June 16, 2020

Many UCalgary community members honoured with prestigious Calgary Awards

City celebrates extraordinary contributions by Calgarians, including many UCalgary faculty, staff and alumni
Clockwise from top left: Brian Thiessen, Colin Jackson, Dr. David Keegan, Eva Friesen, Dr. Janaka Y

More than half of this year’s Calgary Award recipients are members of the University of Calgary community, celebrated for their meaningful contributions to the vibrant and enterprising city we live in.

The City of Calgary’s annual award program recognizes outstanding achievements made by exceptional Calgarians. Dr. Ed McCauley, UCalgary president and vice-chancellor, says honourees of the 26th annual Calgary Awards highlight the university’s role in making our city a great place to live, learn, work and play.  

“By sharing their expertise and passion, our university family inspires positive change and helps enrich the intellectual, physical and cultural landscape of our city,” says McCauley. “Calgary’s success relies on a strong community, now more than ever — the Calgary Awards recognize outstanding achievements and contributions to our community, and I am proud to see so many UCalgary faculty, staff and alumni on this year’s list of recipients.”

  • Photo above, top row from left: Brian Thiessen, Colin Jackson, David Keegan. Bottom row from left: Eva Friesen, Janaka Y. Ruwanpura, Ken Lima-Coelho.

The Calgary Award recipients were announced on June 15, under five major categories: The Award for Accessibility, Community Achievement Awards, The Environmental Achievement Award, The International Achievement Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize — see all Calgary Award recipients.

Meet this year’s Calgary Award honourees with a UCalgary connection 

Dr. Janaka Y. Ruwanpura, vice-provost, international and professor, Schulich School of Engineering
The International Achievement Award

In his dual roles at the University of Calgary, Dr. Janaka Ruwanpura has helped build the international reputation of the university — and by extension, Calgary — as a top-tier learning destination. He is a widely respected professor at the Schulich School of Engineering, as well as the university`s vice-provost, international. In this role, Ruwanpura has identified and developed strategic partnerships for international investment and engagement in the areas of research, collaboration and training. These initiatives attract students and professionals to study in Calgary, as well as provide opportunities for UCalgary members to share their knowledge and expertise in other countries.

Under Ruwanpura`s leadership, the university has secured millions of dollars in funding and grants to build and sustain global partnerships with world-leading institutions, individuals and organizations. As an extension of this work, he also created Cultural Days at the university, celebrating the individual countries involved with those global partnerships. This initiative helps build cultural fluency and awareness within the UCalgary community. Janaka’s best practices, models and tools for building international partnerships have been referred to, and adopted by, other universities.

Watch the City of Calgary's video about Janaka Ruwanpura.

Eva Friesen, MBA’00
Community Achievement Award | Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement

For three decades, Eva Friesen has provided effective leadership in our city’s not-for-profit sector, to the benefit and well-being of Calgarians. During her 12 years at the YWCA Calgary, Friesen created women`s employment counselling services, established residences for hard-to-house women, and fundraised $6 million for new facilities. In 2001, she became the CEO of the Calgary Health Trust, increasing fundraising revenues to $20 million annually. She also paved the way to acquire critically needed equipment and services at Rockyview General Hospital.

Since 2005, Friesen has been the president and CEO of Calgary Foundation, growing its assets to approximately $1 billion in 2019. These funds support areas of high importance to Calgarians, including poverty reduction, mental health initiatives, the arts, environment, and Indigenous communities.

Friesen has volunteered her expertise for several organizations, including the Calgary Police Commission and Calgary Chamber of Commerce. She also served as the first female president of the Rotary Club of Calgary Downtown. In 2017, YW Calgary recognized Friesen in their Canada 150 She Who Dares project, honouring 150 women who have impacted Calgary during the past 150 years.

Watch the City of Calgary's video about Eva Friesen.

Colin Jackson, former member of UCalgary’s Board of Governors
Community Achievement Award | Arts

Colin Jackson is an arts and culture advocate, entrepreneur, and changemaker. Since his arrival to Calgary in the 1990s, Jackson has engaged Calgarians and led organizations to see how arts and culture intersect with other essential elements of our community. During his 12-year tenure as CEO of the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts (now Arts Commons), Jackson transformed the centre from a successful performance venue where only the arts society gathered, to a community pillar of the downtown core. His success in attracting a multi-million-dollar naming agreement with EPCOR was the beginning of a broader community effort to invest in a vital arts and culture scene that impacts the lives of all Calgarians.

Jackson is an innovator, creating initiatives such as the Calgary Arts Development Agency and the Calgary Cultural District. As the Jarislowsky Executive Fellow in Residence at the Haskayne School of Business, Jackson mentored students about the powerful connection between business and the arts. Though retired, Jackson continues to champion a strong and vibrant arts community through his volunteer activities with numerous boards and community advocacy groups. Calgary’s arts and culture scene would not be what it is today if not for the leadership and passion of Colin Jackson.

Watch the City of Calgary's video about Colin Jackson.

Ken Lima-Coelho, BA’94
Community Achievement Award | Community Advocate - Individual

Ken Lima-Coelho is a leader and passionate volunteer who, for many years, has given his time and talents to the Calgary community. Lima-Coelho has a long history with one of our city’s pillar organizations, YMCA Calgary. After giving back through countless volunteer hours, he served on the board. Today, he is the vice-president, community engagement, coming full circle as an integral member of the YMCA’s management team. Lima-Coelho’s charisma, authenticity and ability to engage with people is a benefit to numerous organizations. He volunteers as MC for events hosted by University of Calgary, Calgary Foundation, and Calgary Economic Development, to name a few. He currently chairs Calgary Foundation’s Arts and Heritage Grants Advisory Committee, is a board director with cSPACE Projects and sits on the Best of Calgary advisory committee.

