Splatsin Elder Rosalind Williams (clockwise, from left), Victoria Kaspi and Anthony von Mandl will receive honorary degrees from UBC Okanagan. (UBCO photos)

Splatsin Elder receives honorary degree

UBCO confers honourary Doctor of Letters upon longtime Splatsin advocate Rosalind Williams

A Splatsin First Nation Elder is among three being conferred with honorary degrees from UBC Okanagan.

Rosalind Williams, who receive an honorary Doctor of Letters, has long been a steadfast advocate for the Splatsin. She was the first woman to be elected Chief of the community in 1972 and was one of the first women chiefs in all of British Columbia.

Williams has worked tirelessly to preserve and promote the Splatsin culture and language, becoming a leader in the documentation and conservation of the Secwepemctsín language. In 2000 she created the Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn (Splatsin Teaching Society) — a community childcare and teaching centre — where she works actively to research the Secwepemctsín language and ensure that it and the Secwepemc culture are passed on to future generations.

She will receive her honorary degree Thursday afternoon.

Also receiving honorary degrees are business leader Anthony von Mandl and astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi.

UBC Okanagan honorary degrees are conferred on deserving individuals for their long-standing achievement in an academic field or unparalleled commitment to community service. Recipients will receive their honorary degrees during campus convocation ceremonies Thursday and Friday.

“All three honorary degree recipients this year demonstrate, through their outstanding careers and achievements, the very principles that drive UBC’s Okanagan campus,” said Deputy vice-chancellor and principal Deborah Buszard. “They have each devoted their lives to creating vibrant and healthy communities and to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge. It is our great pleasure to confer on them honorary degrees.”

Kaspi will receive an honorary Doctor of Science. She is a renowned leader in the study of neutron stars.

A professor of physics at McGill University, she is the director of the McGill Space Institute and a member of the McGill Pulsar Group. She holds a PhD from Princeton University and has served as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education with McGill University’s Faculty of Science. Her current work includes the development of instrumentation for the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope in Penticton.

Von Mandl, receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws, is an entrepreneur whose efforts have helped transform the Okanagan Valley into a world-class wine-producing region and a popular tourist destination.

Born in Vancouver, von Mandl founded a wine importing firm in Vancouver at the age of 22. Despite difficult initial years, he successfully grew the business and in 1981 began to realize his dream of producing world-class wines in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. His family’s Mission Hill Family Estate has since been transformed into an international landmark winery.

In 2016, von Mandl was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and he is also a recipient of the Order of British Columbia.

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