Feb. 8, 2024

UCalgary celebrates Violet King and 6 exemplary students with 1st-ever award of its kind

Calgary trailblazer's legacy honoured at awards ceremony Feb. 15
Collage of the 6 individuals featured in the article
Top, from left, Tolu Adewole, Senait Yohannes, Pelumi Adeosun. Bottom, from left, Yvette Ysabel Yao, Misgana Abraha, Victory Abraham.

Next week, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI) is hosting UCalgary's first-ever Violet King Engaged Scholar Award ceremony, an award that was a joint initiative between the OEDI and the Student’s Union. Taking place on Thursday, Feb. 15, during Black History Month, this award will not only celebrate six outstanding engaged UCalgary students who have positively shaped their communities, but will also honour the legacy left by Calgary trailblazer Violet King, Canada’s first Black woman lawyer. 

“We are delighted to host the University of Calgary’s inaugural Violet King Engaged Scholar Award ceremony, celebrating the exceptional contributions of the outstanding students who embody our institution’s values of equity, diversity, and inclusion,” says UCalgary Chancellor Jon Cornish. “I’m proud to be part of a community that is committed to creating an inclusive environment and recognizing the diverse voices, knowledges, skills, and experiences our students contribute to community building.”

The awards ceremony will feature special guests including Violet King’s only daughter, Jo-Anne Henry, who will deliver a special keynote speech, Elder Colleen Sitting Eagle, and Cornish. Hosting the event will be Dr. Malinda Smith, vice-provost and associate vice-president research (equity, diversity and inclusion), who was also the co-creator of the award alongside Semhar Abraha, former vice-president academic for the Students’ Union.

The ceremony will celebrate six exemplary students. Award recipients are: Victory Abraham (Faculty of Arts), Misgana Abraha (Faculty of Science and Werklund School of Education), Pelumi Adeosun (Faculty of Arts), Tolu Adewole (Faculty of Nursing), Senait Yohannes (Faculty of Law), and Yvette Ysabel Yao (Cumming School of Medicine), whose list of accomplishments include academic excellence, a commitment to community building, and a strong passion for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Out of 128 excellent submissions, these six students demonstrate a strong commitment to their communities and their work to dismantle barriers to inclusion for others. These individuals actively participate in volunteer and extracurricular activities that support opportunities for those in need, particularly marginalized and under-represented community members.

Violet King’s University of Alberta Yearbook Photo in 1952

Violet King’s 1952 University of Alberta yearbook photo.

“The University of Calgary is immensely proud to host an award that honours Calgary trailblazer Violet King,” says Smith. “Following in the footsteps of its namesake, the Violet King Engaged Scholar Award is opening doors for talented individuals who have been historically under-represented.”

Born and raised in Calgary, King came from a working-class background and paid for her education through loans and teaching music. Without any Black role models around her in law, King paved her own path and pursued an education in history and law at the University of Alberta. As a committed community advocate, King was extremely active in her high school, university, and the wider community throughout her education, career, and personal life. 

A keynote speech by Jo-Anne Henry will follow the awards ceremony. This is a truly unique opportunity to hear about Violet King’s legacy as a trailblazer, leader, and role model through the eyes of her only daughter. Following in her mother's footsteps, Henry is an advocate for her community. 

UCalgary is also excited to have Cornish, a trailblazer in his own right as the university’s youngest and first Black chancellor, who will present the awards alongside Henry. They will speak to the calibre of candidates, and how they demonstrate UCalgary’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

Smith encourages the UCalgary community to register for the 2023 Violet King Engaged Scholar Awards as well as engage in other events through February as part of Black History Month 2024.

“As we honour Violet King's legacy during this Black History Month ceremony, I encourage the entire UCalgary community to actively participate throughout all of February in these important events,” says Smith. “Let us individually and collectively expand our knowledge and understanding of the Black experience in Canada, celebrate Black Albertans, embrace Alberta’s diversity, and play our part in creating a more equitable and inclusive campus and society." 

The Office of EDI has opened submissions for the 2024 round of applications. Black, Indigenous, and racialized students entering their second, third, or fourth year of study, who are committed to making a difference in their communities are encouraged to apply

Register for the Violet King Engaged Scholar Award Ceremony on Feb. 15

See more events during Black History Month

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