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USask will recognize Dr. Wilfred Keller (PhD) and Dr. David Mulder (MD) for their extraordinary career achievements. (Photos: Submitted)

USask to celebrate distinguished honorary degree recipients

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) will honour two individuals who have made major contributions to their communities and the country, with special tributes during this year’s virtual Fall Convocation online celebration.

USask President and Vice-Chancellor Peter Stoicheff said he is honoured to announce that the university will recognize Dr. David Mulder (MD) and Dr. Wilfred Keller (PhD) for their extraordinary career achievements as part of Fall Convocation celebrations on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

“Both of these remarkable individuals have made significant contributions in their fields throughout their extraordinary careers and we are proud to pay tribute to them and recognize their lifetime achievements,” said Stoicheff. “This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate two of our province’s own who went on to make a major impact on the national stage. We are grateful to have this opportunity to express our gratitude and to bestow the University of Saskatchewan’s highest honour during this year’s Fall Convocation celebration.”

Wilfred Keller (Honorary Doctor of Science)

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Dr. Wilfred Keller.

One of Canada’s most renowned crop development scientists, Keller has enjoyed a career spanning almost 50 years as a pioneering agriculture researcher and visionary leader. 

Born in Melville, Sask., Keller earned his Bachelor of Science (1969) and his PhD (1972) majoring in crop science at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), before heading overseas to Germany for post-doctoral studies. A year later, he started with Agriculture Canada and quickly began contributing to the agriculture industry through trailblazing research endeavours.  

Keller helped lead numerous major research initiatives, including the application of genomics in canola breeding that had a tremendous impact and contributed to making the crop a made-in-Canada success story. Keller’s work also contributed to the development of the first herbicide-tolerant canola variety in North America, one of his many research success stories. 

A recognized global leader in agricultural biotechnology research, management and promotion, Keller has worked with the major research players in the industry, from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to the National Research Council, to Genome Prairie, and most recently serving until 2020 as president and CEO of Ag-West Bio Inc., a non-profit organization in Saskatoon that advocates for agriculture science. Keller currently serves as vice-president of outreach with the Agri-Food Innovation Council, after previously serving as the board chair. 

Among his many accomplishments, Keller played a supporting role as a member of the group that successfully launched the Saskatchewan-based Protein Industries Canada Supercluster, projected to contribute billions to the Canadian economy. The supercluster was one of five proposals selected out of 55 applications to share in $950 million in federal funding, attracting both capital investment and industry-leading scientists to the city. 

During his remarkable career, Keller has been honoured with multiple major awards, including induction into the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2018, the Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2017, and earning the Saskatchewan Order of Merit – the province’s highest honour – in 2015. Keller has also received three National Research Council Outstanding Achievement Awards, as well as Lifetime Achievement Awards from AgWest Biotech and from The Society for In Vitro Biology. 

Throughout his professional career, Keller has also helped enhance the education of young scientists throughout the country, contributing to the training of 23 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, while also serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, Carleton University, Guelph University and his alma mater, USask.

David Mulder (Honorary Doctor of Laws)

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Dr. David Mulder.

Mulder is renowned across the country as one of the most highly respected surgeons of his generation.

A pioneer in trauma surgery in Quebec, Mulder has served as the team physician for the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens for more than 50 years, was the chief surgeon at Montreal General Hospital from 1977 to 1998, and has worked with the McGill University Sports Medicine Centre since 1994. 

Born in Eston, Sask., Mulder graduated with a medical degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1962 and a year later began his training in general surgery at Montreal General Hospital. After spending two years specializing in chest surgery at the University of Iowa, Mulder returned to Quebec where he has practiced medicine ever since. In addition to being the surgeon-in-chief of the Montreal General Hospital, Mulder was the chair of the McGill Department of Surgery, and the director of the Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at McGill. 

An outstanding scholar, researcher and health-care leader, Mulder has been the recipient of major awards and tributes, including being made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997, earning the James H. Graham Award of Merit from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and being selected for the USA National Safety Council Award.  

Mulder has received a number or prominent professional appointments during his career, including having McGill University name a research chair in surgery in his honour. McGill also paid tribute to Mulder in October of 2015 by renaming the university’s trauma centre at Montreal General Hospital as the Dr. David S. Mulder Trauma Centre. 

Mulder is credited with being the driving force in developing a province-wide trauma treatment system in Quebec in the 1980s, an advancement that helped to reduce the trauma-related mortality rate in the province by 50 per cent. He has also served as only the second Canadian to be president of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma. Mulder was also a founding member of the Pan American Trauma Society and president of the International Trauma Group. 

In 2015, the Canadiens celebrated his 50 years serving as the NHL team’s physician by honouring him during a ceremonial puck drop at the opening faceoff during a nationally televised game between Montreal and Toronto at the Bell Centre. Among his many achievements, Mulder was instrumental in advancing early awareness in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of head injuries, and served as president of the NHL Team Physicians Society from 2003 to 2006. 

Mulder and Keller will be honoured on the graduation celebration and video website, which will be accessible through the USask convocation page: https://students.usask.ca/academics/graduation.php

Honorary degrees are the highest honour USask can award, acknowledging the worthy and unique contributions recipients have made to their community and to the world. The university recognizes individuals who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in research, scholarly and artistic works; performed exceptional public service; contributed greatly through their professional or philanthropic activity; and demonstrated extraordinary athletic prowess. To view past recipients, visit: https://library.usask.ca/archives/campus-history/honorary-degrees.php

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