Alumni Award Recipients
Each year, we are proud to recognize the achievements of alumni across the world for their contributions to both Saint Mary's and the community at large. These are this year's Alumni Award recipients, whom we celebrated during a virtual event in November as part of our National Philanthropy Day activities.
A 2020 Virtual Homecoming
While this year's Homecoming was quite different than those in the past, we were still able to celebrate this cherished tradition and connect with alumni this Fall - entirely online! The virtual aspect of this year's Homecoming gave an exciting opportunity for alumni from across the world to take part in Homecoming like never before. The week was filled with a number of Back to the Classroom professor lectures, alumni panels, and a few social events including virtual trivia and a viewing of the 2001 Vanier Cup championship game! This year's Homecoming also allowed us to celebrate a few campus milestones through panels and lectures, including the 25th anniversary of the Women & Gender Studies Program, the 35th anniversary of the Fred Smithers Centre of Support for Students with Disabilities, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Forensic Sciences Program. The week also shone a light on important community topics, including two events highlighting the Black Lives Matter Movement featuring Dr. Rachel Zellars and Black Nova Scotian and SMU alumni and student activists. Learn more about Dr. Rachel Zellars on our Featured Stories page. Though we couldn't gather in person, we still took this opportunity to honour our milestone grad years, particularly our Golden Grads celebrating 50 years since graduation. Our classes of 1970, 1995, and 2010 received a special video message from Saint Mary's President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray and our Homecoming Chair, Collette Robert BSc'15 MSc'18 featuring photos from their time at SMU and an accompanying playlist of songs from their school years. Our Golden Grads also received a special Golden 50 year pin in the mail. If you weren't able to join us live this Fall, we invite you to view our Homecoming lectures and panels on our Facebook page. We hope to see you in person in 2021!
Photo Credit: Special Olympics Canada
600 pounds is 600 pounds, no matter what
Jackie Barrett BComm'98 powered his way to the top of his sport and changed the way fans see Special Olympians By Trevor J. Adams
A WINNING LEGACY The Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame is chockablock with Saint Mary's University graduates. At the 2019 induction, the roster of honourees also included Justine Colley-Leger BComm '14 (pictured above) and Suzanne Muir BComm'93 (pictured below). Colley-Leger is the all-time leading scorer in Canadian women's university basketball, earning two CIS National Player of the Year awards and leading the Huskies to four consecutive regional championships and CIS silver and bronze medals. Muir was AUS Rookie of the Year during her time playing with the Huskies women’s soccer team, also earning two AUS MVP awards and two All-Canadian honours. She starred with Team Canada for seven years, competing in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups.
Jackie Barrett's world-beating accomplishments as a powerlifter are even more remarkable when you consider that the sport wasn't his first love. When the athlete first competed in the Special Olympics, he was a swimmer. "I never imagined I was going to be so successful," he says. "I initially lifted weights to help me gain strength for my swimming. A couple of my swim coaches at the 1984 Special Olympics suggested because I loved weights, I should try powerlifting." That was the start of a 20-year career in the sport, during which the Saint Mary's University alumnus (BComm'98) built a reputation as a top powerlifter. Special Olympians train hard and compete fiercely, but don't often get consideration among the world's best. Barrett, who lives with autism, broke that barrier, becoming the first Special Olympian nominated for the Lou Marsh Trophy (which goes to Canada's top athlete) and in 2019, the first Special Olympian inducted in the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. In the spring of 2021, he'll become the first Special Olympian inducted in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, joining legends like equestrian Eric LaMaze, hockey trailblazer Willie O'Ree, and golfer Lorie Kane. Bruce Rainnie is executive director of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. "I recall talking with a journalist when we were inducting Jackie," he says. "He asked a question that suggested that Jackie was a token… He was inducted because he's a phenomenal athlete. We have stringent qualifications; it's really hard: you have to be the absolute best." As Rainnie explains, there's no way to make powerlifting easier. "It's not a sport where you're judged," he says. "You're just physically doing the work. It's a great sport for Jackie. He's a linear thinker. You either do it or you don't. It's hard but it's straightforward." Barrett puts it more simply: "600 pounds is 600 pounds, no matter what." That number isn't hyperbolic: it refers to his best-known performance, when he set two records at the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles, deadlifting 656 pounds and squatting 611 pounds (about the weight of three NHL players). Barrett's fans know him as "the Newfoundland Moose" and that performance cemented his rock-star reputation in the Special Olympics community. Even fellow competitors flocked to his events, asking for autographs and photographs. Rainnie has seen