Legendary Basketball Team Reunites after 45 Years

Thursday, December 17, 2015 / Campus

Caricature of the teammates, as drawn by Brian Nieminen.

On November 1, 2014, the 1969 men’s basketball team arrived at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to celebrate the team’s 45th anniversary and the 85th birthday of their coach - George Birger.

The starting five team members – Americans Jerry Hemmings, Joe Parks, Shelton Bellamy, Robert Jackson, and Louis Vaughn hooked up with Canadians Charlie Tallack and Brian Nieminen and their beloved coach for a weeklong reunion.

Since graduating, all the players have had successful careers. Brian Nieminen believes that this is “a testament to our educational and extracurricular experiences at Lakehead University.”

In the late 1960s, the American players recruited by Coach Birger helped bring a standard of basketball to Thunder Bay that had never been seen before. The C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse was regularly filled to overflowing – becoming known as the ‘Thunderdome’ because of the wild cheering of the fans.

The team went 21 games undefeated in the highly competitive National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) division and challenged the champions of District 13 to a sudden death playoff for the right to go to Kansas City for the NAIA playoffs.

“When the team reunited in South Carolina,” Brian says, “the rapport between us was amazing. It was like being transported back in time.”


Patty Hajdu becomes new Minister of Labour

Monday, January 9, 2017 / Campus

Patty Hadju headshot

Give us a brief summary about your time at Lakehead. What were your most vivid memories?

I was an adult student when I began my studies at Lakehead University. I had two children and I knew that the only way forward was to finish the university degree that I had started years before at York University.

One of the things I most vividly remember was the challenge that I faced balancing work, parenthood, and studies at the same time. But I also remember the kindness of many of the professors that understood the pressures that older students sometimes face. I will always be grateful for getting a second chance to study as it did indeed change not only my life, but the lives of my children.

How do you feel it prepared you?

The undergrad that I chose to focus my
studies was anthropology. Part of the challenge that I had when I studied the first time at York University was a lack of focus
and a lack of understanding about the various fields of study. But at Lakehead I was
fortunate to take an introduction to anthropology course with Professor Paul Driben and I knew then that this field of study was diverse and fascinating and something that could have application in many different fields of employment.

That early understanding of humankind, culture and society has provided me with a rich context for many of the diverse positions I have held throughout my career. And now as a politician, the ability to observe without judgment is critical to understanding the variety of constituents that I serve both in my riding and across the country.


With just over a year in politics, what have been some of the highlights in your role?

Just winning the election was an incredible highlight! But of course being asked to serve in cabinet by the prime minister was also an incredible honour. As Minister of Status of Women, some highlights included launching the long called for inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, and doing the preparation work to create a federal strategy to address gender-based violence. I also was proud to play a strong role in ensuring that my colleagues seriously consider gender implications in all of their work. When women and girls in Canada succeed, it is good for all of us and helps our economy thrive!

I'm also very proud of the work that I've done to ensure that Ottawa understands the needs and the incredible resiliency of the residents of Northern Ontario. I look forward to continuing the strong advocacy for our region and playing a critical role at the cabinet table in making sure that everyone has an opportunity to succeed.


When you were approached about your new role, what were your thoughts? How did you feel?

When the prime minister asked me to take on the new role of Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, I was very honoured that he had so much confidence in me to do this very important work. I was very excited to take on the file because I believe that having access to well-paying, decent work is critical to healthy and happy communities. This new role is critical to our goal of maintaining a strong middle class and helping those who are working so hard to join it gain the skills they need.


Explain your new portfolio and what your new role will entail.

I'm very excited about my new portfolio. It is an opportunity to ensure that Canadians have the best opportunity to gain the skills they need and secure good well-paying jobs across the country. I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to work with my colleagues on ensuring that we grow the middle class and help those who are working hard to join it.

I am fortunate that I've had a background in labour through my experience running an organization that had a strong union presence. I'm looking forward to working with employers and unions to ensure a strong vibrant workforce for Canada today and into the future.


