(Clockwise from top-left) Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD), Yann Martel,  Jill Rawlinson and Gordon Rawlinson (credits: Hallbauer and Fioretti, Pabitra Das, Alex Jackson)
(Clockwise from top-left) Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD), Yann Martel, Jill Rawlinson and Gordon Rawlinson (credits: Hallbauer and Fioretti, Pabitra Das, Alex Jackson)

USask to celebrate distinguished honorary degree recipients

From one of the youngest female Nobel Prize Laureates, and a Man Booker Prize recipient, to community champions of charity and industry, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) will spotlight four extraordinary individuals this spring by awarding them the institution’s highest honour.

At this year’s USask Spring Convocation at Merlis Belsher Place from June 3-7, the university will award honorary degrees to renowned philanthropists and business leaders Gordon and Jill Rawlinson, as well as Man Booker Prize-winning author Yann Martel, and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD).

USask President and Vice-Chancellor Peter Stoicheff said the university is honoured to be able to shine the spotlight on this year’s esteemed recipients and to pay tribute to their commitment to community and their remarkable career achievements.

“We are proud to recognize the outstanding accomplishments and contributions to society that these individuals have made throughout their extraordinary careers,” said Stoicheff. “Their respective achievements span a broad spectrum of disciplines and fields, and we are grateful for the opportunity to express our admiration and appreciation by bestowing the university’s highest honour during this year’s USask Spring Convocation celebration.”

Here is a closer look at each of this year’s recipients:

Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD)

(Honorary Doctor of Science)

(Clockwise from top-left) Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD), Yann Martel,  Jill Rawlinson and Gordon Rawlinson (credits: Hallbauer and Fioretti, Pabitra Das, Alex Jackson)
Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD) (credit: Hallbauer and Fioretti)

Emmanuelle Charpentier has been recognized world-wide for her groundbreaking research that laid the foundation for the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering technology, widely used daily by University of Saskatchewan researchers all across campus. She has received numerous prestigious international awards and honours, including the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020, and is an elected member of national and international scientific academies.

Charpentier is the founding, scientific and managing director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens and honorary professor at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. Charpentier has also held several research associate positions in the U.S.: The Rockefeller University, New York University Medical Center and Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis. She received her education in microbiology, biochemistry and genetics at the University Pierre and Marie Curie and the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France.

Yann Martel

(Honorary Doctor of Letters)

(Clockwise from top-left) Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD), Yann Martel,  Jill Rawlinson and Gordon Rawlinson (credits: Hallbauer and Fioretti, Pabitra Das, Alex Jackson)
Yann Martel (credit: Pabitra Das)

Yann Martel is best known as the author of the novel Life of Pi, the No.1 international bestseller (translated into 50 languages) and the 2002 winner of the Man Booker Prize – described as the world’s leading literary award for a single work of fiction. The novel was made into an award-winning feature film by celebrated director Ang Lee and has also been adapted for the stage in New York and London. Martel has also written the collection of short stories The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, the novels Self, Beatrice & Virgil, and The High Mountains of Portugal, as well as the collection of letters, 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. Martel studied philosophy at university, then travelled and worked at odd jobs as he became a writer.

Martel, who served as a visiting scholar in the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of English from 2005-2007, was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2021 – one of the country’s highest civilian awards – for his “contributions to literature and his philanthropic commitment to the betterment of his region” and earned the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal in Saskatchewan in 2022. Martel generously supports numerous community health care and cultural organizations, from the Remai Modern art gallery and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan to the Friendship Inn and the Sanctum Care Group.
Born in Spain in 1963, Martel moved to Saskatoon in 2003. He lives with writer Alice Kuipers and their four children.

Gordon Rawlinson and Jill Rawlinson

(Honorary Doctor of Laws)

(Clockwise from top-left) Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (PhD), Yann Martel,  Jill Rawlinson and Gordon Rawlinson (credits: Hallbauer and Fioretti, Pabitra Das, Alex Jackson)
(L-to-R) Gordon Rawlinson and Jill Rawlinson (credit: Alex Jackson)

Gordon and Jill Rawlinson personify what it means to be community builders, with a remarkable record of philanthropy and business success, generously donating in support of health care, education, the arts, as well as Indigenous achievement. Gordon was raised in Prince Albert and earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree (with distinction) from the University of Saskatchewan. He is a member of the Order of Canada, is a recipient of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Edwards School of Business. He built a successful radio broadcast company, today consisting of three radio stations in Saskatoon, three in Regina and one in Calgary. Rawlco Radio stations have been recognized for their community service through events like the C95 Radio Marathon for Breast Cancer Research celebrating 25 years; the Z99 Radiothon in support of the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at the Regina General Hospital (now in its 37th year); and CJME’s Santa’s Anonymous supporting the Salvation Army (in its 55th year).

Jill grew up on a farm near Redvers, Sask. She received the Governor General’s Academic Award in high school and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree. She serves as chair of their family’s philanthropic foundation, the Lily Street Foundation. Through their foundation, Jill and Gordon have directed their support towards health care, education, and the arts including: the Rawlco Centre for Mother Baby Care at the Regina General Hospital; the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at USask; the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts in Prince Albert; the Rawlinson Centre for Indigenous Business Students; the Gordon Rawlinson Finance and Trading Room at the Edwards School of Business, and the United Way and food banks in Saskatoon and Regina.

Gordon and Jill are proud parents of Edward and Katherine and have four wonderful grandchildren.

An honorary degree is the university’s most prestigious award, acknowledging worthy and unique contributions recipients have made to their community and to the world. USask recognizes individuals who have outstanding accomplishments in research, scholarly and artistic works; performed exceptional public service; contributed greatly through their professional or philanthropic activity; and demonstrated extraordinary athletic prowess. To view past recipients, visit: https://library.usask.ca/uasc/campus-history-databases/honorary-degrees

For more information on USask Spring Convocation, visit: https://students.usask.ca/academics/graduation.php

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