On Friday, May 14th, the YWCA Saskatoon held our 39th annual Women of Distinction. There were 29 nominees in 11 categories. The following are the recipients of this year’s awards:
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Irene Dube
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a woman who has been an exemplary leader over the course of her lifetime, in one or more fields and who has served as a role model for our community.
Irene Dubé was born in Wynyard, Saskatchewan in 1936 to a family of ten children. It was from her humble beginnings that Irene says she learned the importance of community, the appreciation of life’s simple pleasures and the true meaning of perseverance. These early life lessons allowed Irene to make her mark as an accomplished businesswoman, entrepreneur, and activist in the Saskatoon Community. Irene and her husband Leslie founded the Concorde Group of Companies in 1954. Throughout the years, Irene provided general management and accounting services to the Dubé’s many businesses. Through their hard work, sound business practices and social conscientiousness Irene and Les have been able to watch their small office of three become a successful business venture with extensive holdings. Since freezing their estate in 1993, Irene and her husband have been committed to improving the quality of life for Saskatchewan residents. Together the pair has donated over $35 million to endless local and worldwide charities. In addition to their financial contributions, Irene has also dedicated her life to community service. Part of this generosity involved taking in young pregnant women and providing them with a warm, loving home until their babies were born. Additionally, Irene served as a member of the University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors from 1987 to 1989. Irene was also a driving force behind the planning and creation of the Irene and Leslie Dubé Center for Mental Health, one of her many passions.
In 2007, the University of Saskatchewan recognized Irene with an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, for her extensive work to improve the community, the field of education and the medical profession. Irene and Les have also received several recognitions as a duo including, most notably: the Saskatchewan Order of Merit Award in 2008, the International Award for Philanthropy in 2013, and being presented into the Order of Canada in 2016. Irene hopes to continue her philanthropic efforts in Saskatchewan with a focus on ending the stigma surrounding mental health. Even after all her success, Irene maintains that her biggest reward and greatest success is seeing her three children, three grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren continue the Dubé legacy of selflessness and unmatched generosity.
29 AND UNDER: Kelsey Murphy
Recognizes emerging leaders age 29 and under who are inspirational role models in their careers, achievements or community building roles.
Kelsey is a thoughtful and compassionate community leader on diversity and inclusion issues. Through her role as the Executive Director with The Princess Shop, Kelsey is committed to supporting women, girls, and 2SLGBQT+ students facing barriers in Saskatoon and across Saskatchewan. She also represents The Princess Shop on Reconciliation Saskatoon. Since 2017 Kelsey has been an active board member of Girls Rock Saskatoon, a local non-profit dedicated to the empowerment of female, trans, two-spirit, and gender-expansive youth and adults through collaborative music creation and performance. She is also a player and team captain on the Saskatoon Valkyries.
ARTS, CULTURE, AND HERITAGE: Jackie Latendresse
Recognizes the achievement and leadership of women whose contributions in arts, culture and heritage inspires and benefits our community
Jackie is a long-time Saskatoon resident who has worked to make modern dance an
accessible art form for diverse audiences since she founded Free Flow Dance Theatre
Company in 1995. She is a graduate of the University of Waterloo with an Honours
degree in Arts & Business, majoring in Dance and minoring in Fine Arts). Jackie presents dance in unconventional venues in the tradition of Post Modernist choreographers and her work has been performed across Canada. Jackie is a passionate advocate for art literacy and strives to deconstruct the belief that dance is solely for the cultural elite.
She is known for visceral and emotionally driven works.
BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS: Debra Shewfelt
Recognizes leaders in the professional and business sector whose innovation has influenced positive change, and who are role models in their careers and community involvement.
As Senior Geologist, Co-President and Board member of the RESPEC Canadian subsidiary, Debra Shewfelt draws on nearly two decades of career experience to foster the growth of a diverse team and inspire girls and young women to consider non-traditional STEM careers. Her leadership at work and through volunteer organizations exemplify her passion for creating equal opportunities and advancing the inclusion of underrepresented groups such as women and Indigenous peoples. Her passion for the environment and sustainability drives the success of a new group in the Canadian office that focuses on water, environment and alternative energy projects.
COMMUNITY BUILDING: Zeba Ahmad
Recognizes influential community builders whose professional or volunteer leadership and contributions help create a community where everyone can thrive.
Zeba is the proud mom of two grown children, a tireless volunteer in Saskatoon, provincially, and nationally. She has served on and chaired several boards and event committees and most recently was appointed to the Rideau Hall Foundation Board of Directors. Zeba will serve as the
Honorary Colonel for the 38th Engineering Regiment in May 2021. Zeba began her professional career as a pharmacist and practiced for 20 years, before moving on to other professional roles.
