The University of Winnipeg Alumni Association Council is currently receiving nominations for this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Since it was first given out in 1990, the award has acknowledged the exceptional accomplishments of some of the U of W’s most notable graduates.
But believe it or not, the very first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award wasn’t technically a graduate of the U of W.
Delza Longman, 92, was thrilled to receive recognition for her contributions to the university community, but said she still feels as though she didn’t really deserve it.
“I was terribly pleased, of course,” she said. “But I felt a little guilty, as if I shouldn’t be getting it because I wasn’t exactly ... an alumnus. I think the university just wanted to do something nice because I had been helpful.”
In addition to finishing the big task of cataloguing her late husband’s collection of archival documents for the U of W library, Longman helped a visually-impaired professor with marking assignments and tutored students in English. Although the past recipients hail from diverse backgrounds including politics, community activism, journalism, art and music, they are united in their outstanding community contributions.
“That is one of the nice things about [the award],” Longman said. “It is not just for [people] in one category; it is for people who have done all sorts of good things.”
Del Sexsmith, president of the alumni association council, said all the past winners have had a great sense of altruism and interest in the betterment of the community.
“The people who stand out in my mind are community leaders,” he said.
Howard Pawley, the most recent recipient of the award, was honoured to be chosen in 2008.
“After three-quarters of a century contributing to community life ... it is certainly a very positive feeling to be recognized by your peers,” he said.
Returning to the U of W convocation stage and reconnecting with his university peers are what made the award so special to Pawley.
“I was able to share it with many friends who were there from years gone by,” he said.
Pawley, former MLA for Selkirk and former premier of Manitoba, is currently an associate professor emeritus in the political science department at the University of Windsor.
Nominations for the Distinguished Alumni Award are due Wednesday, March 31. The Alumni Association Council and members of the board of regents will then review the nominees and vote by private ballot to choose a winner. The Distinguished Alumni Award recipient will be selected by the end of April.
Sexsmith said although alumni typically submit the nominations for the award, students are more than welcome to nominate alumni as well.
“I would definitely encourage that,” he said.
Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)