Honorary degree recipients

Two outstanding individuals will be recognized with honorary degrees at this fall's Convocation ceremony on Oct. 18.

Nancy Strickland

Nancy Strickland, of Thimphu, Bhutan, will receive an honorary doctorate of laws degree.

Nancy Strickland was born and raised in Parry Sound, Ontario, and now lives in Bhutan in the Eastern Himalaya – but she is deeply rooted in New Brunswick. Her parents are both alumni of UNB. Her father, Jim Strickland, studied forestry, and her mother, Midge Myers, was one of the few women science students at UNB at that time.

Nancy Strickland

Ms. Strickland received her bachelor of science in geography from Trent University in 1981. She was then recruited by the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and began what would become an extensive career of work in international education – first in Zimbabwe and then in Eastern Bhutan.

The experiences of teaching in Bhutan dramatically changed the course of her life. After receiving a bachelor of education from UNB, and a brief stint teaching in Pond Inlet in the high arctic, Ms. Strickland was asked by UNB to help develop and manage a series of large projects in Bhutan funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

These projects, over a period of 18 years, helped to support the Bhutanese government as they built a modern and culturally relevant system of education, which included the establishment of the Royal University of Bhutan. They also assisted UNB in developing its international outlook. Many faculty members have travelled to Bhutan to share their expertise and, in turn, many Bhutanese students have come to UNB to study, especially in the faculties of education, engineering and computer science.

When these CIDA funded projects concluded in 2008, Ms. Strickland’s commitment to education in Bhutan did not waiver. She worked to help establish the Bhutan Canada Foundation to provide opportunities for Canadians to teach in rural Bhutanese schools, and she fought to keep some funding available to allow Bhutanese students to study at UNB and to allow UNB’s Renaissance College leadership program to work on joint projects and undertake internships with Sherubtse College in eastern Bhutan.

Ms. Strickland has received numerous awards for her work. In 2003, she was honoured with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Alumni Award in recognition for her consistent commitment to international development. She received an honorary doctorate in laws from Trent University in 2010. In 2013, His Majesty the King of Bhutan, who was awarded an honorary degree from UNB in 2005, presented Ms. Strickland with the National Order of Merit, Gold for her contributions to Bhutan’s education sector.

Ms. Strickland has encouraged and helped to facilitate relationships between Canada and Bhutan for over 25 years and has been a much respected “Canadian presence” in Bhutan. She has been essential to building this very special relationship with UNB. During her time in Bhutan, she has witnessed much change, including the country’s transition to a constitutional monarchy.

Ms. Strickland is currently the Board Chair of the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy – a small civil society organization that aims to help citizens become media literate and encourages the media to fully inform the citizens of Bhutan as they participate in their own democracy.

Gaëtan Thomas

Gaëtan ThomasGaëtan Thomas, of Fredericton, will receive an honorary doctorate of science degree.

Mr. Thomas has a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the University of New Brunswick. He is currently the President and CEO of NB Power, having taken on that role in 2010.

A committed industry leader and agent of change, his vision for NB Power includes a made-in-New Brunswick smart grid supported by customer-centric technology and a workforce aimed at creating a greener, more sustainable province.

Mr. Thomas is a lifelong employee of NB Power, having first joined the utility in 1982 after completing his degree at UNB. Prior to his current role, he was the Vice President of both NB Power Nuclear Corporation and Distribution and Customer Service divisions.

Mr. Thomas is dedicated to his community and generous with his time and knowledge. He is a mentor for the Wallace McCain Institute and a member of the cabinet of UNB’s major fundraising campaign – It Begins Here. During his time as CEO and President, NB Power has been involved with and supported numerous research initiatives at UNB, including industry-leading wind forecasting research, environmental assessment around the Mactaquac Generating Station, smart grid energy research, and others.

He is a board member for the Canadian Electricity Association, the World Association of Nuclear Operators, the New Brunswick Business Council and the electric vehicle advocacy group Plug ‘n Drive Canada. In 2015, 2016 and 2018, Mr. Thomas was honoured by Atlantic Business Magazine as one of the region’s Top 50 CEOs. He was also named one of the Most Influential Acadians by L’Acadie Nouvelle.

Of all his accomplishments, Mr. Thomas counts his family as his biggest success. He and his wife are the proud parents of four daughters and are delighted to be grandparents as well.