From left to right: Mike Babcock, Lilia Koleva, Marcel Desautels, Kendra Alexia Hefti, and Lawrence Bloomberg. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)


First McGill Toronto Excellence Awards luncheon celebrates city’s best

The inaugural McGill Toronto Excellence Awards drew many McGillians from the GTA to celebrate the five accomplished award winners: Mike Babcock, Lawrence Bloomberg, Marcel Desautels, Kendra Alexia Hefti and Lilia Koleva.

Story by Mark Witten

June 2018

The outstanding leadership, achievements and contributions of five alumni and friends of McGill in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were celebrated at the inaugural McGill Toronto Excellence Awards on Thursday, June 7.

This special awards luncheon started a new tradition by showcasing and sharing the success stories and impact of McGill graduates in Toronto, which is home to more than 27,000 graduates and represents McGill’s largest alumni community outside Quebec.

Over 180 guests attended the exciting luncheon event, held in the Grand Banking Hall at One King West Hotel & Residence in downtown Toronto. The honourees included Lawrence Bloomberg, MBA’65, Marcel Desautels, Kendra Alexia Hefti, BCL/LLB’16, and Lilia Koleva, BSc(Arch)’09, MArch’11.

Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock, BEd’86, LLD’13, was presented with the Distinguished Leader Award, as a trailblazer who serves as an inspiration and mentor to the next generation of leaders.

His talents, achievements and leadership have made him a household name in Toronto. As head coach of the Leafs since 2015, he’s revitalized the storied franchise, leading it to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons after a spell in which it made the post-season just once in 11 years.

Babcock has excelled in every phase of his career from his student days as an all-star defenceman and co-captain of the McGill Redmen to coaching Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship, the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup, and Team Canada to gold medal victories at the Vancouver and Sochi Olympics.

Before the award was presented, he and the assembled guests watched a short video about the real Mike Babcock, with clips and comments on his leadership qualities from many including former Redmen teammates and roommates, and Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan. Babcock’s wife Maureen also made a cameo appearance to offer her congratulations.

“I was caught off guard and watching it was emotional for me,” said Babcock, who spoke about the gift of McGill as a formative experience in his life and the lifelong friendships he formed with his McGill hockey teammates. “I had to join in as a student or be left behind. McGill gives you the foundation, the platform and the confidence that gets you a running start in life.”

Lawrence Bloomberg received  the Impact Award for his advocacy in driving change to better his industry, community and the advancement of the McGill community in Toronto, as well as fostering a sense of collaboration and diversity.

In Toronto, he chaired the Mount Sinai Hospital board for a decade and had an impact on improving patient care. He is passionate about championing the next generation of innovators and was a founder and director of the MaRS Discovery District, one of Canada’s largest business accelerators. He also serves as chancellor of Ryerson University.

His philanthropic gifts to the Toronto community include the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto, and the Frances Bloomberg Centre for Women’s and Infants’ Health at Mount Sinai Hospital. He also co-founded the Bloomberg Manulife Prize at McGill for the Promotion of Active Health.

As a student in McGill’s first MBA graduating class in 1965, Bloomberg credits the program with giving him valuable skills in business, tremendous confidence and a philosophy to go out and make the world a better place. “I’ve had a great time doing things and trying to have an impact in the Toronto community where I live. We should be celebrating impact. That’s what schools do. They produce students who go out into society and have impact,” said Bloomberg.

Marcel Desautels, LLD’07, was presented with the Friend of McGill in Toronto Award. The award honours a non-graduate of McGill and is given to a leader in the Toronto community who is an ambassador for the advancement of higher education and promotes McGill and its tradition of excellence in the GTA.

Desautels is a quiet benefactor who makes a big impact on campus by consistently championing two of his passions: business and music. His generosity and vision have transformed McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management, creating new programs and physical spaces, bolstering research, nurturing students and professors, and inspiring others to become involved as volunteers and donors to the University.

He is also an engaged friend, who visits the campus regularly, meeting with both business and music students, and keeps in touch with many as they graduate and transition into their careers.

Desautels has been a valued Faculty Advisory Board member since 2005, and more recently served as honorary co-chair of the MBA Next 50 Campaign, which resulted in the Donald E. Armstrong Building that opened this year.

Kendra Alexia Hefti and Lilia Koleva are the two inaugural winners of the Rising Star Award. They were recognized as exceptional alumni in Toronto under 35, demonstrating early success in their respective professions and future leadership in their field.

Hefti is boldly disrupting and innovating tax law in Canada and globally, and currently leads the blockchain practice at Deloitte in Toronto. She also guides organizations, such as the World Blockchain Academy for Girls and Toronto-based Emerge, on how to use blockchain – a digital, distributed ledger for recording transactions – for social good in emerging market countries.

This young blockchain star said she feels lucky to have benefited from the mentorship culture at McGill and is now helping others rise to their potential.

Since her first year as an undergraduate, Lilia Koleva has been a leader in McGill’s Peter Guo-Hua Fu School of Architecture, providing support to faculty members, organizing exhibitions and events, and serving as a teaching assistant. She is an accomplished architect at NEUF architect(e)s, which was project and design lead for the new CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal) hospital in downtown Montreal, and the recipient of several prestigious architecture awards.

Koleva moved to Toronto four years ago to establish and build NEUF’s practice in the city, where she has kept close ties with McGill alumni. “McGill became my family and friends when I came to Canada from Bulgaria 13 years ago as a student with a scholarship,” she said in a touching acceptance speech.

McGill Chancellor Michael Meighen, BA’60, LLD’12, called the luncheon an occasion to stand back and appreciate the contributions and accomplishments of the University’s alumni and friends who live and work in the GTA.

“Today we have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate some of McGill’s great stories and great people.”

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