Melbourne Alton Best
Music and the arts are among our most treasured possessions in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Melbourne Alton Best was born and raised in Mud Lake, Labrador, as the youngest of 10 children. It was at Mud Lake where he met his future wife and together they started their family prior to moving to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
A gifted musician, Mr. Best has always been able to play a variety of instruments with ease, including the drums, guitar, fiddle, harmonica, and the button accordion. In addition to playing these instruments for his own entertainment, Alton Best was compelled to use them to share the traditional songs and lyrics of Labrador with his children, grandchildren and the youth of Labrador.
Recognizing the importance of preserving and promoting our heritage, in the early 1970s, Mr. Best formed the band The Flummies. The Flummies’ first recording in 1986, Four Songs from Labrador, was the start of preserving and promoting the treasured traditional music and lyrics of the Big Land. Several other recordings followed in 1998, 2000 and 2002. For their efforts, The Flummies proudly received a Provincial Music Industry Association Award in 2002 and an East Coast Music Award in 2003. While The Flummies have had a number of different members join the group over the years, Mr. Best is known as the “glue” that holds them together and for having kept the traditional music alive.
For over 30 years, Mr. Best has tirelessly travelled the coast of Labrador and many other locations to voluntarily play at various festivals, benefit concerts and seniors events. The Flummies have also performed in Germany at the request of the German Air Force.
Best Boy Productions produced a documentary entitled, Lab-Originals, featuring The Flummies, which in January 2007 aired nationally on Bravo Television. The documentary was based on their 25 years of music making. The documentary serves to both preserve our cultural heritage and promote this province. Recognized as a true Ambassador of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Best has been awarded the Tourism Industry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Hospitality Ambassador Award.
Dr. Angus A. Bruneau
Through extraordinary leadership and vision, Dr. Angus A. Bruneau has catalyzed change and inspired innovation in some of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most significant institutions.
Dr. Bruneau played a significant role in establishing one of Memorial University’s defining features – the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Today, Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences is among the highest ranked in the country. Dr. Bruneau is known as a leading authority on energy research and development and has made important contributions to science policy in Canada.
Dr. Bruneau had the foresight to make long-lasting impacts on the growth of an industry while fostering the science required to support it. It is through Dr. Bruneau’s work that the Centre for Cold Ocean Resources Engineering (C-CORE) is recognized as one of Canada’s leading innovative applied research and development enterprises.
Within the private sector, Dr. Bruneau became the President and Chief Executive Officer of Newfoundland Light and Power in 1986 and was instrumental in transforming the power distribution company into Fortis Inc., Canada’s largest investor-owned distribution utility with operations in nine provinces and four countries.
Within the philanthropic realm, Dr. Bruneau continues to be a strong supporter of the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. Bruneau was the founding Chair of Festival 500, the world-class choral music festival which attracts top international choirs to the province every two years. Further, Dr. and Mrs. Bruneau presented Memorial University with a donation of $1 million for the creation of the Angus Bruneau Student Leadership and Innovation Fund in Engineering. This is the largest single donation received from a living person in the university’s history.
Sister Elizabeth Davis
Commitment to family, strong work ethic, determination to succeed, resiliency in the face of adversity, and the strong connection to the place we call home are among the attributes for which Sister Elizabeth Davis is known and admired.
Faced with the daunting task of amalgamating six of the province’s busiest health care institutions, there was a collective confidence in Sister Elizabeth’s leadership abilities that the inevitable changes would be undertaken with genuine sensitivity to the needs of clients and the impact on the lives of staff.
From the very beginning, Sister Elizabeth mobilized and articulated the organization’s corporate values, established a program-based approach and handled the technological, organizational, and structural changes with great success. With competence, compassion, courage and boundless energy, Sister Elizabeth took on the sometimes overwhelming challenges of providing and improving the delivery of healthcare services to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. She carried out this task with a sense of purpose – a sense of what the right direction was for the province.
Sister Elizabeth was instrumental in the establishment of an electronic health information system in Newfoundland and Labrador, demonstrating that she is ahead of her time and committed to improving the safety and effectiveness of patient care and the efficient management of resources. Through Sister Elizabeth’s support, the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information is now nationally recognized as a centre of excellence and has contributed to Newfoundland and Labrador being one of the first provinces in Canada to implement the electronic health record for all of its citizens.
