Meet our Honorary Degree recipients

Posted: May 30, 2016 6:00 a.m.

(l-r) Gavin Semple, Jack Semple and Chief Tammy Cook-Searson.
(l-r) Gavin Semple, Jack Semple and Chief Tammy Cook-Searson. Photo: External Relations

An honorary degree is the highest recognition the University can bestow. We are pleased to announce the three exceptional people who will receive honorary doctorate degrees at the 42nd Spring Convocation ceremonies June 1 – 3 at the Conexus Arts Centre.

Let’s meet the recipients:  

Gavin Semple is an entrepreneur who transformed a small electrical contracting company into Brandt Industries Ltd. and the Brandt Group of Companies, the first privately held business in Saskatchewan to achieve $1 billion in sales.

Semple is one of six children raised on a family farm north of Regina, learning at an early age the value of hard work. Semple was a natural at sales, selling everything from duck decoys to insurance before joining Brandt Machine and Manufacturing as a salesman. Four years later he became president and general manager. He subsequently helped guide the growth of the business over many years as president and CEO, and continues to serve as chairman. He has received many awards and honours for his business success and philanthropic contributions, including his work in support of the renewal and expansion of the Luther College High School campus, and in establishing Brandt's “Thanks a Billion” corporate giving program.

Jack Semple, younger brother of Gavin Semple, is a virtuoso guitar player and performer and while his musical interests are eclectic and wide-ranging, he is often categorized as a blues musician. He began playing guitar when he was nine, and refined his mastery of it through many hours of dedicated practice.

Semple is the youngest of six children who grew up on a family farm north of Regina. Largely self-taught, he began playing in various Regina-based bands in his teens before performing with The Lincolns, a funk and rhythm and blues band based in Toronto. After two years he returned to Regina to raise his family. He and his wife Tara have three children, all of whom are active in music and the arts.

Semple tours regularly, and has released 10 solo albums while also contributing to television and film soundtracks from his basement studio. He has a Gemini award for his soundtrack work on the television series Incredible Story Studio and a Juno award for Qu'Appelle, an album of roots music.

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson is a community leader, politician, businessperson; a contemporary woman rooted in her Cree language and culture. As a child, her parents spent part of each year hunting, trapping and fishing, and the experience of living on the land strongly influenced her. She believes it is important to continue practicing the ancient ways that respect the land, plants and animals.

Cook-Searson was elected Councillor for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in 1997, and became the first woman elected Chief of the Band in 2005. She has been re-elected ever since. With more than 10,000 members, she leads the largest Indian Band in Saskatchewan.

By virtue of her position as Chief, Cook-Searson is also President of Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership, the for-profit development arm that employs from 900 to 1,400 Band members in various businesses.

Cook-Searson has been recognized with several awards, and says the honourary degree from the University of Regina represents the work of many people throughout her life.