Nearly 28 years ago, Lima-Coelho co-founded the award-winning comedy a cappella group, the Heebee-jeebees. The quartet supports many community and fundraising events with free concerts, helping to raise millions for local charities.

As a community connector and conversation starter, Lima-Coelho is truly interested in what people have to say, particularly when it comes to our city. Lima-Coelho’s love for his hometown drives his desire to make our city a wonderful place to live for all Calgarians.

Watch the City of Calgary's video about Ken Lima-Coelho.

Leftovers Foundation, founded by Lourdes Juan, BGS’05, MEDes’09
Community Achievement Award | Community Advocate - Organization

Each week in Calgary, Leftovers Foundation volunteers distribute 6,000 pounds of surplus food to service agencies. Leftovers Foundation works in partnership with local restaurants, bakeries, grocers and distributors to ensure edible food is redirected into the hands of those that need it most, while diverting waste from our landfills. Real-time co-ordination is all online, with vendors, drivers and agencies all connected via the Leftovers smartphone app, developed by a group of high school STEM students. In 2019, volunteers rescued over 230,000 pounds of food that served over 122,000 meals to Calgarians in need. Building on the success of the food rescue program, Leftovers launched Fresh Routes Mobile Grocery Store in 2018, bringing healthy, fresh and affordable food into the city’s marginalized and vulnerable neighbourhoods. The mobile store makes 60 stops a month and is entirely volunteer run.

Led by founder Lourdes Juan and a dedicated board of community leaders, Leftovers Foundation is fulfilling a critical need in our city, enabling service agencies to spend less on food and direct donation and grant monies into essential client programming. This tremendous community mobilization initiative is expanding to other cities across Canada, with this innovative Calgary non-profit leading the way.

Watch the City of Calgary's video about Leftovers Foundation.

Dr. David Keegan, associate professor, Cumming School of Medicine
Community Achievement Award | Education

Dr. David Keegan is an international leader in the field of education and family medicine. When he was recruited by the University of Calgary in 2008 as the undergraduate education director in family medicine, less than 20 per cent of the school's medical students were choosing family medicine as their career path. Keegan set out to develop and implement a formal curriculum aimed at increasing medical student awareness, skills and interest in pursuing family medicine as a specialty. By 2014, over 40 per cent of students were specializing in family medicine.

Since 2015, Keegan has been associate dean of faculty development, developing and implementing a leadership development program for faculty members. In February 2019, the program was made available to Calgary’s health and social sector agencies with great success. Keegan is committed to enhancing learning opportunities for the local and international medical community. He is instrumental in the development of online education resource platforms so health professionals worldwide can share information and collaborate on groundbreaking health-care solutions.

Keegan has a passion for his work, always creating opportunities to better our city while enabling others to learn and succeed. When he’s not working, Keegan can be found volunteering in his community, inspiring youth to achieve academically, and on the playing field.

Watch the City of Calgary's video about Dr. David Keegan.

Brian Thiessen, JD’97
Community Achievement Award | Citizen of the Year

As chair of The Calgary Police Commission from 2016 to 2019, Brian Thiessen ensured the Calgary Police Service (CPS) was held accountable to the needs and concerns of Calgarians. The commission, made up of citizen volunteers, represents the community’s voice on safety, inclusivity, engagement, and transparency. Thiessen created opportunities for citizens and built relationships with advocacy groups, to give them all a say on safety topics that affect their lives. He also introduced a new level of ethical leadership and transparency by making commission meetings and the chief’s swearing-in ceremony accessible to the public and media.

Thiessen used his expertise in employment law to make CPS a fairer and more inclusive workplace, initiating changes to remove barriers preventing employees from feeling safe and successful in their jobs. He also increased the diversity and gender equity of the commission by recruiting highly qualified women to join.

During Thiessen`s tenure, Calgary’s economic downturn resulted in instability in the police budget, but he managed to secure funding and minimize cuts to ensure CPS maintained service levels and agency partnerships to support Calgary`s most vulnerable residents. Thiessen’s outstanding contributions have improved the quality of life for all Calgarians.

Watch the City of Calgary's video about Brian Thiessen.

UCalgary sponsors youth award for 13th consecutive year

Once again, UCalgary sponsored the Calgary Award for Youth, a volunteer and community development award presented to a young Calgarian whose exceptional achievements have culminated in recognition of, or improved, the quality of life in Calgary.

This year’s Youth Award recipient is Azaad Gill, a student at John G. Diefenbaker High School and a champion for safety, education and philanthropy. During his Grade 9 year at Captain Nicola Goddard School, he lobbied for a safer crosswalk to address the growing traffic issues in the Panorama Hills community. After meeting with City of Calgary officials, the traffic crossing was reassessed, and pedestrian-activated lights were installed in 2019.

Gill is president of the Alberta chapter of FUSE Society, a youth-led, national organization aimed at educating youth in entrepreneurship and business literacy. He is leading Calgary’s first FUSE Society National Business Program, which involves engaging local schools to participate. To date, Gill and his team have recruited five schools to incorporate the FUSE business curriculum into their lesson plans. 

Gill actively participates in other school and community-based groups where he has been instrumental in raising funds for local charities. In his spare time, Gill volunteers as a mentor, tutor, Mayor`s Youth Council member, and event organizer.