interests and broaden your knowledge and understanding will prove to be invaluable throughout your life, regardless of the direction your career takes you.


Brenda Macdougall - BA '94, PhD '05

One of Canada’s leading Métis historiographers, Brenda Macdougall was the first student to graduate with a PhD (’05) in Native (Indigenous) Studies. After receiving her BA (’94) from the University of Saskatchewan, she joined the Department of Indigenous Studies in 1999, receiving tenure in 2006.

In 2010, Macdougall was appointed Métis Chair at the University of Ottawa, a highly regarded position that is the only one of its kind in Canada. She uses the resources of her position to make crucial contributions to the field of Métis studies within and outside of Canada, and to become an important mentor for a generation of graduate students training with her.

Macdougall’s first book, One of the Family: Métis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan, received the Canadian Historical Association’s Clio Prize for best book (prairie division). The impact of this book has been called immediate and far-reaching and has served as a hallmark for new academic understandings of Métis identity and historical relationships.

With fellow researchers, Macdougall has undertaken numerous SSHRC-funded projects that rigorously examine aspects of Métis history, including the Métis community of Round Prairie, hunting brigades on the Great Plains, and in the Treaty Three region of Northern Ontario. She has been a central presence in workshops and conferences that address Métis issues in the context of the growing field of Métis Studies.

Macdougall’s role as an educator and mentor goes beyond the classroom environment. She has given numerous public lectures to Métis communities and provincial organizations as well as to high schools teachers and social workers on the merit of a university education for Aboriginal youth.


Kathleen E. McCrone - BA '62, Honours History '63

Kathleen (Kate) McCrone is a pioneer in the field of women’s history and a senior university administrator who has been an influential role model and mentor to students and colleagues.

Born and raised in Regina, she graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a BA (’62 History and Political Science; ’63 Honours History). She was a devoted member of the “Huskiette” varsity basketball team coached by Pat Lawson (BA’50, Bed’53). After earning her MA and PhD from New York University, she joined the faculty of the University of Windsor in 1968.

In a career at Windsor spanning 42 years, McCrone says she “did it all, “ entering the field of women’s history at its beginning on the advice of Hilda Neatby (BA’24, MA’28). She published widely on various aspects of the history of women in 19th-century England. Her book, Sport and the Physical Emancipation of English Women, 1870–1914 (1988, 2014) broke new ground. She introduced the first course at the university in any subject that focussed on women in 1976, and spearheaded the establishment of a Women’s Studies certificate program.

At a time when few women held administrative positions, McCrone held many, including Dean/Executive Dean (Faculties of Social Science, Arts and Human Sciences) and Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic. She also served on many provincial and national academic boards.

In recognition of her contributions to the University of Windsor, McCrone received meritorious service and career achievement awards, and in 2014, a Clark Award given to those who “not only enjoyed enormous success in their personal and professional endeavours, but who made tremendous contributions to the University.”

McCrone has also derived much satisfaction from community service, including being a Big Sister, a Windsor Public Library Book Buddy and a member of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors.


That T Ngo - BSc '69, SC '70, PhD '74

That Tjien Ngo was born into a Chinese–Indonesian family and spent his early years in Indonesia. The Indonesian government’s racial discrimination towards ethnic Chinese-Indonesians limited Ngo’s opportunities for higher education at that time. This led him to Canada, where he began his undergraduate studies at the University of Saskatchewan in 1966. He graduated with honours in biochemistry in 1970 and received his PhD in 1973.

After completing postdoctoral training, Ngo moved to the United States in 1978 where he began a successful career as an independent research scientist and inventor, and eventually, as president and CEO of various companies in the biotechnology industry.

Ngo was the co-inventor of a paradigm-changing technology known as Ngo-Lenhoff Assay that enabled the development of the first home-use whole blood glucose test—One-Touch—still used today by diabetic patients. He was also the inventor of FMP-activation chemistry for affinity chromatography, a significant addition to the field of affinity chromatography that has attracted investment funds from major chemical companies. He also discovered novel biomimetic ligands that greatly simplified the purification of antibodies, making it a more robust process. This research led to a greater understanding of biomolecular interactions in chromatography and discovery of an unrecognized interaction between biomolecules and solid phase, for which he coined the new specific term “Aza-arenophilic interactions” to describe the phenomena.

Ngo’s scientific research has been published in over 140 articles and seven books, and he holds over 14 different patents. He served on the editorial boards of several international chemical journals, was a frequent speaker at scientific conferences and a consultant in the biotechnology industry. Since retiring from active research, Ngo has written four cookbooks and recently authored a candid memoir published in English and Indonesian.


Berni Schiefer- BSc '85

After earning a BSc in Computer Science at the University of Saskachewan in 1985, Berni Schiefer joined the IBM Canada laboratory in Toronto where he has worked closely with many customers, ISVs and business partners around the world.

