Nov. 19, 2014

National urban transit award honours legacy of Lawrence Hong

Urban studies student was destined for greatness in Canadian public transit industry
Lawrence Hong, left, pictured here with David Cooper, a former University of Calgary urban studies instructor. Hong will posthumously receive the Individual Leadership Award of Excellence from the Canadian Urban Transit Association on Nov. 19, at a ceremony in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His parents will collect the award on his behalf. Photo courtesy of David Cooper

Lawrence Hong, left, pictured here with David Cooper, a former urban studies instructor.

David Cooper

Had he lived, Lawrence Hong would have been an award-winning urban planner. David Cooper, senior transportation planner with the City of Toronto and a former urban studies instructor at the University of Calgary is certain of this.

That’s why Cooper and his colleague Jonathan Lea — a senior planner at Calgary Transit who also teaches urban studies at the University of Calgary — nominated their former student for one of the highest honours in the Canadian public transit industry.

On Nov. 19 at a ceremony in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Hong, who would have been 28, will posthumously receive the Individual Leadership Award of Excellence from the Canadian Urban Transit Association. Hong’s parents will receive the award on his behalf, joined by Brendan McCabe, their late son’s friend and urban studies classmate.

Hong was one of five victims of an act of violence that occurred in the Calgary community of Brentwood on April 15. He was killed along with fellow University of Calgary students Jordan Segura, a religious studies major, and Joshua Hunter from the Haskayne School of Business. Scholarships have been set up for all three students. Musician Zackariah Rathwell and dancer Kaitlin Perras were also among the young victims.

Hong was set to graduate in June of this year and during the convocation ceremonies that month he was granted a posthumous degree.

“I have no doubt that Lawrence was going to be a gift to the urban planning profession,” says Cooper. “He had such passion and talent. I always felt he was going to be an award-winning planner, and it’s comforting to know that he’s now being recognized as such. This really is the biggest honour in the Canadian public transit industry, next to lifetime achievement.”

Cooper first met Hong while teaching an urban studies course in transit planning at the University of Calgary. As a student in the class, Hong quickly excelled.

“He had big aspirations to become a transportation planner and he was focused on issues surrounding cycling, public transit and walkability,” Cooper recalls. Hong was also passionate about public art and he helped form a group called the Calgary Creative City Collaboration, which placed works of art in the city’s LRT stations. “He was trying to change the concept of the LRT station so that it would be thought of as a community space,” says Cooper.

In 2013, when Calgary Transit hosted the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s biannual youth conference, Hong sat on the steering committee as a volunteer. “He was one of the most dedicated volunteers they’d ever seen,” Cooper says. “He designed the program, handled graphic designs, he had his hands in everything and he did it because he loved it. I watched him at the conference and he loved everything about being there. He was absolutely glowing.”

Hong also served as vice-president (finance) for the Urban Studies Club and he was a valued member of the Q-Centre on campus where he was involved in peer support activities.

“This was such a tragic situation and, in a way, I feel like this award shines a light on something dear to Lawrence that is positive,” says Cooper. “It flips the lens a bit.”