Frances Elizabeth Ennis
Frances Elizabeth Ennis is a co-founder of the province’s first community-based adult literacy program, Rabbittown Learners Program, and was a founding member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Literacy Network. As a result of these experiences, Ms. Ennis has been sought to present to national and international conferences and has designed and delivered programs for other literacy groups such as the Inuktitut Literacy Program in Nain.
In addition to her commitment to literacy, Ms. Ennis is deeply dedicated to the advancement of women. In the mid 1970s, she undertook groundbreaking work in conjunction with the Women’s Institutes and the Status of Women Council to spearhead the four-year Women’s Health Education project of Newfoundland and Labrador. Through her work to promote women’s equality and in particular women’s participation in leadership and the political process, Ms. Ennis has been involved in the 52% Solution, a project which included a province-wide bus tour to promote women’s equality and participation in the political process. Ms. Ennis continues to participate, with her daughters, in the annual Take Back the Night, an internationally held march and rally intended as a protest and direct action against rape and other forms of sexual violence.
As the author and co-author of many books and resource materials, Ms. Ennis has captured the life stories of many women, individuals with HIV/AIDS, and adult learners, thereby enabling voices to be heard that are all too often silent or ignored.
Ms. Ennis also avails of her artistic skills as a rug hooker to express a deep love and respect for the geography of the province. Her works are proudly displayed in a number of public places and she has introduced many to the craft of rug hooking, including the members of the Holy Heart of Mary Alumnae Choir. In fact, the choir used the rugs they created to raise some of the funds required to sing at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 2008. These rugs are currently proudly permanently displayed at the Veterans Pavilion in St. John’s.
Susan Green continues to work tirelessly to ensure access to food for all residents of this province and beyond. Her commitment to children’s education, health and wellness has resulted in large scale public and private support towards the importance of food security.
As a result of Ms. Green’s presentations to the 1991 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Delivery of Programs and Services in Primary, Elementary, Secondary education, Our Children, Our Future, to the House of Assembly Select Committee on Children’s Interest (1995), and to Social Policy Committee of Cabinet (1996), the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador became a partner in 1996 and agreed that non-profit organizations would be the delivery agent for food and nutrition programs at schools.
Ms. Green was integral to the incorporation of the Committee for Hungry Children as a charitable organization known as the School Lunch Association, and the formation of the School Children’s Food Foundation, which is now known as the Kids Eat Smart Foundation. While Kids Eat Smart has grown, evolved and endured challenges over 19 years, it is through Ms. Green’s involvement and charting the course that it continues to build on its established strengths and partnerships.
Susan Green has fostered a national relationship with Breakfast for Learning of Ontario which led to determining best practices and guidelines for child nutrition programs in Newfoundland and Labrador. Ms. Green has also been a leader with the Coalition for School Nutrition and the Food Security Network of Newfoundland and Labrador. Ms. Green has chaired the National Advisory Committee on Child Nutrition and continues to participate in its research committee.
Dr. Wayne Nesbit
Dr. Wayne Nesbit chose to make Newfoundland and Labrador his home in 1973 when he accepted a teaching position at Memorial University’s Faculty of Education. The university quickly came to realize that Dr. Nesbit not only brought contemporary knowledge but a great deal of innovation, creativity and passion for vulnerable children. Dr. Nesbit’s lectures challenged the perspective on disability while inspiring prospective teachers to strive toward excellence. For his teaching efforts, Dr. Nesbit has received the University President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching (1993) and was nominated by Memorial University for a Canadian Professor of the Year award.
It is Dr. Nesbit’s commitment to advancing knowledge, increasing public awareness, influencing public policy, and increasing the competencies to advance the interests of children who access special educational services that has resulted in Newfoundland and Labrador being able to boast one of the best special education delivery models in the country. Dr. Nesbit is a past president of the Canadian Council for Exceptional Children.
Today, every child with a disability in this province has full, unquestioned access to quality education and our society embraces philosophies of inclusion and social justice. Dr. Nesbit has been central to these changes by directing that cultural and knowledge shift. He has shown us different ways of caring and the importance of becoming an active member of our community and raising our families in an inclusive environment.
The impact Dr. Nesbit has had on children with disabilities and their families is astounding and his influence has extended well beyond Memorial University and this province. As an ambassador for the guiding principles of inclusive education, Dr. Nesbit has also shared his expertise and wisdom with the international community. Dr. Nesbit has published five books, approximately 100 journal articles, has been the recipient of fellowships from Canada, Great Britain, and India and has been invited to serve on the editorial boards of two Canadian journals: Exceptionality Education Canada and The Canadian Journal of Special Education.