The accomplishments of Schiefer and his teams have helped to strengthen IBM Canada’s worldwide reputation for database products. His success as the leader of many significant projects gained him the rank of Distinguished Engineer and in 2015 he was appointed one of ten IBM Fellows within IBM worldwide, only the sixth Canadian to receive this honour. Over the history of the program only 267 people worldwide have been named IBM Fellows and only 95 of these are active employees. Five have received the Nobel Prize.

As an IBM Fellow, Schiefer is responsible for a global team that focusses on the performance and scalability of products and solutions in the Analytics Group, specifically for Big Data technologies including Spark, BigInsights, Big SQL, dashDB, DB2 pureScale and DB2 with BLU acceleration. His passion is in bringing advanced technology to market with a particular emphasis on exploiting processor, memory, networking, storage technology and other hardware and software acceleration technologies.


Paul Thagard - BA '71

Paul Thagard graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1971, going on to Cambridge University to earn a PhD in Philosophy and to the University of Toronto for an MSc in Computer Science.

One of the world’s foremost thinkers on thought, his groundbreaking research has made lasting contributions to cognitive science, psychology, and the philosophy of science, medicine and the mind. He asks the important questions that define us as human and searches for answers across disciplines. His approach employs scientific method and computer modeling to analyze consciousness—how the brain produces emotions, feelings, ideas and creativity—and examines the implications of how it influences decision-making.

Since 1992, Thagard has been a professor of philosophy at the University of Waterloo, where he founded and continues to run the Cognitive Science Program. His many books include The Brain and the Meaning of Life (Princeton University Press, 2010) and The Cognitive Science of Science (MIT Press, 2012).

His engaging blog Hot Thought on the Psychology Today website, billed as “Psychology meets philosophy: knowledge, reality, morality, meaning” introduces a lay audience to new perspectives on age-old questions, such as: What is the Self? What is Free Will? What is Intelligence? What is Love?

Thagard is the recipient of the 2013 Killam Prize, presented by the Canada Council for the Arts to outstanding Canadian scholars working in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences and engineering. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a recipient of the 2007 Canada Council Molson Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities.

1. What is your favourite memory about your time in Arts & Science?

My favorite memory is the small philosophy classes in which there was lots of interaction among students and faculty.

2. How did your Arts & Science education help you in your career?

It gave me a solid introduction to philosophy. I particularly appreciate the encouragement that professors gave me to go on to further work in the field.

3. What advice would you offer to current students in Arts & Science?

My advice to current students in Arts & Science is to figure out ways to combine your intellectual interests with training that can further your careers.


Bill Waiser - MA '76, PhD '83, DLitt '10

Bill Waiser is an author and historian specializing in western Canadian history. His many books have been recognized with award nominations, including finalist for the 1997 Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction. His definitive history of the province, Saskatchewan: A New History, was named one of the best books of 2005 by the Globe and Mail and was awarded the Clio Prize by the Canadian Historical Association.

Waiser did his undergraduate studies at Trent University (BA ‘75), followed by graduate work at the University of Saskatchewan (MA’76, PhD’83). He joined the Department of History as a faculty member in 1984. Over a 30-year career, Waiser received numerous teaching and research awards. He was appointed A.S. Morton Research Chair in 2010 in recognition of his dedication to engaging the public in Saskatchewan’s history. That same year, the university honoured his contributions to western Canadian history, environmental history and public history with an Earned D.Litt and in 2011, he was named a Distinguished Chair. He left the university in 2014 as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus.

A popular public speaker and contributor to radio, television and print media, Waiser has given over 200 talks to schools and organizations throughout the province and nationally. Between 1999 and 2001, he served as researcher and host for “Looking Back,” an award-winning weekly segment on CBC TV that examined interesting aspects of Saskatchewan history. He currently writes a bi-weekly column, “History Matters,” for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Waiser has served on numerous national, provincial and local boards and is frequently called upon as an expert reviewer and historical consultant. He is a recipient of the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal (2005), the Saskatchewan Order of Merit (2006) and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2007. He is a recreational runner who likes to garden, hike and canoe.


Alan Wildeman - BSc '75, MSc '77

Alan Wildeman is the sixth President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Windsor.

He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with BSc (1975) and MSc (1977) degrees in biology.

Wildeman moved to Ontario and completed his PhD degree in genetics at the University of Guelph in 1982. He was awarded a NATO fellowship for postdoctoral work in Strasbourg, France, where he studied tumour viruses and gene control. In 1985 he returned to Canada to take up a faculty position in genetics at the University of Guelph where he was awarded an Industrial Research Chair in Biotechnology in 1987. In 2001 he was appointed Vice-President (Research) at the University of Guelph, a role he held until joining the University of Windsor as President and Vice-Chancellor in July 2008.

In addition to having a strong commitment to the importance of education and scholarship across the sciences, arts and humanities, Wildeman has a significant interest in the relationship between universities and communities. He served for six years on the Guelph Economic Development Advisory Council, and for four years on the board of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. He has also served on the advisory boards of many provincial and national research organizations.