Alumni Western is pleased to announce this year’s distinguished recipients of the 2014 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 award when they return home to Western’s campus during Homecoming weekend for the 40th Annual Alumni Award of Merit Dinner.
Carol-Lynn Chambers has reached great heights not only for her own career, but also on behalf of women in Ontario. Serving as one of the highest-ranking female officers in the Ontario fire service is no small feat when only about three per cent of the fire service is female.
“I wish to help young girls see fire service as a possible career path,” says Chambers. “And of course, I’d encourage them to get a degree first… hopefully from Western! My education has meant everything in my career.”
A science graduate (biology), Chambers says that pursuing her Masters of Public Administration mid-career was a life-changing experience. Chambers has risen in the ranks of Ontario’s fire service. Her career includes serving as Deputy Fire Chief for the City of London and interim Chief/Associate Dean of Fire Science and Public Safety at Lambton College, following nine years with 3M Canada Inc. She currently serves in a senior management role in the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.
Giving back to Western has been a priority for Chambers. “It feels like I’m coming home every time I visit Western,” she says. “There’s a strong sense of belonging and pride on this campus.” She has devoted more than a decade as a volunteer for Western, serving as a director and president of the Alumni Association and the Communications Committee.
Chambers is personally touched to receive an award that honours cancer researcher Dr. Ivan Smith. Her mother worked in the former Collip cancer research lab on campus and “would be ecstatic to hear about the award,” says Chambers. “I’m personally proud that the award recognizes the importance of serving our Alumni Association and our world-class university here at Western.”
Aubrey Dan has always challenged himself by asking the question, why not?
“All you need is a small idea to change the world in a positive way. If you have passion and drive, you can have a massive impact as a change agent. I asked the question, why Toronto didn’t have more Broadway-style theatre,” he says. “Eventually I secured the rights to produce Jersey Boys that ran for two years and recently became a movie.”
Dan is a Canadian businessman, philanthropist as well as a Tony-Award® winning producer (MEMPHIS). He is Founder and President of Dancap Private Equity Inc. and Dancap Productions Inc.
Born in Toronto, Dan graduated from Western with a degree in Administrative and Commercial studies in 1985. Soon after, he joined his father's company, Novopharm Limited, a generic drug manufacturer as a sales representative, and then Director of Sales. In 1995, Dan was appointed President to run the Novopharm subsidiary, Wampole Canada Inc., an herbal supplement and vitamin manufacturer. In 2002, Dan founded Dancap Private Equity, a family investment office.
Dan is a very generous philanthropist. Together with his wife Marla, the Dans have donated millions to organizations primarily focused on children, health and education. His $5-million contribution created the Aubrey Dan Program in Management and Organizational Studies. “Being a part of creating the Dan Management Program is one of the most rewarding aspects of my connection to Western,” says Dan. “I am thrilled that the program has evolved into a department with graduate studies starting in the fall of 2014. I am also thrilled that there are plans to teach one of the courses in Hong Kong next summer, expanding its international footprint.”
Receiving an Alumni Award of Merit is a wonderful surprise for Dan. “The sooner one gets involved with Western as an alumni, the bigger the change you can make.”
Living with deafness did not stop Lorin MacDonald from pursuing her dream of studying law at Western. Today, she is using those skills to lead the way for greater accessibility for all in Ontario and nationally.
MacDonald’s achievements fostering positive change in Ontario’s accessibility began even before law school. “In the summer before I started at Western Law, I was involved in organizing a cross-disability forum at King's University College aimed at encouraging the provincial government to enact stronger disability legislation,” MacDonald recalls. “Attended by the Minister in charge of the disability portfolio, my soon-to-be law school professors spoke along with many others, all advocating for the use of regulatory standards to effect change. Six weeks after the forum, the Minister introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and all three parties unanimously passed it. What a tremendous way to see the law in action while attending law school!” The AODA has far-reaching implications province-wide and is a model around the world.
Attending Western came with significant personal sacrifice for MacDonald. Through it all, she worked to increase accessibility on campus and, thanks to MacDonald’s efforts, captioning is now available at Western for any student who requires this accommodation.
After graduating from Western, MacDonald became the first articling student (or lawyer) with a hearing loss to request accommodation in the Hamilton court system. Since then, she has succeeded in making other tribunals and courts in Ontario similarly accessible, making her a role model for other articling students and new lawyers with disabilities. MacDonald is a frequent presenter and author on the rights of Ontarians with disabilities and the benefits of an accessible society. As a result, Western, the City of London, and the province have recognized her for her contributions.
Vava Angwenyi’s passion for coffee began percolating at Western.
“I was always stopping in at Tim Hortons between classes,” she says. “And I loved the Starbucks in Weldon Library. Even back then, I was a real coffee junkie.”
But much more than campus coffee breaks inspired the Statistics grad to return to her homeland of Kenya to start her own company, Vava Coffee Limited, in 2009. It was a dream of contributing to social change.
Today Vava Coffee works with more than 250 small holder farmers across Kenya to produce coffee. Vava’s packaging is made in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums. HIV-positive women are employed to sew cloth bags for the company’s high-end blends, while former street kids make packaging from recycled paper products for Vava’s other blends. Each Vava Coffee bag is labelled with the name of the Arabica beans and a brief story about the farmer who grew them.
In February 2014, Vava Coffee won a marketing challenge organized by the Fair Trade Organization in conjunction with Progresso International for having come up with the best idea of how a business can set up a value chain that benefits the small holder farmer. In December 2013, Angwenyi was named one of Kenya’s top 50 most successful and influential business people by the Msafiri magazine. In 2011, Vava Coffee was nominated as one of the top 12 social enterprises worldwide by the BBC program World Challenge.
Angwenyi’s time at Western helped inspire her future direction. “I still remember my very first Homecoming game,” she recalls. “As a Kenyan slowly connecting to Canada it was an event that quickly connected me to the Western spirit. To this day, I can say that my Western years were the best academic years of my life.”
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