Cape Breton University to Confer Six Honorary Degrees on Outstanding Individuals during Spring 2021 Convocation

On Saturday, May 8, 2021, during the virtual spring convocation celebration, Cape Breton University will confer honorary doctorates on six individuals from across the country who have made a significant impact in their fields of study as well as their community. CBU will confer the degrees Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Dr. Robert Strang, accepting on behalf of public health professionals in Nova Scotia, and Dr. Shiv Sharma. Also, CBU will confer the degrees Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on the Honorable Dr. Mayann Francis, the Honorable Margaret McCain, Mr. Denis Ryan and Mr. Doug MacPhee.

“I am delighted to recognize the achievements of such accomplished and deserving professionals representing the healthcare, cultural and public service sectors of Canada, and the world,” says David C. Dingwall, President and Vice-Chancellor. “These individuals are the epitome of hard-work, dedication and perseverance and are exactly the strong role models we at Cape Breton University want our students to emulate. Each with their own unique leadership styles, they give selflessly to the communities they serve.”

Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang is Chief Medical Officer of Health in Nova Scotia appointed in August 2007.  He received his medical degree from the University of British Columbia and completed Family Practice and Public Health and Preventive Medicine residencies at UBC. Dr. Strang was an Associate Medical Officer of Health in South Fraser Health, BC, from 1997-1999 and in 1999, moved to Halifax to become Medical Officer of Health for Capital District Health Authority. As CMOH, he has provided leadership around the renewal of the public health system in Nova Scotia and worked tirelessly to better support healthcare for Nova Scotian families and communities. He is passionate about public health and has worked with non-government organizations such as Smoke Free Nova Scotia, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Public Health Association of Nova Scotia.  Dr. Strang has an adjunct appointment with Dalhousie University, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology.

“Thrust into the spotlight and a true team player, Dr. Strang will accept this honour on behalf of all public health professionals of Nova Scotia,” adds President Dingwall. “These professionals have stepped up to protect the people of our great province during a very difficult time, and continue to guide us to safety. For their commitment and for unwittingly shining a bright light on this important sector, we salute them.”

The Honourable Dr. Mayann Francis, ONS.

Dr. Mayann Francis grew up in Whitney Pier, Nova Scotia, and attended university in Halifax and New York, where she received her Master’s in Public Administration. Dr. Mayann Francis held the role of Lieutenant Governor for the province of Nova Scotia from 2006 – 2012.  She was the first African Nova Scotian and the second woman to be appointed as the vice-regal representative. Dr. Francis served from 2015 – 2020 as the first Distinguished Public Service Fellow in the Faculty of Management, School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University.

She has served in many leadership roles, including Chair of the Board for the Atlantic School of Theology.  Among her many accomplishments, author can also be added to the list. Nimbus Publishing published her first children’s book, “Mayann’s Train Ride” in October 2015, which was translated into French in 2018. Her memoir, “Mayann Francis, An Honourable Life”, was released in June 2019, and was included in The Hill Times’ list of 100 best non-fiction books. Dr. Francis is working on her second children’s book scheduled for publication in 2021.

“Growing up in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, helped shape the person I am today and helped build the strong foundation I needed to be successful to reach my goals,” says the Honorable Dr. Mayann Francis. “I am so humbled to receive an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton Island’s university and proud to share this honour with so many other impactful and recognized individuals. I know my parents would be very proud and I wish they were here to celebrate this honour with me.”

The Honorable Margaret McCain

Margaret Norrie McCain was born October 1, 1934, in northern Quebec. Mrs. McCain received a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in History from Mount Allison University, Sackville, N.B., and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Toronto. In 1955 she married entrepreneur G. Wallace F. McCain of Florenceville, N.B. They had four children and nine grandchildren. Mrs. McCain was a member of the Mount Allison University Board of Regents from 1974-1994 and served as Chancellor of the University from 1986-1994.  On April 28, 1994, Margaret Norrie McCain was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of New Brunswick and was the first female to hold this position. She served in that role until April 1997. Margaret McCain was a member of the Board of the National Ballet School for 18 years, serving as Board Chair from 1998 to 2000. She is currently Chair of the Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation.


Dr. Shiv Sharma

Dr. Shiv Sharma graduated from SN Medical School in Agra, India, in 1962, with an MBBS Medical Degree. He completed his medical internship in Kampala, Uganda in 1964. For the first year of his medical career, Dr. Sharma worked as a medical officer for the Government of Uganda. From 1965 until his retirement in 2016, Dr. Sharma worked in medical practices throughout Canada. Sharma had his own practice in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, and developed a strong reputation in the community as a trusted doctor and community leader.

He is a past president of the Rotary Club of Port Hawkesbury and contributed significantly to the creation of one of the first Hindu temples in North America in Auld’s Cove, Nova Scotia. As well, Dr. Sharma and his wife were the founding members of the first Hindu Society in the Maritimes. For his contributions to the medical community, Dr. Sharma was recognized at the age of 70 by the College of Family Physicians of Canada for his outstanding service to the profession. He also was given honorary Emeritus status from the Canadian College of Physicians and Surgeons.


Dr. Denis Ryan 

Born in Newport, County Tipperary, Ireland, Dr. Denis Ryan immigrated to Canada in 1969 where he and his family settled in Toronto. He formed the critically acclaimed band Ryan’s Fancy in 1970 and moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1971 to attend Memorial University. After graduation, Dr. Ryan and his family moved to PEI in 1977, and would eventually settle in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1980 residing there ever since. Over 13 years, Ryan’s Fancy would go on to record more than 14 albums and create a television series that aired in Canada, Ireland and the United States. In 1983 the group was disbanded, and Dr. Ryan then turned his attention to business investments. Dr. Ryan is the founder of Nova Scotian Crystal, Canada’s only mouth-blown, hand-cut crystal manufacturer. Dr. Ryan was the National Chairperson of the Fund Raising Committee for the Darcy McGee Chair of Irish Studies at Saint Mary’s University, a member of the Board of Directors for the Victoria General Hospital Foundation, and Vice-Chairperson of the Danny Gallivan Scholarship Fund at St. Francis Xavier University, as well as a member of the Board of Governors. In 1994, Dr. Ryan received an honorary degree from St. Mary’s University.

Mr. Doug MacPhee

Mr. Doug MacPhee is renowned for his musical accomplishments and is a true pillar of traditional Scottish music. Celebrated both as an accompanist and as a soloist, he is widely known for his unique ability to emulate the sound of the Cape Breton fiddle on the piano.

Over the course of his admirable career, Mr. MacPhee has released six solo recordings. He recorded accompaniment on over 60 albums with such Cape Breton fiddle luminaries as Buddy MacMaster, Donald MacLellan, Johnny Wilmot, Carl MacKenzie, John Campbell and Joe Cormier, to name a few. Mr. MacPhee has played a vital role in the foundation and growth of such institutions dedicated to music and culture as the Gaelic College in St. Anne’s, the Celtic Colours International Music Festival and the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University.

Mr. MacPhee was inducted into Order of Canada for his contribution to Cape Breton traditional culture in 2008, honouring his musical accomplishments, as well as his archival work. Mr. MacPhee has lived in Toronto, Boston and even California, but the call of returning home was strong and he is always happiest playing music and living home in New Waterford, Cape Breton.

Cape Breton University has been awarding honorary degrees since 1989, and during that time, has welcomed individuals from around the world in numerous sectors into our Alumni family.

The 2021 spring convocation will be celebrated through a virtual platform on Saturday, May 8, 2021, at 2:00 pm.