those adoring fans firsthand. "The night we inducted Jackie, the room was full of young Special Olympic athletes who were in awe of him," he says. "You can't help but be inspired. He's inspirational to any athlete, but to Special Olympic athletes in particular… Jackie has 'it'. He has charisma. He has a story to tell and he knows how to tell it. It's a wonderful thing when the best people in a sport are its greatest spokespeople. He makes me think about people like Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby: a class act with a great story to tell and a desire to motivate." Now retired from lifting, Barrett lives in Corner Brook, N.L., where he mentors powerlifters and volunteers as a public speaker, Special Olympics ambassador and coach. He doesn't just want to motivate aspiring Special Olympians; he wants to help the people around them understand why their athletic dreams are so important. "This achievement could inspire more parents or guardians of a child with an intellectual, developmental or learning disability to get them involved with Special Olympics," he says. "About six weeks after joining Special Olympics, I gained better independent living skills, more self-confidence, and self-discipline, and learned to set bigger goals in school and life." That new drive didn't just focus on athletics. "From there, I was able to graduate from high school, graduate from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree," Barrett says. "For a child with an intellectual, developmental or learning disability, joining Special Olympics… changes their lives forever."
A Continuing Legacy
by Katie Ingram
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame Honours Larry Uteck
Former Saint Mary’s Huskies football coach Larry Uteck will be posthumously inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2020. Uteck grew up in Ontario, but his widow Sue Uteck BA'86 says Halifax and Saint Mary's gave him a “sense of home and community.” “It was the support of the community that rallied around him and that made him a winner, that sense of community and giving back,” she says. “He loved this place.” The Hall of Fame is maintained by the CFL, and annually inducts five to seven people. To date, there are 309 members, divided into two categories: Player and Builder. Uteck will be inducted into the Builder category, recognizing coaches, managers, owners and other staff members. Current Huskies head coach, James Colzie III, says builder is an apt title for Uteck, and a testament to his coaching abilities and impact on the university. “When you think of the hall of fame, they normally go with professional guys. For a guy to come in at the university level, that just shows the enormous amount of things he did to get to that point,” says Colzie. Along with playing the sport in college and in the CFL, Uteck served as Huskies head coach from 1983 to 1994, and helped the team overcome a more than decade-long losing streak. They competed twice at the national level for the Vanier Cup, won three Atlantic Bowls and seven AUAA (now Atlantic University Sport) Championships. He became SMU's athletic director from 1995 to 2002, which lead to even more success with two Vanier Cups and six AUS Championships. Sue Uteck says she doesn’t know who nominated her husband, but says it's a well-deserved honour. She says the Hall of Fame induction shows how much passion and talent Larry had for football. “It’s unfortunate he's not here to enjoy it," she says. "It speaks to what I call prowess of the day, the then-athletic director, Bob Hayes and the university president Ken Osmond. Larry only coached high-school football, so to bring him right into the varsity level showed their confidence in him.” She says her husband would be humbled. “He wouldn’t say anything about it. In private he’d be pleased by it, but he’d also be embarrassed by the recognition.” Around Saint Mary’s, Uteck is still a prominent part of the school and the team. “As a coach, I think it's extremely important that my current players know exactly who Larry Uteck was, what he stood for, and the enormous amount of success he had while he was the head coach here at Saint Mary’s,” says Colzie. Colzie has a photo of the legendary coach hanging on the wall in his office. “You hear the stories, all the great stories of the things he did for players,” he says. “A lot of the stories stick with me and so I try to make sure that in our office there’s always something involving Larry.” This isn't Uteck's first spot of national recognition. He received the Order of Canada in 2002, shortly before his death from ALS at the age of 50. In 2003, the Atlantic Bowl, one of two national semi-final competitions for the Vanier Cup, was renamed the Uteck Bowl. Larry Uteck Boulevard in Bedford, and Larry Uteck Memorial Field at his former high school Brebeuf College School in North York, Ontario are also named for him. The 2020 Canadian Football Hall of Fame ceremony and game between the Hamilton Tiger Cats and Ottawa Redbacks are postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19. Sue Uteck and many of her husband’s former players hope to attend in his honour. “It will be quite the Saint Mary’s event,” she says. “(The induction) shows his players this is just as much their accomplishment as much as his. If it wasn't for those kids who busted their asses every day to work hard to win championships, I'm sure he might have been overlooked.” Uteck is the second member of the SMU community inducted into the Hall of Fame. Quarterback Chris Flynn BA'97 was inducted in 2011. At Homecoming 2019, Flynn's #1 jersey was the first retired in Saint Mary's history.
