COURTESY OF MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Memorial University has announced the names of two people to whom it will award honorary doctorates at fall convocation ceremonies in October.
Mary Jacqueline (Jackie) Sheppard, a trailblazer in business, and Timothy Laverne McNeill, deputy minister of education and economic development, Nunatsiavut Government, will receive honorary doctor of laws degrees on Oct. 17.
Honorary degree recipients are chosen by the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, after careful examination of the grounds for their nomination. The honorary doctorate is designed to recognize extraordinary contributions to society or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.
The awarding of honorary doctorates, an important feature of Memorial’s convocation, serves to celebrate both the individual and the university as well as to inspire graduates, their families and guests. Nearly 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students will receive degrees during three sessions of convocation on Oct. 17 in St. John’s.
Distinguished retired faculty members who were recently accorded the title professor emeritus/emerita by the university’s Senate will also be recognized at convocation.
Timothy McNeill was born and raised in the Labrador Inuit community of Makkovik. He attended residential school in North West River and studied at Memorial University and Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, N.S.
After finishing his post-secondary education, McNeill worked as an outreach worker with the Labrador Friendship Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and as a health career counsellor with the Labrador Inuit Health Commission. In 1990 he joined the Labrador Inuit Association as an education advisor and continued in that role until 2005, helping the fight for recognition of Inuit rights and benefits during that period. McNeill assisted with the self-government portion of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, in particular areas around education and training.
Upon the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government in 2005, McNeill was appointed deputy minister of the Department of Education and Economic Development, a position he continues to hold today.
Throughout his career, McNeill has been instrumental in creating training opportunities for Inuit with respect to Voisey’s Bay mining project, and more recently the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project and the Voisey’s Bay mine expansion through the Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership, where he sits as a board member.
McNeill has consistently demonstrated strategic vision in his support of Inuit education. He has redefined the way in which post-secondary education is offered in Labrador. In his capacity as education advisor and over the course of many years, he successfully leveraged and enhanced the development of Labrador Inuit education funding.
He was key in the design and implementation of the Inuit Northern Nursing Program, the Inuit Bachelor of Social Work Program and, most recently, the Inuit Bachelor of Education Program. The latter includes an Inuktitut language training component; graduates of the program have a better understanding of the language, something that is unique in the country.
As a direct result of McNeill’s leadership, Labrador Inuit are among some of the most educated Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
He has also been influential nationally and internationally. He was an inaugural member of the National Committee on Inuit Education, which led to the creation of the National Strategy on Inuit Education and he has been a strong advocate in advancing economic development and education.
For his unparalleled and steadfast leadership in promoting and advancing Indigenous education, training and capacity building, and building partnerships and programs for a sustainable Inuit future, Timothy Laverne McNeill will receive the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, during the 7:30 p.m. session of fall convocation on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Editors Note: This article was originally published in the Gazette and has been republished with permission of the university.