What has been the most surprising thing you've learned in your life and/or career?

My uncle used to say about me that I was never afraid to drive. I didn't know what he meant at the time, but what I have realized is it might be one of my greatest strengths. My ability to be passionate about my work has led to a career path that I could never have predicted! The greatest surprise that I have learned is that no matter what you are doing, you should try your best to leave the work in a better place than when you get it. By putting your heart into your work you can achieve all kinds of things you never imagined!


Do you have any advice for future students based on your experiences in life and work?

The advice I have for students of all ages is to stay focused on the here and now. Sometimes we all have the tendency to project into the future and focus on goals that are in some cases many years away. Goals are important. But what I have learned is that by trying our best at the task right in front of us, whether it is school, employment or volunteering, we have the best opportunity to make a difference and along the way discover new opportunities and interests that open new doors.


Alumni honoured with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Thursday, May 11, 2017 / Campus

Prime Minister's Teaching Award of Excellence logo

Two exceptional Lakehead University alumni received the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa on May 3.


When Tom Doherty (BED, HBA and BA from Lakehead and MED from Western) received his award, he gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a great big hug.

“As a proud Métis, it is our culture to greet someone through embrace, and so I greeted him as any proud Métis would have,” Doherty said, adding that he became very emotional when receiving this teaching award.

Doherty currently works as the student retention lead at Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education in Balmertown, Ont. He is on a leave of absence from St. John School in Red Lake where he taught kindergarten to grade 9.

Pictured right:  Tom Doherty hugs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the ceremony held in Ottawa.

“I’m proud of all the great things my students achieve through the facilitated learning I provide,” he said.

Doherty added that it’s important for students to learn about Canada’s Indigenous cultures and traditions.

“I draw as much First Nation, Métis, and Inuit content into the curriculum as possible, which allows students to gain a knowledge base and appreciation of our First Peoples,” he said.

Doherty said attending Lakehead University and serving on the student union helped him realize his potential.

“Achieving the goals I set for myself as a Lakehead student gave me a sense of accomplishment. It taught me that no matter where you come from in life, with hard work and dedication nothing can stop you from achieving success,” Doherty said.

His desire to succeed empowered him to become a teacher. “I impact students by helping them achieve their dreams through action,” he said.

Kathy Cepo (BED from Lakehead) was nervous before meeting Prime Minister Trudeau, until she spoke with him. “He very quickly put me at ease and made me feel
comfortable,” she said.

Pictured right:  Kathy Cepo presents the Prime Minister with the robot team T-shirt.

Cepo teaches science and chemistry to students from grade 9 to 12 at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in St. Thomas, Ont.

Five years ago, she and two colleagues started FIRST Team 4525 Renaissance Robotics, a competitive team allowing students to design, build, and program a new
120-pound robot each year that plays a unique game with robots around the world.

Approximately 10 per cent of students at St. Joseph’s participate on the robotics team, and 84 per cent of graduates from the team pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics.

“My time at Lakehead University affirmed that I made the right career choice,” Cepo said.

“From lessons learned in the classroom at the University to those learned during my practicums - I feel that I had a great start to my career.

“I highly recommend Lakehead University as a place to earn your Bachelor of Education degree. I met many students from diverse backgrounds in an area influenced deeply by nature and the environment,” she said.

“Lakehead’s Faculty of Education is pleased to congratulate Tom Doherty and Kathy Cepo, along with the other recipients of this prestigious award,” said Dr. John O’Meara, Dean of Lakehead’s Faculty of Education.

“Tom and Kathy’s commitment to – and passion for – teaching and learning is an example to all educators. This commitment speaks to the exceptional education offered at Lakehead University,” Dr. O’Meara added.


– 30 –


Media: For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Brandon Walker, Media Relations Officer, at (807) 343-8177, or mediarelations@lakeheadu.ca.


