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UVic honorary degrees for Steven, Gwendolyn Point

Oct 13 2012
Lt.-Gov. Steven Point and his wife, Gwendolyn Point, are receiving honorary degrees from UVic. 

Lt.-Gov. Steven Point and his wife, Gwendolyn Point, are receiving honorary degrees from UVic.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist |Darren Stone, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

The University of Victoria sits on Coast Salish territory, making it fitting that two of this year's honorary doctorates will go to Lt.-Gov. Steven Point and Gwendolyn Point, who are known for their efforts fostering reconciliation between indigenous and settler British Columbians and for advancements in education for First Nations students.

The Points are among four people deemed to be outstanding contributors to public service who will be honoured during UVic's fall convocation ceremonies. Degrees, diplomas or certificates will be given to 1,257 people on Nov. 13 and 14.

The other recipients are Rice University scientist Naomi Halas of Houston for work in the fledgling field of "nanophotonics" in the fight against cancer and Dave Obee, Times Colonist editor-in-chief, who is a historian and expert in genealogy.

The Points have provided "unparalleled work in bringing genuine reconciliation and mutual understanding between indigenous and settler British Columbians and they are among the most respected leaders within the Coast Salish territory," a UVic statement says.

The first indigenous person to become the official representative of the Queen, Steven Point will receive an honorary doctor of laws, while his wife, Gwendolyn Point, will receive an honorary doctor of education.

His previous positions include chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission, 15 years as an elected chief of the Skowkale First Nation and tribal chair of the Stó: lo Nation Government. A former instructor in native law, he was appointed as a provincial court judge in February 1999.

Gwendolyn Point, an instructor of social work and history at the University of the Fraser Valley, is "a driving force behind the advances that have been made by the Stó: lo in education, linguistics and cultural awareness," UVic says. As manager of education at the Stó: lo Nation offices in Chilliwack, she "dramatically extended the First Nations curriculum within the Fraser Valley School District and helped to improve outcomes for First Nations students in the K-12 system."

Halas will be honoured with a doctorate in science for her work with nanoshells - tiny coated spheres with an inner core of glass and an outer core of gold - that can be used in cancer therapy, UVic says. The particles, just 1/100,000 the width of a human hair, can capture and focus light around them. Halas hopes the technology can be used to remove lumps in soft tissues and boost the prospects of cancer patients.

Obee will receive a doctor of laws for his achievements as a journalist, author, history columnist, and genealogist.

A co-founder of the annual Times Colonist Book Drive, which has raised more than $1.5 million for literacy causes, Obee was also central to digitizing the British Colonist and ensuring that UVic was granted the rights to the early newspaper, the university says.

In 2008, Obee wrote Making the News, which tells the story of Victoria and Vancouver Island through newspapers and archival sources dating from 1858. He also produced Destination Canada, "considered the most comprehensive guide to resources for immigration researchers," UVic says.

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