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A dream come true

P. Kim Sturgess fulfills a lifetime goal of earning an honorary degree from Queen’s University.

Queen’s is reserving its honorary degrees in 2016 for alumni in celebration of the university’s 175th anniversary. Throughout spring convocation, The Gazette will profile all 11 honorary degree recipients and explore how Queen’s has impacted their life and career. 

P. Kim Sturgess has a long list of awards to her name, but she has always held out hope of earning one specific honour. Today, the proud Queen’s engineering alumna fulfilled a longtime dream of accepting an honorary degree from her alma mater.

“Earning an honorary degree from Queen’s has been an aspirational goal for me for a long time,” says Ms. Sturgess (SC’77). “The Order of Canada was for family and country, the honorary degree is for me. This is as good as it gets.”

As a girl raised primarily on Prince Edward Island, Ms. Sturgess was interested in engineering from an early age. She visited one big city campus while trying to decide where to pursue her post-secondary education, but that life wasn’t for her. “I walked on to the Queen’s campus, and I knew I was home. Queen’s has always felt like a family to me.”

A key mentor within her Queen’s family was Professor David Atherton (Engineering Physics). Ms. Sturgess said he was her favourite professor during her time and taught her many important lessons including problem solving.

New Queen's honorary degree recipient P, Kim Sturgess (r) poses with Queen's University Dean of Engineering Kimberly Woodhouse. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Ms. Sturgess graduated from Queen’s with a degree in engineering physics and from Western University with an MBA. She has enjoyed a long and successful career, working as the chief executive officer for a number of technology-based companies. She is also the founder and CEO of Alberta WaterSMART, a services organization committed to improving water management through better technologies and practices.

The list of her awards and honours is extensive. She was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015, and she received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal. Queen’s recognized her with the Distinguished Service Award, and the Queen’s University Alumni Association presented her with its highest honour, the Alumni Achievement Award. In 2007, she was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.

She has also served the Queen’s community in a number of different ways. Most notably, she sat on the Board of Trustees for 12 years. During that time, she chaired the finance committee of the board. “That was how Principal Bill Leggett and I became close. I was a trustee for 12 years and that was a real honour. We worked together and made some tough choices together.”

For the engineering graduates, Ms. Sturgess passed along some savvy life lessons. “I have three key messages for the graduates. One, live where your heart is at. Two, follow your passion and the rest will happen. Three, treasure your Queen’s community, trust in your Queen’s community. She has always been there for me and she will always be there for you.”