Lakehead University has about 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. In 2016, for the second consecutive year, Re$earch Infosource ranked Lakehead first among Canada’s undergraduate universities. Visit www.lakeheadu.ca.

Lakehead Orillia author inspired by life

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 /

Jessica Dawson headshot

As published in the Barrie Examiner, January 6, 2016


Life is good.

Jessica Dawson (BASED '17) would likely say that regardless of what happens — good or bad — because she’s a very optimistic person. 

Nevertheless, it has been a good year.

She became engaged to her childhood sweetheart, moved out of the family home for the first time, into a place of her own, wrote and published her first book, a collection of poetry called Little Nothings.

“It all fits into a theme,” said Dawson, who was born and raised in Barrie. “It can be read as one whole poem through the whole book or individual poems. The main message is how it speaks to them (the reader.)”

The book was inspired, in part, by Dawson’s fiance and her parents. She grew up in an arts-oriented family, to musical parents who wrote and performed their own music. Her father became an audio technician and has recorded some of Dawson’s songs, while her mother is a teacher.

She performs, when she has time, with her fiance and has appeared at open-mic night at Casa Cappuccino and a local coffee shop in the Lakeshore Mews. They write all of their own material. They also wrote their own wedding song and have pre-recorded it to play for their first dance.

Dawson wrote her first song at the age of eight. She has had some formal musical training, at the Royal Conservatory of Music, for voice. She also plays guitar, ukulele, flute and piano, but keeps it to the ukulele for practicality.

She played in the band at St. Joseph's Catholic High School and also participated in a 12-hour music marathon. Her older brother was into music and had a band that included her fiance. That is how she met him, although the two didn’t start dating until she was 17 years old.

In addition, she has participated in a variety of dance classes and a local triple-threat program. She did some musical theatre, including a production with the Kempenfelt Community Players.

Dawson hopes to use all of her talents in a teaching career and is working towards it at Lakehead University in Orillia. She chose the school because it is close to home — she was 17-years of age when she graduated high school.

“I couldn’t imagine being that far away from my family,” she said. “I couldn’t image not seeing them for months at a time.”

She decided to do a minor in English literature and a major in interdisciplinary studies and concurrent education, but her speciality is psychology. Now 20 years old, she has one more year to go.

“I hope to be a teacher and incorporate music into the classroom,” said Dawson, who also wants to use her psychology. “I’d like to be a guiding light to children who don’t have that outside of school. That’s kind of what the book is about.”

She has already garnered some experience, assistant teaching for the local school board each summer since she started university. She has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. When she was young she would line up her dolls and pretend she was in classroom.

“My parents would play, too, and my dad would misbehave,” she recalled. “He would always act out and my mom would be on her best behaviour. It was funny.”

Dawson likes quite of few different poets, but her all-time favourite is John Keates. She writes free-form poems, and some are as short as one line and others occupy a whole page. Several are inspired by nature and many touch on the subject of love.

Little Nothings is a chatbook, a short, condensed book of approximately 35 pages, that sells for around $10. It is available through Amazon.com, the Lakehead University bookstore and, in 2016, at Chapters.

New President & CEO of Tbaytel announced

Friday, November 1, 2013 / Campus

Dan Topatigh headshot

Dan Topatigh (HBComm'89) is the new president and CEO of Tbaytel – Canada’s largest independently owned telecommunications provider.

Prior to his appointment as Tbaytel’s president and CEO, Mr. Topatigh held the role of interim president and CEO for nine months where he successfully led Tbaytel’s executive leadership team through a period of sustained growth and expansion. Mr. Topatigh originally joined Tbaytel’s senior executive team in 2007 as chief financial officer (CFO) where he was responsible for overseeing the finance, accounting, purchasing and regulatory departments.

Mr. Topatigh is a proud graduate of Lakehead University, holding an honours bachelor of commerce degree, and has a chartered public accountant designation with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. He has been involved in his community as a member of the board of directors of the Thunder Bay Boys and Girls Club for the past 10 years. Currently, Mr. Topatigh resides in Thunder Bay with his wife and children.

