2014 alumni UBC Achievement Awards Recipients

This November we’ll be celebrating seven members of the UBC community whose talent, good will and tenacity are making a difference to people at home and abroad.


UBC alumni are capable of amazing things. This November, at the alumni UBC Achievement Awards, we will honour seven inspiring members of the UBC community who, through their extraordinary activities, have connected the university with communities both near and far to create positive change.

Alumni Award of Distinction

Leona Sparrow, BA'73, MA'76, LLB'92

Leona Sparrow is the director of Treaty, Lands and Resources for the Musqueam Indian Band, on whose traditional territories UBC’s Vancouver campus is located. This comparatively small but historically influential band has been prominent in shaping Aboriginal relations in Canada, as well as current practices in First Nations communities. Ms Sparrow has held leadership roles within the band for many years, and is an active participant in First Nations affairs in Canada.

During this time, as the designated liaison between the Musqueam and UBC, she has provided valuable advice to the university as it seeks to improve and expand its relations with the Musqueam and other First Nations peoples. Without her skilled involvement, many significant developments and initiatives on this front would have been difficult if not impossible to achieve.

Ms Sparrow has served on the President’s Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs for the past several years and from 1993 to 2003 was an appointed member of UBC Senate. She has also served on advisory boards for the Peter A. Allard School of Law and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA).  In all instances, her guidance has facilitated a new and far more effective approach to working with First Nation communities, based on respect and productive collaboration.

At MOA, she helped introduce a community approach to the development of exhibitions.  Novel at the time, this emphasis on partnership is now widely adopted elsewhere.  Ms Sparrow also co-developed the Reciprocal Research Network that enabled online access to and interactive research among 14 museums featuring artefacts from the Pacific Northwest. The network links researchers with First Nations communities, and has reintroduced First Nations communities to collections reflecting their own histories.

Her work with the Peter A. Allard School of Law included advice on the complex issues surrounding legal education and indigenous populations in BC and Canada, and the school’s development of an Indigenous Legal Studies Program. She even had a hand in the design of Law’s new home, Allard Hall, ensuring it reflected the Musqueam’s connection to the land it stands on and the major role played by the Musqueam in establishing Aboriginal law in Canada.

Ms Sparrow’s contributions to UBC are important and influential. The quality and scope of the university’s First Nations-related outreach, research, and educational programs owe much to her thoughtful and insightful guidance.

Volunteer Leadership Award

Randall Findlay, BASc’73

Randall Findlay is a highly successful businessman with four decades of experience in the energy and natural resources sector and a track record of turning good ideas into successful companies.  He retired in 2006 as president and co-founder of Provident Energy Trust, and continues to serves as a director and chair of several private and public companies. He is past chair of The Petroleum Society of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and a recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement award.

Mr. Findlay’s corporate background, strategic approach, and generosity have been of great benefit to UBC as well as the community at large.

He is a member of both the Vancouver and the Okanagan cabinets for UBC’s start an evolution campaign, and also devotes a lot of his time supporting UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Mr. Findlay earned his degree in chemical engineering at UBC’s Vancouver campus and is now based in Alberta – yet he has supported the Okanagan school, which celebrated its first graduates in 2010, since its earliest days.

He is the school’s Engineering Campaign Chair, helping to secure the funding required for exceptional learning experiences, first-rate research, and relevant and productive outreach and community collaboration. Mr. Findlay has also made personal financial contributions – including a bursary for current students and a donation towards infrastructure. The school named its alternative energy lab in his honour. The lab investigates clean energy from renewable resources and is also home to a research group that specializes in exploring the potential of common sources — such as sewage sludge and wastewater – in the creation of clean energy.

As well as being a highly effective advocate for UBC, Mr. Findlay lends his support to several other community organizations. He is director and past chair of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, for which he spearheaded a fundraising campaign to build a new hospital. He also co-chaired the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s capital campaign. He is a director of Hull Child and Family Services Foundation and past president and director of the Canadian Mental Health Association for the Calgary region.

Honorary Alumnus Award

John Demco

Canada’s identity on the Internet was secured 27 years ago by the visionary work of John Demco. A Computing Facilities manager in UBC’s Department of Computer Science at the time, Mr. Demco established the .CA domain name two years before the World Wide Web even emerged. Today, he is affectionately known as one of the godfather of the Canadian Internet.

Having had the foresight to establish an early online presence for Canada, he managed the .CA registry from his UBC office on a volunteer basis for the next 13 years, sacrificing weekends and evenings to create infrastructure, establish policies, and process up to 5,000 registrations per month.

