Alumni Awards of Merit 2013

Alumni Western is please to announce this year’s distinguished recipients of the 2013 Alumni Awards of Merit. While each of them had their start at Western, their four unique journeys have taken them around the world and back again.

These four ambitious, dedicated alumni serve as tremendous ambassadors of Western. Each will receive their awards when they return home to Western’s campus during Homecoming weekend for the 39th Annual Alumni Award of Merit Dinner.

Dr. Ivan Smith Award: Robert Farley, BA'50, MD'54

St. Thomas, Ontario native Dr. Bob Farley was recruited to Western by football coach John Metras, and played on the 1949-50 Yates Cup championship team. Like many teammates, he went on to study medicine. Inspired by the example of Dr. Angus McLachlin, legendary Chief of Surgery, he qualified as a general surgeon and returned to St. Thomas to practice. Farley, who married a Western drum majorette, remained connected to the University throughout his busy career. Among other involvements, he helped to plan class reunions, raise money, select award winners and organize the annual Elgin County Picnic. He is delighted to receive an award named to honour Dr. Ivan Smith, a surgeon who had a profound effect on Farley’s practice.

Professional Achievement Award: Margaret Kavanagh, BA'74, MD'78

Margaret Kavanagh joined the Canadian Forces as a way of paying for her education at Western. “It started out as a purely economic decision,” she says. “I never had any intention of making a career of it.” Over the next 30-plus years she welcomed one challenging assignment after another, serving as a pioneer and role model for women in the military. She was the first woman medical officer to serve at sea and the first to command an army field unit. In 2007 she retired as Commander of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. Although she has received many awards, Kavanagh says recognition from the University is important to her. “I had seven great years at Western,” she says. “This is a great honour and a validation of all my hard work since then.”

Community Service Award: Hugh John Cook, HBA’56

Cook grew up in a family where volunteerism was a way of life. As his career took him from Thunder Bay to St. Catharines to Cornwall, he found a variety of ways to serve his communities. Among his many involvements, he spent 36 years as a member of the boards of general hospitals. He also volunteered with library boards, health units, an employees’ credit union, colleges, universities and the United Church. As a retiree in London, Ontario, he became involved in Meals on Wheels London, Western’s Senior Alumni group and several other organizations. At nearly 80, he still volunteers with five community organizations. “I feel so lucky that life has treated me well, so I have a responsibility to reciprocate,” he says.

Young Alumni Award: Ritu Bhasin, LLB'00

Growing up as a Sikh in southern Ontario, Ritu Bhasin knew the sting of racism and bullying. She studied law to address issues of social justice. Joining a Bay Street law firm, she became involved in talent management, often dealing with issues relating to diversity. After completing an Executive MBA at the University of Toronto, she launched her own consulting company, which helps organizations in the areas of leadership development, diversity and the advancement of women. Bhasin also launched Mivoko, an online guide to name pronunciation designed to counter negative impact of hard-to-pronounce names. “I want to serve and live with honour and integrity,” she says. “I am committed to goodness and making a difference in other peoples’ lives.”