Dr. Adam Moir receives 2012 Patient's Choice Award

Monday, November 12, 2012 / Campus

Dr. Adam Moir headshot

Dr. Adam Moir (HBSc'00, BEd'03, MD'09) was awarded the 2012 Patients' Choice Award.  The award celebrates physicians who exemplify a commitment to providing care that reflects patient priorities, values and preferences. It recognizes physicians that go the extra mile for their patients. 

Patients nominate their family doctor or a specialist and outline why that doctor should be the recipient of the award. Another panel of patients determine the winners based on these patient stories.

Over the years, Patients Canada, with support from the Ontario Medical Association, has publicly acknowledged more than 30 physicians in diverse communities across Ontario.

Dr. Moir is a family Physician in Dryden ON.

Ashleigh Quarrell receives national award from Governor General

Monday, May 27, 2013 / Campus

Ashleigh Quarrell receives award from Governor General

During a ceremony at Rideau Hall, Ashleigh Quarrell (HBComm '09) received a Governor General's Caring Canadian Award in April 2013. Created in 1995, the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad. 

Ashleigh started volunteering at a young age, serving as a counsellor and fundraiser for eight years at Camp Quality. The camp provides an outdoor wilderness experience for young cancer survivors, terminally ill children and their families. Long after the end of each season, Ms. Quarrel would continue to provide support and ongoing friendship to her campers. She also volunteers with the Special Olympics, and organizes fundraising events to benefit such organizations as Habitat for Humanity and the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay.

Julie Pauletig new Head of Ontario Teachers Federation

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 / Campus

Julie Pauletig headshot

Julie Pauletig (BEd'86) was elected the 70th president of the Ontario Teachers Federation (OTF) in August 2013.

Julie was a daily occasional teacher with the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board before becoming an elementary school teacher with the York Catholic District School Board in 1986. As a first year teacher, Julie took on the role of teacher advocate and became involved with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) local level as a collective bargaining team member.

In her new role as OTF president, Julie explains, "Maintaining a strong fully funded pension plan for retirees and contributing plan members is OTF's main priority."

Michael Coffey named CFO of Tbaytel

Monday, January 27, 2014 / Campus

Michael Coffey headshot

Tbaytel officially announced that Michael Coffey (HBComm'92) was the new CFO in January 2014. Coffey will be leading the company’s financial and accounting divisions, a responsibility previously held by Tbaytel president and CEO Dan Topatigh.

Mr. Coffey is a graduate of Lakehead University and holds an honours bachelor degree in commerce and a bachelor’s degree in administration – marketing. In 1996 he received his chartered accountant designation from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. He also remains a member in good standing of the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Ontario.

“Michael’s demonstrated ability to lead a number of companies through periods of organizational expansion and financial growth has already proven to be an asset in the initial weeks since he joined Tbaytel’s executive team,” says Topatigh. 

Lyn McLeod receives Order of Ontario

Monday, January 27, 2014 / Campus

Lyn McLeod headshot

Former long-time Thunder Bay politician and Lakehead Alumna Lyn McLeod received a high honour at Queen's Park in January 2014.  

Ms. McLeod has an MA in Psychology from Lakehead University.  She has devoted her career to public service:  former leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and the first woman to lead a major political party in Ontario. Ms. McLeod represented the riding of Fort William/Thunder Bay-Atikokan from 1987 to 2003. She has been Minister of Colleges and Universities, Minister of Energy, and Minister of Natural Resources. 

She continues to be actively involved in community work around the issues of education and health care as [the former] Chair of Health Quality Ontario, Board member with both the Ontario Power Authority and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute. She was the Founding Chancellor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and is a past Chair of the Board of Governors of Confederation College in Thunder Bay. 

Lyn retired in October 2003.