Alumni Awards of Merit - 2009

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Karmen Dowling
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Alumni Western is celebrating the outstanding achievements of four Western graduates. Their accomplishments represent the best of Western.
 
 
 
Ron Potter, Dr. Ivan Smith Award  
Ron Potter says everything he has accomplished has been because he stepped into the middle of the stream and got swept away.  
 
“Not once did I ever say I’d like to be involved – all of my activities have been a result of someone coming up to me and saying they could use my help,” says Potter, who admits he has a genetic impairment – the inability to say “no”.  
 
Tomorrow, Potter will be honoured with the Dr. Ivan Smith Award, Alumni Western’s highest tribute. It is awarded annually to an outstanding individual in recognition of their sustained and significant contributions to the Alumni Association, The University of Western Ontario and society.  
 
Potter spent 30 years volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society. As Ontario Campaign Chairman, he was responsible for Terry Fox and his run in Ontario. Potter has also been involved in well over a dozen other groups and teams since settling in London in the mid-60s.
 
The former star athlete in football and basketball only attended Western for one year and completed his degree at Waterloo Lutheran University in 1956. Throughout the years, Potter has maintained his dedication to Western. He switched from playing to coaching football and was recruited by John Metras to assist with the Mustang Football team from 1968 to 1973. Today he is an Honorary Officer with the ‘W’ Club and remains on the Board of Foundation Western as Past President.
 
In a supporting letter for his nomination, Robert W. Pearson, President of the “W” Club, stated: “Potter, while content to work in a quiet, competent way, has made extensive contributions to the community, the sporting world and his university.”  
 
Potter worked for London Life for 35 years and since his retirement continues to work part-time with his son, Tim (BA’84), at Sheffar Potter Muchan Inc., an investment and life insurance company.  
 
Over the years, he has received several awards, including the Canadian Volunteer Award, 125th Anniversary Confederation Medal, Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, and was inducted into the ‘W’ Club Athletic Hall of Fame.  
 
Even with all his achievements, Potter says he is most proud of his wife of 51 years, Judith (BA’85), and their children, Chris, Tim and Robin.  
 
Tim notes it is he and his siblings who are so proud of their father.
 
“I don’t think you could find children who are as proud of their father as Chris, Robin and I are,” he says. “The way my dad leads by example, always has time to listen no matter how busy he may be, his unwavering belief in us, and his tremendous sense of humour, makes him not only our father but our hero.  
 
“In many ways, I think the three of us have taken for granted the amount of time he has devoted to various charities, his community and the university over the years because that’s all we’ve ever known since we were kids. He has always been involved in volunteering his time. However, all three of us would say that despite his involvement, along with a busy business career, he has always been there for us. We are thrilled that he is being recognized by the Alumni association because he is the type of person who never draws attention to himself. He would much rather see the people around him get the credit.”    
 
 
 
Shuman Ghosemajumder, BSc’96 - Young Alumni Award  
Shuman Ghosemajumder says Western laid the foundation for both his future education and career.
 
“The World Wide Web, which has enabled my entire career, was just getting started while I was a computer science student at Western,” says Ghosemajumder. “I was the first student webmaster at Western, and was able to take advantage of the outstanding computing resources to learn about web technologies, even though there were not any courses on them at the time.”
 
Shuman notes his time as a member and President of the Western Debating Society taught him about communication and leadership. As well, the Western President’s Scholar says his education prepared him for the demanding coursework in the MBA program at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
 
Today, Ghosemajumder lives in California with his wife of six years, Dr. Piya Sorcar. He leads Trust & Safety product initiatives at Google, where he focuses on protecting users, advertisers and partners against click fraud and related threats. Arriving at Google in 2003,
 
Ghosemajumder is known for helping grow AdSense into a more than $2-billion-a-year business. Ghosemajumder says he looks forward to continuing to create innovative and useful technology applications as well as continuing to grow the nonprofit work done by TeachAIDS.    
 
 
 
Ruth Shipman Morawetz, BA’53 Community Service Award  
Ruth Morawetz credits Western for having an enormous impact on building her career.
 
“I was challenged with the teaching and skills of faculty members who were excellent professional musicians,” says Morawetz.
 
Experienced in both classical and contemporary music, she has been a pianist for The National Ballet, Senior Accompanist at The Banff Centre’s Music Theatre, and lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music.
 
Morawetz has excelled as a collaborative pianist, working with many distinguished musicians and actors, including Maureen Forrester, Martha Henry, Ben Heppner, Adrianne Pieczonka, Louise Pitre, Rosemarie Landry, Mark Pedrotti, and Frances Ginzer.
 
Morawetz’s volunteer contributions are a testament to her dedication to the arts. She organized 178 Preview Lectures with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; booked and chaired 88 programs for the Toronto Arts and Letters Club; coordinated the Jean A. Chalmers Awards for the Canada Opera; was a Board Member and Co-chair of the Rubies Award for Opera Canada Magazine; and has organized numerous fundraising galas over the years.
 
Recently she coordinated two very successful Don Wright Faculty of Music events in Toronto.
 
Morawetz has plans for the future; she hopes to create more musical theatre pieces, especially focusing on Canadian stories such as The Group of Seven and the life of Stephen Leacock.  
 
 
 
Carol Off, BA’81 Professional Achievement Award  
Carol Off is one of Canada’s best known and most admired journalists.
 
After graduating from Western, Off freelanced for a number of years, then became the Ottawa correspondent for CBC Radio’s current affairs program, Sunday Morning. This was followed by a series of positions with CBC, culminating in her current position as host of As It Happens.
 
Other major events she has covered include the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord, the Canada/US Free Trade Agreement, the Montreal Massacre, the Gulf War, the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the fallout from events of 9/11.
 
Off is also the author of three books of non-fiction: The Ghosts of Medak Pocket; The Lion, The Fox and The Eagle; and Bitter Chocolate.
 
In her letter of support for Off’s nomination, author Joan Barfoot says the purpose of journalism is to tell people about the lives of other people so that we can all understand better the conditions and connections of our world.
 
“Carol Off is one of the relatively few journalists and authors who actually manage to hold that thought and purpose throughout their careers, calmly and purposefully transmitting the stories of humans to other humans,” says Barfoot.      
 

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