Limitless and Boundless
He may be young but Andreas Robinson's achievements outweigh his 26 years by Kim Hart Macneill Andreas Robinson BComm'19 has packed more milestones into his life than many twice his age. A gold medal member of Team Canada Football, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholar, Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute's Ancestral Roots Business Entrepreneur of the Year, and the Black Business Initiative's Entrepreneur of the Year are just a few of them. Lately, Robinson wears the titles social entrepreneur and founder of the Infinitus Group of Companies. When you hear him speak, you can feel the positive energy he emits. It could, and did, take him far from home, but today he chooses to stay in the city where he grew up. "Home is where family is, where my roots are," Robinson says "There's a lot of the richness and opportunity for me to really take the next steps from a foundational perspective for me personally and professionally. That was definitely in the headspace and coming into and transitioning to the Sobeys School of Business." He graduated from the Bachelor of Commerce Program in 2019 with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. The words "limitless and boundless" come up a lot in Robinson's vocabulary. He says everything he does is rooted in those two ideas. He takes his inspiration from his mom. A single mom at 18, she completed her own degree in psychology at Saint Mary's. For high school, Robinson attended the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. It's known for being a Harvard feeder school and its elite sports programs. There he played on the track and football teams, which shaped his worldview. His football career as a running back carried over from his senior year at Exeter to a year at Simon Frasier University, through two surgeries to repair a torn ACL. At SMU, he transitioned to play free safety for the Huskies, and was named to the East West All Star Game the following year. "Track is a little bit more individual," Robinson says. "You have to be gritty and you have to be resilient. But then with football, the power of teamwork and communicating with a shared understanding is so critical. Plus having to balance being a student-athlete at a high level over 12 years, because you can't even get to do the athletic part if your grades aren't solid." Infinitus started as a clothing brand when Robinson was in high school, but never fully earned his attention because of his studies and athletics. In his second year at SMU, he made the difficult decision to step away from football. While he admits the choice was hard, it's one of the best he's made as Infinitus has grown to mean so much to him and those it touches. Infinitus Academy works with youth and community members to encourage the limitless and boundless potential Robinson always talks about. "Everybody knows someone who slipped through the cracks," he says. Infinitus Academy's mission is crafted to address that. "Everybody starts off as a young person. And whatever you deal with, or don't deal with, you carry it the rest of the way on the journey." Through mentorships and speaking engagements for elementary to post-secondary students, and for all four provincial prisons, non-profits and governments, Infinitus Academy has engaged over 4,000 people age six to 75 in the last five years. Robinson wants that number to hit 1 billion by 2045. Infinitus Group's other wing, Limitless Media, offers personal and professional branding and development with a focus on digital content creation for youth, entrepreneurs and organizations. COVID-19 has shut down Robinson's ability to travel, but not his ability to reach people around the province and the world. Recently, Infinitus organized the Building Bridges Panel. The program for youth of African descent focuses on building professional capacity, emotional intelligence, and financial and business literacy. Because the program was offered online, it was able to engage 200 students in 15 schools over three days. "Where people are able to be creative and innovative and embracing digital and online, we can create more unique and almost richer experiences, because we're able to engage with people while they're home or during times where they wouldn't traditionally have the opportunity to get away or to travel or to engage with us," Robinson says. .