U of G president Alastair Summerlee, front, with the 2011 President’s Scholarship winners. The students are, from left: Jenifer Truong, Michael Osmond, Mara Goodyear, Thomas Shoniker, Rebecca Wolff, Caden Depatie and Laura Jane Weber. Photos by Grant Martin Photography

Among this fall’s class of first-year students are 11 who received the University’s annual Chancellors’ and President’s Scholarships. The prestigious entrance awards recognize entering students of academic distinction who possess the skills necessary for student leadership and the ability to enrich the campus environment.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the President’s Scholarships. The program was established in 1987 under the leadership of the late Burton C. Matthews, who was president of the University of Guelph from 1984 to 1988. Since then, a total of 276 scholarships have been awarded to first-year students on the basis of their high school achievements, leadership abilities and citizenship activities, including eight students recognized this year.

The program is funded primarily through donations from alumni, friends, faculty and staff.

In 2002, the University launched the Lincoln Alexander Chancellor’s Scholarships to honour U of G’s chancellor emeritus. To date, the Alexander awards have recognized 17 students of academic distinction who are aboriginal, persons with a disability or members of a racial minority, and are intended to enhance student diversity at the University.

The Pamela Wallin Chancellor’s Scholarship program was established in 2009 to honour the University’s most recent chancellor and to recognize students who have taken a leadership role in activities that demonstrate an interest in international relations and development. The recipients are students who seek a broader knowledge through course work and engagement at U of G and who have demonstrated the potential to become leaders in society. Six Wallin scholarships have been presented, including two this year.

The 2011 Chancellors’ and President’s Scholars are introduced below. Click here to learn more about the scholarship programs and application information.

Lincoln Alexander Chancellor’s Scholarship Awards

Yiu Lun Edmund Leung,left, and Tahirih Rowahan-Lips, right, were presented with Lincoln Alexander Chancellor’s Scholarship awards by president Summerlee.

Yiu Lun Edmund Leung has, in his own words, a true passion for volunteering. In his high school in Richmond Hill, Ont., he started an anti-genocide club to protest the crisis in Darfur and was part of the development of another club formed to fight against human trafficking. As president of the S.T.O.P. club, he organized a fair trade bazaar to showcase eco-friendly products. In the community, he has chaired the Youth Action Committee, coached both boys’ and girls’ volleyball teams and helped raise funds for Epilepsy Toronto. As his teacher writes: “Yiu is an exceptional student who possesses a rare combination of intellect, leadership and compassion.”

Tahirih Rowshan-Lips says one of the most important things she learned in high school was that even a small group of people can make a difference when they work together. She has made a difference by volunteering for Amnesty International and Lanark County Interval House. She obtained a grant from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to make a film about the effects of gender-based oppression and violence on mental health. At her high school in Almonte, Ont., she was chosen to attend Action for Inclusion, a provincial group dedicated to promoting the inclusion of people with special needs. She also earned the student council trophy for highest marks in year three.

Pamela Wallin Chancellor’s Scholarship Awards

Pamela Wallin Chancellor’s Scholarship winners Carolyn Gibson, left, and Joel Gretton, right, are congratulated by president Summerlee.

Carolyn Gibson discovered her passion for environmental and social justice issues early on. That passion led her to study in the Canadian Arctic and become a youth ambassador on climate change. She volunteered with the Muskoka Me to We group, was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper at her high school in Bracebridge, Ont., and held leadership roles in student government and the Eco Team. She also attended the G8/G20 Summit as a Canadian Youth Ambassador and several other youth leadership events, while maintaining an average over 90 per cent. One teacher noted: “She is always willing to participate in worthy causes and makes positive contributions in the classroom.”

Joel Gretton was described by his high school principal in Oakville, Ont., as the epitome of a global citizen. Gretton has raised money for AIDS orphans in Malawi and has been a camp leader and tutor for orphans in Trinidad and St. Lucia. He also contributes significantly in his home community, where he is a volunteer youth group leader and helps to provide care for his wheelchair-bound grandfather. At school, he achieved the top mark in his grade and was a leader in environmental, safety and academic clubs, as well as the Reach for the Top team and the principal’s advisory group. He spearheaded an all-school Earth Week assembly and a city-wide Eco-Innovations conference.