Currently, she is the Executive Director of the Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation. She is passionate about contributing to many worthwhile community endeavors and brings energy and enthusiasm to everything she does.
EDUCATION AWARD: Pamela Goulden-McLeod
Recognizes exceptional educators in schools, institutions or community programs who are role models in their profession and community involvement, leading and inspiring positive change.
Pamela has spent 25 years working to build partnerships and organizational relationships to make Saskatoon a safer community for all. First, with Saskatoon Public Schools as a School Social Worker, Counselor and Consultant for Safe, Caring and Accepting Schools and currently as the Director of Emergency Management with the City of Saskatoon. In 2020, Pamela played a direct leadership role in the extraordinary emergency management response to COVID-19. She worked to ensure all sectors of our community are represented in the Emergency Operations Centre and that a coordinated, collaborative whole community response informed all decisions. She believes in partnerships and bringing the expertise of others together to help create safety for all.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Maureen Haddock
Recognizes successful entrepreneurs whose leadership and business ventures have influenced social good and positive change for our community.
Maureen has been in business for fifty years and has put her teaching skills and her passion for writing to good use in the many businesses she and her husband have owned. During her 20 years as a franchisee with The Body Shop Canada, she worked with hundreds of women from all over the world, soaking up new ideas and skills, living the concept of profits with principles, and working diligently in local and global social campaigns. Maureen loves to encourage entrepreneurship as a path to good citizenship through initiatives like the Haddock Entrepreneurial Speaker Series, the Get a Bigger Wagon Young Entrepreneur Awards, scholarships, and mentorship.
HEALTH AND ATHLETICS: Colleen Christopherson-Cote
Recognizes exceptional work in health and wellness, improving the physical, emotional, social, or spiritual health, and providing leadership for positive change in our community.
Colleen leads critical community-based work to improve the lives of vulnerable people in Saskatoon. She brings extensive knowledge of the complexity of human service systems and the intricacies of how policy and practice indirectly and directly impact the community, particularly those who are most vulnerable, marginalized, and oppressed. Colleen has lent leadership to numerous intersectoral initiatives including the Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership, the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership, the Saskatoon Interagency Response to COVID-19, and the Safe Community Action Alliance. She is celebrated for her ability to find clarity in chaos, to pull diverse perspectives into a unified vision, and to carve collective paths forward.
LEADERSHIP IN THE TRADES: Andrea Crittenden
Recognizes leaders in the skilled trades, industry, or service sector whose achievements have broken down barriers and inspired positive change, and who are role models in their careers and community involvement.
Andrea chose to enter the Trades directly out of high school and achieved status as a Journeyperson Electrician. As a woman in the Trades, her skills and abilities were disregarded, but that only fueled her desire to succeed in a non-traditional role even stronger. As part of the YWCA Trade Journey Program, she has inspired other women to follow their dreams to become Tradesperson. She is a successful entrepreneur, co-owning Sixteen Safety Services Inc. with her husband. She offers passionate training and OHS consulting to many industries including Electrical, continuing to show leadership in the trades.
LORETTA’S AWARD: Patti Tait
Named in memory of a special YWCA Saskatoon staff member, Loretta Andronwich, this award recognizes a woman who has experienced hardship or adversity but gone on to achieve great personal goals.
Patti is the interim Executive Director and Cultural Coordinator at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan with special focus on individual counselling to marginalized women. Patti is an Aboriginal woman with over 30 years of experience in the field of help and expert assistance. She has worked extensively within federal and provincial prisons, counselling and supporting Indigenous men and women. She was also a Native Liaison at the Prison for Women. Patti has often been called upon as an expert on the issues faced by First Nations, Métis, Inuit and unregistered Indigenous offenders. Patti serves as a board member for the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, the Métis Addiction Saskatchewan, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), and the Aboriginal Regional Advocate for Prairie Region. As a Kokum and Chapan, Patti is passionate about the need for Indigenous communities to heal for the sake of our future generations.
RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY: Samia Sami
Recognizes women for excellence, innovation and leadership in research and technology, whose work has influenced positive change, and who are role models in their careers and community involvement.
Samia Sami is a senior undergraduate student studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. She is one of Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25
and is the recipient of the Global Citizen Youth Award by the Saskatchewan Council for
International Cooperation. Samia’s areas of undergraduate research include renewable microgrids and the observability of solar integrated distribution systems. She serves as
Chair of the USask Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power and Energy Society and Vice President of Engineers Without Borders USask. Samia has improved the educational experience of students at USask. She is named Canada’s Top Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power and Energy Society Scholar.