In 2000, after assigning more than 100,000 domain names, Demco and his team of volunteers handed over responsibility to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), a not-for-profit corporation he helped establish with UBC and the government of Canada. UBC received $4.3M for this transfer of authority and consequently, along with Mr. Demco, was recognized as an innovator and key player in the online revolution. Mr. Demco was a founding member of CIRA’s board of directors and still serves in an advisory capacity.

At UBC, Mr. Demco established a high standard of computing infrastructure and his revered level of expertise meant his advice was frequently sought out for campus projects and expansions. UBC’s Department of Computer Science honoured him by naming its undergraduate computing learning facility The Demco Learning Centre.

In 1997, Mr. Demco was recognized as a founder and builder of the Canadian Internet by then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He has also been inducted into Canada’s Internet Hall of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement Canadian New Media Award in 2006, as well as a  Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013.

Mr. Demco’s hard work and dedication enabled Canadian industry, government and academia to take an early, prominent role online. Today, the ubiquitous .CA domain is the most recognized symbol of Canada’s identity on the Internet with more than two million .CA domain names registered.

Faculty Community Service Award

Kimit Rai

Kimit Rai, a clinical instructor in UBC’s Department of Surgery, is the president and founder of Operation Rainbow Canada (ORC), a non-profit organization that provides free cleft lip and palate corrective surgery to impoverished children and young adults in developing countries. Without surgery, these children often have difficulty nursing or eating, resulting in chronic malnutrition. They can grow up with dental or speech problems, and may be subject to ostracization.  Dr. Rai’s humanitarian interventions have so far transformed the lives of more than 2,000 children and their families.

Born to refugee parents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dr. Rai developed his skills as a surgeon at the government general hospital in Kuala Lumpur and in the Malaysian army. When an opportunity to study plastic surgery at UBC arose, he seized the opportunity, receiving certification in 1975 and opening a surgical practice shortly thereafter.

In 1994, Dr. Rai met the founder of Operation Rainbow (USA) and volunteered for several international medical missions. Inspired by the organization’s work, he co-founded Operation Rainbow Canada in 1998.

Today, the organization has successfully completed 23 missions in nine countries. It has no paid staff. Dr. Rai serves as both teacher and mentor on the missions, providing education and hands-on training to the Canadian medical residents who volunteer their time, and the health care professionals in the host countries. Operation Rainbow has also trained Canadian plastic surgery residents, as well as anesthesia fellows and paediatric residents in BC Children’s Hospital.

As an internationally recognized plastic surgeon with more than 25 years of clinical experience, Dr. Rai’s work has been published extensively and he is a frequent speaker at educational symposiums. He’s held numerous distinguished positions, including Chief of Surgery for the Simon Fraser Health Region, and president of the north west society of plastic surgeons and of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr. Rai is an inspirational leader whose work has improved the lives of thousands of underprivileged children and provided invaluable training for Canadian health professionals and those in host countries who will carry on the work. In 2013, he was the recipient of a Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.


Future Alumnus Award

Matt Husain

Matt Husain is a PhD candidate at UBC Okanagan studying the Anthropology of Development. He is motivated by a desire to eradicate poverty through the design and delivery of effective relief programs that empower those they are aimed at. His research thesis explores the efficacy of existing foreign aid measures, using Bangladesh, his native country, as a recipient case study.

Mr. Husain arrived at UBC with a substantial background in information management for the business and finance sector. He worked for six years at the World Bank Group in Washington, DC, where he led a team of 15 to evaluate the impact of poverty reduction programs in six South Asian countries.  The experience gave him priceless insights to apply to his current work. During this time in Washington, he co-founded the Shimuliya Orphanage and a free health clinic in collaboration with the Bangladeshi government and private foundations. He also founded an NGO intended to help impoverished Bangladeshis develop basic business skills. Based on his experiences, Mr. Husain authored four books in Bengali critiquing foreign aid measures and has recently finished his first manuscript in English.

Mr. Husain is highly independent in his research approaches and is redefining and innovating many aspects of his field. After winning a coveted Doctoral Teaching Award, he developed a fourth year course on Poverty and Globalization, which he taught during the 2013-14 academic year – winning enthusiastic approval from his students. He conducted doctoral field work in Bangladesh and India and presented his research findings at international conferences at Oxford, Madrid and Wellington.

Mr. Husain has been exceptionally active in student life. He was centrally involved in the establishment of a graduate student union, becoming the group’s first president. He also initiated UBC Okanagan’s Course to Career series to improve the skill sets and job prospects for 800 fellow grad students. His record of volunteer work is extensive, and includes organizing conferences, mentoring new international students, helping out at UBCO’s Disability Resource Centre, taking part in the Kelowna Food Bank Drive and UBCO’s World Water Day, and writing for the student newspaper.