President’s Scholarship Awards

Caden Depatie was on the school council executive of his high school in Oakville, Ont., and was president of the student athletic council. He initiated the Think Pink rugby match to raise money for breast cancer research, and it has become an annual event at the school. He teaches swimming to physically and mentally challenged children and adults and works as a lifeguard. He plays, coaches and referees rugby. One of his teachers commented that “what makes Caden that much stronger a student is that he is involved in numerous things outside the classroom yet is still able to maintain his high academic standards.”

Mara Goodyear has received awards for maintaining the highest overall average in her grade level in her Bracebridge, Ont., high school. She was a leader in many school organizations, including the student parliament, peer support, the Eco Team and the area’s Group of  7 Leadership Conference. She took part in the 2010 Youth Freshwater Summit and the Gene Researcher for a Week program, which she says gave her new insights into learning and leadership. A dedicated badminton athlete, she has competed in provincial championships and the Ontario Winter Games.One of her teachers describes her as “a hardworking young woman with a strong sense of social responsibility.”

Michael Osmond has won many academic achievement awards but says he is most proud of the Knight of Character award he was given for exemplifying the qualities of optimism, fairness, respect, co-operation, responsibility, perseverance, integrity and empathy. He is a dedicated athlete who was part of his Ottawa school’s soccer, rugby, cross-country skiing and cross-country running teams; he won the school’s top award for achievement and sportsmanship. As president of the school’s KEY club, he organized a winter clothing drive for a local shelter and raised money to build a school in Uganda. One of his teachers said he stands out from other students because of his ability to think both critically and creatively.

Thomas Shoniker worked to raise funds then travelled to Kenya to help build the first all-girls high school in the community of Pimbinyet. At home in Orillia, Ont., he maintained a high school average of 94.6 per cent and won the male athlete of the year title, an award that recognized his participation in basketball, hockey, volleyball, tennis, track and field and swimming. One of his teachers writes: “Through my 20 years of teaching experience, I have rarely seen a student who has made a similar impact in our school. In all of his pursuits, Tom has demonstrated a unique love of learning, an infectious personality, and a tremendously strong work ethic.”

Jenifer Truong has received academic awards in many subjects, a first place in the Science Olympics, and a high school average above 90 per cent. The Guelph, Ont., native was editor of her school’s award-winning yearbook and a member of the field hockey, badminton, tennis and soccer teams as well as the school’s first wrestling team, which captured the district title. In recognition of her contributions as a Special Olympics coach, a breakfast club volunteer, a math tutor and a Guelph Youth Council member, she was awarded the Volunteer Award and Citizenship Cup. Her teacher writes: “Jenifer puts forth her finest and her commitment is evident in all that she does.”

Laura Weber is described as a student who leads by example and leads to make a difference for others. Her exceptional grades show her academic abilities, but she has also won awards for her music. She played the double bass, the violin, the saxophone and the piano in school concerts, workshops and community music festivals. From Winterbourne, Ont., she has an extensive list of volunteer work that includes providing personal care to seniors, helping with a program to support new immigrants, working with young children at a two-week camp and fundraising for international development. She’s also a person who likes to be challenged intellectually and is also willing to take risks: her recent skydiving experience attests to that.

Rebecca Wolff is a passionate social activist, a leader creating positive change, a strong academic who seeks challenges across the arts and sciences, and Nova Scotia’s top female high school cross-country runner. She has won awards for high grades at her Halifax high school, volunteered in Ecuador for Me to We International and co-founded a Me to We group at her high school to raise funds to help flooded areas of Pakistan. She also volunteered at IWK Hospital, organized a Trick or Eat program that gathered more than 2,000 items of food for the local food bank, and served as student council secretary. One of her teachers writes: “Rebecca is a committed student who strives for excellence but finds balance through sports and community service.”