Community Connections Award winners honoured for uplifting impact

Michael Brown

A First Nations children’s advocate, a long-running musical ensemble and a member of the first family of University of Alberta advocacy are all to be honoured for their tireless work embodying the spirit of the University of Alberta’s promise of "uplifting the whole people.”

Cindy Blackstock, the U of A Mixed Chorus and Jim Hole will receive 2014 Community Connections Awards May 13 at a ceremony at City Hall in recognition of the positive impact they have had on communities near and far, and on the university.

“The University of Alberta has been connected to its communities since its founding in 1908,” said Debra Pozega Osburn, vice-president of University Relations. “In fact, our founding president, Henry Marshall Tory, noted that relationship in his first convocation address when he said, 'knowledge shall not be the concern of scholars alone; the uplifting of the whole people shall be its final goal.'

“You look at that premise and then you look at the award winners last year and our award winners this year, and you can see the Community Connections Awards are doing exactly that.”

For her work with communities, organizations and government to ensure culturally appropriate and equitable services for First Nations children, Cindy Blackstock, associate professor in the Faculty of Extension, won the Community Scholar Award.

Blackstock has used her research to empower First Nations children and youth to create social change through the Shannen’s Dream movement for education, to gain parliamentary support for Jordan’s Principle protecting access to government services to First Nations children in need, and to lead a historic human rights case on First Nations children's equity. Her research and advocacy activities have been used as models for children’s rights movements around the world. In 2013 she was recognized as one of 16 leading female activists in the world by the Nobel Women's Initiative.

The Community Leader Award went to the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus for its ambassadorial role on campus, throughout Alberta and beyond—a tradition this wholly student-run group has maintained for seven decades.

The chorus, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, has seen thousands of U of A students grace its various configurations, immeasurably enriching the lives of its members and its audiences. In addition to a roster of community performances in and around Edmonton through the academic year, the chorus takes annual spring tours throughout Western Canada and beyond, acting as ambassadors for the university and drawing alumni virtually everywhere they perform.

Jim Hole, son of former U of A chancellor and former Alberta lieutenant-governor Lois Hole, has carried on the family legacy of championing the U of A. His passionate promotion of the university, from his days as a student to his more recent roles serving on the Alumni Council, the Senate and the Board of Governors, has earned him the UAlberta Advocacy Award.

Hole, one of Alberta’s most respected business leaders, has devoted thousands of volunteer hours to advocacy for his alma mater. He has served as president of the Alumni Council, honorary co-chair of the university’s centenary celebrations, a member of the U of A Senate and, most recently, as a member of the U of A Board of Governors. He is a constant champion of the university at alumni events and in the community at large. He has been an integral contributor to the U School program, a point of pride for the University of Alberta Senate. He conceived of the innovative Green and Gold Garden contest during the university’s 2008 centenary celebrations, a highly successful event that raised the Green and Gold spirit throughout the community. With passion and integrity, he continues to be a university leader and advocate in the tradition of the three generations of Hole family members before him.

The three Community Connections Awards, created by the Office of the Vice-President (University Relations) in 2012, are presented annually.