The University of Winnipeg



Senator, educator, refugee advocate to receive Honorary Doctorates

Patricia Bovey with a flag in the background, Dan Thomas outdoors, and John Smyth with a red background.

Honorary Doctorates Patricia Bovey, Dan Thomas, and John Smyth

Patricia Bovey, Dan Thomas, and John Smyth will receive honorary doctorates at The University of Winnipeg’s 124th Convocation on Thursday, June 13 and Friday, June 14.

Hon. Patricia Bovey – Senator, art historian, and gallery director

The Hon. Patricia Bovey will be recognized at UWinnipeg’s Spring Convocation ceremony on Thursday, June 13 at 9:30 a.m.

For over 50 years, Dr. Bovey has elevated and refined our understanding of Canadian art as a museologist, professor, art historian, gallery director, curator, mentor, and Senator.

Her connection to the University began in the mid-1970s, when she was hired as its first art curator. She built an art collection that enhanced our campus, and taught some of UWinnipeg’s first art history courses.

She later established the graduate program in Curatorial Practices—the first art-oriented Master of Arts program in Manitoba—and taught in it too, mentoring dozens of emerging curators who now lead cultural institutions across Canada.

She was Curator of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and Director of both the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She also founded and directed the Buhler Gallery in St. Boniface Hospital, the first such gallery of its kind in Canada.

From 2016 to 2023, she served in the Senate of Canada, where she was instrumental in installing the first works of Black Canadian artists in the Red Chamber.

She is also an esteemed author whose expertise is sought after from Scandinavia to Japan. In her public lectures and parliamentary addresses, she showed how art—especially art that presents difficult truths—is central to reconciliation.

Dr. Bovey is a champion of diversity in the arts. She has given voice to societal issues, from climate change to the legacy of residential schools, and has famously pointed out that if we want to comprehend our history, our present, and our future, we must look to the work of visual artists.

Dan Thomas – Elder, educator, and spiritual leader

Dan Thomas will be recognized at UWinnipeg’s Spring Convocation ceremony on Thursday, June 13 at 2:30 p.m.

Dan is an esteemed Anishinaabe Elder, Spiritual Leader, Knowledge Carrier, and Traditional Teacher whose work in education has made a generational difference in Manitoba.

He grew up on Matheson Island, just north of Hecla, and currently lives near Gull Lake. He has been an educator his entire life, starting his career as a middle school and high school teacher.

Since the 1970s, he has educated the educators, leading workshops on cultural awareness and how to integrate Indigenous perspectives into the school curriculum.

For 17 years, he was a consultant for Manitoba Education, authoring education documents for the province and First Nations. He also developed Treaty education resources for the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba.

During his 14 years at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, he developed many print and video resources about traditional teachings.

For the past 12 years, he has been an instructor in the University’s Masters in Development Practice Program, where he teaches the course “Indigenous Thought and Worldviews,” a perennial student favourite. He also offers students many experiential learning opportunities.

The breadth of his knowledge, together with his warmth, good humour and patience make him an inspiring educator.

He is also a University Elder-in-Residence, providing traditional teachings, guest lectures, counselling, and guidance.

Dan Thomas has a profound knowledge of Anishinaabe traditional teachings and history. He is a fifth-degree Midewiwin who is known for his humility, kindness, generosity, and compassion. He is loved and respected by students, faculty, and staff, and by Indigenous people across Turtle Island.

John Smyth – Refugee advocate, family therapist, and trauma expert

John Smyth will be recognized at UWinnipeg’s Spring Convocation ceremony on Friday, June 14 at 9:30 a.m.

He has helped advance mental health services to the immigrant and refugee communities in Canada. He was a social worker, family therapist, and mental health clinician for 26 years before becoming Executive Director of Aurora Family Therapy Centre at the University in 2011.

Over the following decade, under his leadership, the centre quadrupled its staff and grew its operating budget six-fold.

He recognized Aurora needed to serve the mental health needs of refugee newcomers to Manitoba. During his directorship, the centre served 20,000 people, 7,000 of whom were refugees.

He oversaw Aurora’s Dove of Peace Program, which provides a trauma-informed understanding of the settlement experiences of newcomers who have left behind mass violence. The federal government selected the program—the only one of its kind in Canada—to triage all newcomers to Winnipeg whose settlement pathway is affected by trauma.

The needs assessment program he developed includes a toolkit, which is now used nationwide to help frontline workers and clinicians identify appropriate services for immigrants and refugees.

He became the go-to expert on refugee trauma treatment in Canada by creating space for and collaborating with people who have not been listened to in the past. He understands newcomers contribute valuable insight into the conditions for their own well-being.

In 2016, he was one of four Canadians accepted into the acclaimed Certificate in Global Mental Health: Trauma and Recovery at Harvard.

Gentleness and humility continue to characterize John Smyth’s personal style. Staff at Aurora have told him he has Ubuntu, an African philosophy of love and care in community, which loosely translates as, “I am because you are.”

In recognition of exceptional service, achievement, and distinction, The University of Winnipeg presents a variety of awards to deserving members of the University and wider community at our Convocation ceremonies.  Learn more about our 124th Convocation.

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