Ches Penney’s entrepreneurial spirit and success has made a measurable contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic prosperity.
Mr. Penney is the founder of the Penney Group, which began its development in the construction industry in the 1970s. Today, it has grown into a diversified business consortium that employs several thousand people seasonally. Pennecon Limited remains the construction arm of the Penney Group, and through its Heavy Civil, Concrete, Real Estate and Energy Services divisions it employs 1,500 people at its peak. The Automotive Group comprises 12 automotive and recreational dealerships which are located in St. John’s, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, and Moncton, New Brunswick. In addition, Penney Group is involved in a large scale real estate development project in Nova Scotia.
As one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest private sector employers, Mr. Penney’s employees feel respected and valued. This positive energy and influence has benefited countless communities and people in this province.
Mr. Penney has been actively involved with the Canadian Red Cross, in particular with the Personal Floatation Device Loan Program. Through his generosity the program has been able to expand to achieve a 25 per cent increase in the personal floatation device loans thereby ensuring the safety of numerous lives. The Red Cross bestowed its Humanitarian Award on Mr. Penney in 2007.
In 2009, together with his business partners, Mr. Penney made a commitment to the YM/YWCA of Northeast Avalon to donate $1 million towards the construction of their new facility. It was with great pride and pleasure that the final installment for this gift was completed in the recent opening of the brand new Ches Penney Family Y.
Mr. Penney has also been involved in other community organizations, such as the St. John’s Healthcare Foundation, Salvation Army, Junior Achievement, Memorial University, and Rotary International, which has recognized Mr. Penney as a Paul Harris Fellow for his contributions. It is Mr. Penney’s compassion and humanitarian spirit that serve as an inspiration to many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Lanier W. Phillips
What better legacy to leave future generations than one that perpetuates human dignity, human rights, liberty and justice.
Sonar technician, first class, Lanier Phillips was born in Lithonia, Georgia. In 1941, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the United States Navy to escape the rigors of sharecropping in the southern United States. As in his childhood and during his schooling, Mr. Phillips was no stranger to the segregation he faced while in the Navy.
Shortly after having enlisted, on the frigid night of February 18, 1942, the USS Truxton and the USS Pollux were shipwrecked off Newfoundland’s south coast resulting in a loss of 110 sailors from the Truxton and 93 sailors from the Pollux. Mr. Phillips was among the 46 rescued from the Truxton wreckage by the fishers and miners of St. Lawrence. He was the lone black sailor to survive. The women of St. Lawrence provided first aid and nurtured the surviving sailors back to health. During the days that followed, Mr. Phillips came to the realization that there were actually places in the world that treated everyone equally.
Following his rescue by the people of St. Lawrence, Mr. Phillips was moved to work tirelessly for civil rights. Within the U.S. military he fought against racial discrimination, and continued this work after his retirement, including marching with Dr. Martin Luther King.
Tens of millions have heard Mr. Phillips’ eloquent story via radio, television, print, public presentations, and interactions with a mosaic of community groups, learning and political institutions. His recount of the kindness and generosity shown to him by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador has certainly enhanced the province’s reputation and increased the awareness of Newfoundland and Labrador on a global level. To this day, Mr. Phillips continues to speak of the importance of racial harmony at schools, conferences, and various public gatherings. The people of St. Lawrence are always credited first and foremost for having opened Mr. Phillips’ mind and setting him on his path forward.
Frances Vardy is a driving force behind the arts and volunteer communities on the west coast of the province.
Mrs. Vardy’s devotion to local theatre began in the 1960s when she and her husband Cyril became members of a local community theatre group, the Corner Brook Playmakers. From its founding until 1985, the Corner Brook Playmakers placed an annual entry into the Provincial Drama Festival, ran a theatre school for youth, and established the High School Drama Festival.
Mrs. Vardy's desire to encourage young people to develop their theatrical skills prompted her to become a founding member of Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador and the Stephenville Theatre Festival. These organizations have developed a vibrant community of live theatre on the west coast of Newfoundland. Theatre Newfoundland Labrador established the Gros Morne Theatre Festival, a cultural institution which has been integral to the diversification of the economies of Cow Head and surrounding communities and further developed the arts and tourism.
In addition, Mrs. Vardy’s philanthropic work with the Western Memorial Regional Hospital Foundation continues to make a profound difference to healthcare on the west coast and beyond. Her involvement has helped the foundation raise more than $7 million to purchase medical equipment, thereby helping improve access and quality of medical care for residents of western Newfoundland.