University College Alumni of Influence Award
The University College Alumni of Influence Award recognizes our diverse alumni and the exceptional ways in which they impact the College, the University of Toronto and our communities.
Alvyn Austin is a longtime teacher and professor of Chinese history whose work has helped significantly enhance Canada-China relations. Born to missionary parents who fled China during the Japanese War, Austin was born in India and then moved with his family back to China where he witnessed the Chinese civil war. His family moved to Toronto in 1951 and Austin was enrolled in East Asian Studies at UC by the age of 17. He would go on to become one of our nation’s foremost scholars in Canada-China relations, writing influential publications and contributing to several cultural initiatives. One such post included working as interpretation planner for the Norman Bethune House in Gravenhurst, which is visited by nearly all Chinese delegations. Amongst Austin’s many publications is the book Saving China: Canadian Missionaries in the Middle Kingdom 1888-1959, which created a new field of scholarship and is required reading for Canadian diplomats to China. Austin retired from Brock University and his distinguished academic career in 2007.
A longtime city councilor and social worker in North Vancouver, John Braithwaite forged a distinguished career connecting with vulnerable individuals and breaking down barriers in his community. After earning his MA degree in Social Work at the U of T (1956) and moving to the west coast, Braithwaite was appointed executive director of The North Shore Neighbourhood House in 1957, a position he held for 23 years. When he was elected to North Vancouver city council for the first time in 1972, Braithwaite was one of only three Black politicians in British Columbia. Altogether, Braithwaite spent 23 years in elected office and his passion for human rights and social welfare won him various awards, including the National Black Award (1973), Canada 125 Medal (1992) and Freedom of the City award from the City of North Vancouver (2003). In 2004, North Vancouver opened the John Braithwaite Community Centre, honouring the popular politician and social worker who had helped so many in the community.
A professor of Criminology and Contemporary Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University Brantford (2003-present), Thomas Fleming is an award-winning teacher who is recognized for pioneering work in the areas of serial and mass murder. Having taught at several universities across Canada, Fleming is a prolific author who has published 11 books and dozens of academic articles. In 1993, Fleming organized the world’s first conference on mass murder, and he has also provided expert academic information to several high-profile investigations, including the Paul Bernardo case. His excellent work as a teacher and mentor has also been recognized with several awards, including being the inaugural recipient of Ontario's Leadership in Faculty and Teaching (LIFT) Award (2007), being named to Wilfrid Laurier University’s Teaching Hall of Fame, and being designated a Best Professor at the University of Windsor by Maclean’s magazine.
A longtime lawyer, businessman and philanthropist, Sheldon Godfrey is a former chair of the Heritage Canada Foundation who has written extensively on Canadian history and been instrumental in numerous heritage preservation projects throughout the country. Sheldon and his wife, Judy, have led a wide range of award-winning projects over several decades, many of which concern the preservation of Canada’s architectural heritage. They have also co-authored several books and articles, including Search Out the Land: The Jews and the Growth of Equality in British Colonial America, 1740-1867, which won several awards. The couple have also been involved in several charitable, environmental and civic initiatives that have led to stronger government policies around heritage preservation. In 1998, Sheldon was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.
Joseph Halpern is a prolific and award-winning computer scientist and mathematician who is currently the Joseph C. Ford Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University (tenured since 1996). After receiving his PhD from Harvard University in 1981, Halpern joined IBM’s Almaden Research Centre (1982-96) before moving to Cornell. His research interests are in the areas of reasoning about knowledge and uncertainty, security, distributed computation, decision theory and game theory. He has co-authored five patents, three books and hundreds of technical publications, winning a wide range of honours for contributions to his field. Some of his more recent honours include being elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering (2019), being named the Moore Distinguished Scholar at Caltech (2018-19), winning the Kampe de Feriet Award (2016), being elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2015), and being appointed the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Natural Sciences and Engineering at Hebrew University (2009-10).
A pioneering wildlife biologist and advocate for women in science, Anne Dagg is recognized as the first person to study wild giraffes. Formerly an assistant professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Guelph (1968-72) and senior academic advisor for the Independent Studies Program at the University of Waterloo (1989-2013), Dagg has published 25 books, including the world’s first monograph on giraffe biology. Her groundbreaking work has led to a wide range of awards, including being appointed Fellow of the Zoological Society of Ontario (1967), receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Science from the University of Waterloo (2019) and the University of Toronto (2020), and being appointed to the Order of Canada (2019). Her life and work were the subject of an award-winning documentary, The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (2018).
Sharona Kanofsky has been a national leader in the development of the physician assistant (PA) profession in Canada. She is currently an associate professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Family & Community Medicine, the Consortium of Physician Assistant Education Program, at the U of T. Kanofsky has also worked as a PA in a variety of clinical settings and served as the founding academic coordinator of the PA program, currently serving as Research & Scholarship Lead for the program. PAs help provide medical care in collaboration with physicians and improve access to healthcare for rural, remote and otherwise underserved communities. A natural leader, Kanofsky’s outstanding work as an advocate has helped make PAs increasingly common across Canada, significantly improving health care for Canadians. Her pioneering work has led to several awards, including the Tom Ashman Physician Assistant of the Year award from the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (2013).
An award-winning writer, Deirdre Kelly’s work has helped elevate the performing arts both in Canada and around the world. Shortly after graduating from the U of T with a MA in English (1984), Kelly was hired as the Globe and Mail’s full-time dance critic. At this time, she was the only female critic in the newspaper’s arts department. After more than three decades at the Globe and Mail as a dance critic, reporter, investigative reporter and columnist, Kelly joined York University in 2017 to become editor of The York University Magazine. In addition to her work as a journalist, Kelly sits on numerous boards and has written two best-selling nonfiction books, Paris Times Eight (2009) and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (2012). She has a long list of accolades, including winning two Nathan Cohen Awards (2014 & 2020) from the Canadian Theatre Critics Association. Kelly has also remained active with University College as a mentor to students interested in journalism careers.
Born in Canada to parents who fled slavery in the United States, the late Alfred Lafferty forged an incredible career that included numerous firsts. Known as an excellent student, Lafferty won several academic awards and, after graduating from UC with a BA in Mathematics and Classics, later earned a master’s degree. Following his post-secondary education, Lafferty worked as headmaster at numerous schools and, in 1872, he moved to Guelph and became the first Black principal at a high school in Ontario. Lafferty would later move to Chatham to work as principal at a new school for Black settlers in the area. During this time, he began studying law. A few years later, he became the first Canadian-born Black lawyer in Ontario. Lafferty passed away in 1912, leaving behind a rich and lasting legacy.
Liviya Mendelsohn has dedicated her career to advancing equity and accessibility for youth across Ontario. Currently, Mendelsohn serves as executive director at the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence. She previously served as director, accessibility and inclusion, at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (2016-21), as well as artistic director at the ReelAbilities Film Festival (2015-21). Living by the principle “nothing about us without us”, Mendelsohn is well-known for her work to advance equity and accessibility. She was recently awarded a Mandel Fellowship in Executive Non-Profit Management (2021-23) and has won several awards, including Programming Excellence Awards from the Jewish Community Centre Association of North America (2016, 2018, 2019 & 2020) and the City of Toronto Access, Equity and Human Rights Award (2019).