An Afghan war veteran and a hereditary chief were among those awarded honorary degrees at fall convocation ceremonies for two Vancouver Island universities on Tuesday.
Capt. Trevor Greene, who was struck from behind with an axe while serving in Afghanistan, and First Nations sports leader Baptiste Harry (Skip) Dick received honorary degrees from the University of Victoria.
Royal Roads University presented honorary degrees to Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and retired major-general Lise Mathieu, while former Pacific Opera Victoria president David Flaherty received the Chancellor’s Community Recognition Award.
Greene, who received a honorary doctor of education degree from UVic, almost died in 2006 when he was struck from behind with a stone axe that shattered his skull.
The Canadian soldier was in a meeting with peacekeepers and village elders when he set aside his weapon and removed his helmet. A 16-year-old boy with an axe approached from behind.
Greene’s brain injury affected his ability to move, but his recovery — helped by wife Debbie Greene — has exceeded expectations and he is able to walk with assistance.
The couple have been collaborators on brain injury research conducted at UVic and Dalhousie University and co-wrote the book March Forth.
An honorary doctor of education degree was also presented to Dick, in recognition of his advocacy for First Nations.
Dick, who as a child was taken from his home in Victoria and placed in a residential school in Kamloops, has worked for decades in education and youth athletics, positively influencing countless individuals in the Songhees Nation and others.
He co-founded the Victoria Native Friendship Centre and has been involved in UVic’s Elders’ Voices program, which supports students, staff and faculty.
Royal Roads University presented Atleo, a hereditary chief from the Ahousaht First Nation near Tofino, with an honorary doctor of laws degree during its convocation ceremony.
Atleo began his career as a facilitator, trainer and entrepreneur working with and for First Nations.
He was elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2009 and served until 2014. Previously, he was the regional chief of British Columbia.
“Shawn A-in-chut Atleo’s tireless commitment to empowering First Nations and promoting access to education is inspiring,” said Royal Roads president and vice-chancellor Allan Cahoon.
As national chief, Atleo took part in the 2012 First Nations-Crown Gathering, during which First Nations chiefs and elders met with the federal government to work on economic development, education reform and treaty implementation for all First Nations in Canada.
In 2008, he was appointed chancellor at Vancouver Island University, becoming the first indigenous person to hold such a position in B.C.
Mathieu received an honorary doctor of laws degree in recognition of her work toward the transformation of the military’s health services.
Her career in the Canadian Forces includes command, staff officer and health-care management positions in Canada and abroad, and covers more than three decades.
Mathieu was executive-in-residence for the Royal Roads master of arts in leadership program and chairwoman of the School of Leadership advisory committee.
“Maj.-Gen. Mathieu combined her passion for health care and exceptional leadership to deliver real change in the Canadian Forces,” Cahoon said.
“We are delighted to recognize her.”
The Chancellor’s Community Recognition Award was presented to Flaherty as a supporter of the arts, philanthropist and dedicated volunteer.
Flaherty was a two-term president of Pacific Opera Victoria and the province’s first privacy commissioner.
Cahoon cited Flaherty’s work as a privacy and information policy specialist and his philanthropic leadership.
“Victoria’s arts and culture scene shines more brightly as a result of his involvement,” Cahoon said.