Already well respected among fellow students and UBC Okanagan faculty, Mr. Husain is bound for leadership and influence. He speaks several languages and has already travelled to 53 countries on five continents.

Young Alumnus Award

Emily MacKinnon, MA’08, JD’12

Emily MacKinnon is an advocate for social justice who seeks to empower those living with HIV/AIDS.  Her educational path reflects her dedication to this cause.

Her first UBC degree was a Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology. She explored how music is used in HIV/AIDS education worldwide and identified methods that could be applied in Canada. Her later pursuit of a law degree armed her with skills and tools to explore issues surrounding HIV/AIDS from new perspectives.

In 2010, Ms MacKinnon received a Borden Ladner Gervais Research Fellowship to research the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure with UBC Professor Isabel Grant. She has since published her own work in this area, arguing that the criminal law is the wrong paradigm within which to address HIV non-disclosure. Ms MacKinnon is also a long-time volunteer with the Positive Living Society of British Columbia, an organization dedicated to empowering persons living with HIV/AIDS. She will be supervising a new free legal advice clinic for the organization starting in the fall of 2014.

Ms MacKinnon was an outstanding student at UBC. She was a Wesbrook Scholar and received the 2012 Law Society of British Columbia Gold Medal for highest GPA in her graduating class. As a director of the UBC Law Students’ Society Academic Issues Council, Ms MacKinnon spearheaded the design of a student code of values. Ms MacKinnon was also a director of the UBC Law and Business Society, and volunteered as a clinician with the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program.

After graduating from Peter A. Allard School of Law, Ms MacKinnon lived in Milan, where she conducted research into the social drivers of change to prostitution laws. She was supported by a UBC Law Research Abroad Grant. In 2012-2013, Ms MacKinnon served in Ottawa as one of three judicial law clerks to the Chief Justice of Canada.

Ms MacKinnon now works as a litigator in McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s Vancouver office, where she has dedicated countless hours to providing pro bono legal advice: she has volunteered at Access Pro Bono legal clinics, and she represented the BC Civil Liberties Association as an intervener at the Supreme Court of Canada, challenging the government’s ability to disclose information gained by wiretap.

Ms MacKinnon has broad-ranging interests. She is a trained opera singer, performing regularly as a soloist with a small Vancouver company and arranging several fundraisers in support of the organizations for which she volunteers. Ms MacKinnon is also pursuing her pilot’s license. She is a member of the Canadian Forces Communications Reserve, holding the rank of Master Corporal.

Global Citizenship Award

Videsh Kapoor, BSc’88, BEd’92, MD’93

Videsh Kapoor is a respected advocate for improved health outcomes both at home and abroad. As well as being a Vancouver-based family physician, she directs the UBC Division of Global Health in the Department of Family Practice and voluntarily contributes her time and expertise as co-founder of the university’s Global Health Initiative (GHI). The initiative has enhanced the quality of undergraduate education at UBC by offering skills training to students from a broad range of study areas and providing them with an opportunity to contribute to projects in Uganda, India, Honduras, Kenya, and Canada.

Dr. Kapoor directly supervises and participates in several of these projects, which aim to improve health outcomes in low income communities by addressing priority health care needs, providing a healthy and optimistic future for children, and empowering local communities through capacity- strengthening, knowledge-sharing, skills training, and education.

Since 2010, for example, she has been faculty lead for a partnership between UBC and a remote hospital in the Peruvian Amazon, which has hosted several UBC senior medical students and medical residents as part of their training. Dr. Kapoor is leading a collaborative research project with her Peruvian partners investigating the effects of methyl mercury contamination of fish and implications for local populations, specifically pregnant women and children.

Since its inception four years ago, GHI has provided hands-on training to approximately 500 students from various UBC disciplines, including medicine, dentistry, midwifery, arts, science, and engineering.

In recognition of her teaching skills, Dr. Kapoor has received the Global Health Education Consortium’s Velji Award for excellence in Global Health Education (2010), the William A. Webber Award (2011) for her contributions to undergraduate medical education, and was named Family Practice Teacher of the Year by the BC College of Family Physicians (2007).

As well as being instrumental in the development of UBC’s global health curricula, Dr. Kapoor chairs a national working group for the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) on developing national consensus global health competencies for core medical undergraduate curricula.  She also is a member of the College of Family Physicians of Canada Global Health Committee, whose initiatives are aimed at the promotion and development of Family Medicine training programs in developing nations.

Dr. Kapoor’s research and ongoing commitment to global health education have improved the health and welfare of impoverished populations, inspired students to become engaged and responsible citizens, and strengthened UBC’s presence as a globally influential university.




Achievement Award Sponsors