Alumni Association Honours its Best at Gala

Gala 2018 award recipients
Master of Ceremonies Rico Garcia & Principal Daniel Woolf with the 2018 QUAA Gala Award Recipients. Photos by Stephen Wild.
Gala attendees sing the Oil Thigh
Attendees join together in signing the Oil Thigh in celebration of the winners. Photos by Stephen Wild.
An acknowledgement of Indigenous land with song
The Four Directions Women Singers including Lindsay Morcom, Lauren Winkler, Artsci’17, Law ’20, Carol Ann Budd, Sc’89, DSc’16, & Vanessa McCourt, Artsci’02 (left to right). Photos by Stephen Wild.

Thank you, Queen’s. It was a phrase that was used a lot at the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) Gala Awards on April 7.

The annual black tie dinner is an opportunity for the Queen’s community to get together and honour the hard work of dedicated volunteers and celebrate the achievements of successful alumni. The event attracted about 150 people, including many of Queen’s top administrators – such as Principal Daniel Woolf, Chancellor Jim Leech and Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon – and alumni from as far away as Hong Kong and London, UK.

As the QUAA thanked and honoured some of the university’s most impressive graduates, many of those alumni paid tribute to their alma mater for helping them succeed in their careers.

“I thank the Queen’s Alumni Association for this award, and with it the recognition of the value and the place of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous achievement in the Queen’s community,” said Marlene Brant Castellano, Arts’55, LLD’91, during her acceptance speech.

Janice Hill and Marlene Brant Castellano

Fellow award recipient Janice Hill, Ed'99, (L) with Dr. Marlene Brant Castellano, Arts'55, LLD'91, (R).

Dr. Brant Castellano received the highest honour bestowed by the QUAA, the Alumni Achievement Award, for a pioneering career in Indigenous education and research. In the early 1970s, the member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte helped establish one of North America’s first Indigenous Studies programs at Trent University.

She told the crowd of about 150 alumni at the black tie dinner in Ban Righ Hall that an Introduction to Sociology course with Professor John Meisel at Queen’s made her realize that the academic study of human society, the interplay of cultures and power relations was about her own experience and her own people.  Those connections had never been made in her previous education.

“That was the beginning of awareness, questioning, and eventually challenging the omission from the academic landscape of authentic and respectful stories of Mohawks and other Indigenous peoples,” says Dr. Brant Castellano.

Previous Alumni Achievement Award recipients include NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, PhD’95, DSc’16 (who is currently on a six-month mission on the International Space Station); former Governor General David Johnston, Law’66, LLD’91; and MSNBC TV anchor Ali Velshi, Artsci’94, LLD’16.

One To Watch Award recipient and Buzzfeed Canada editor Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Artsci’11, was another honoree who was grateful to Queen’s for giving him the skills to succeed.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud with wife Emily

Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Artsci'11, attended Gala arm in arm with his wife Emily Burns, Artsci'09, MA'11. The two met while in school and are one of many Queen's love stories.

“For me, the main benefit I got (from my Artsci degree) is the ability to connect ideas that other people would not necessarily think are connected. That is a skill I treasure in my job every day and that is a skill this university gave me at CFRC, at The Queen’s Journal. It is now something I use every day in my job,” Mr. Abdelmahmoud told the crowd during his acceptance speech.

It was an emotional weekend for Sue Bates, Artsci’91, who received the Hebert J. Hamilton Volunteer Service Award. Ms. Bates is a longtime volunteer and well known as one of the university’s biggest supporters. As the daughter of two Queen’s grads, she grew up going to Homecoming with her parents and watching Gaels football games. Among her many volunteer duties after graduation, she ran alumni branches in Scotland, Kingston, Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos.

Her two-year term as volunteer president of the QUAA came to an end on Saturday morning when she passed the torch to the incoming president, Jeremy Mosher, Artsci’08. A few hours later, she received a standing ovation at Gala as she accepted her award.

Principal Woolf, Sue Bates and Rico Garcia

Principal Daniel Woolf, Artsci'80, (L) and Executive VP of the QUAA Rico Garcia, Artsci'14, (R) present Sue Bates, Artsci'91, with her award as she dawns her Queen's Gaels autographed jersey.

“In all honesty, two years (as QUAA President) has felt like two minutes. It has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve as president, working with fellow volunteers on both the Board of Directors and throughout our Branch network and reunions. I am delighted to be here to celebrate such an amazing group of recipients,” said Ms. Bates.

In total, 11 awards were handed out during Gala. The other recipients include:

If you know a successful alumni or dedicated Queen’s volunteer who deserves to be recognized, QUAA Award nominations are now open for next year’s Gala. For details, visit the award page or email Nikki Remillard.  

For photos from the 2018 Gala Awards, view the Flickr album.