KPU awards honourary degrees to remarkable recipients

A mathematician, an arbitrator, and a manufacturer walk into a university…

Kanwal Singh Neel receiving his honourary degree (Kwantlen Polytechnic University / Flickr)

On May 31 Kanwal Singh Neel, a retired mathematics educator, received his honourary degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Neel continues to offer his expertise to SFU’s Friends of Simon Tutoring Program, which is dedicated to training university students as literacy tutors for immigrants and refugees in Kindergarten to grade 12 in the Lower Mainland.

“I feel so honoured, I’m filled with gratitude,” says Neel. “You keep on doing your work and then when you’re recognized by your peers and educational institutions, it really feels very humbling.”

Neel started his career as a high school math teacher in Richmond. He later became known for hosting the T.V series Math Shop.

“[Math Shop] became the benchmark of ‘how can we teach math?’” says Neel. “What we would do in the series is have a problem, teach the concept, solve the problem, and it related to the curriculum from grades 8 to 11.”

Neel went on to become the President of the B.C. Math Teacher’s Association. He also became an author with the textbook series Math Makes Sense.

“I contributed my ideas about doing projects in the classroom, integrating art in the math curriculum, doing math in the outdoors . . . so different things came about.”

In 2011, Neel retired from his position as associate director of professional programs at SFU. He continues to work as a program coordinator for Friends of Simon.

Vince Ready receiving his honourary degree (Kwantlen Polytechnic University / Flickr)

Neel is joined this year by Vince Ready, known as the foremost mediator and arbitrator in Canada, who received his honourary degree from KPU on June 1. Through his career he has brought resolutions to more than 7,000 labour disputes.

“It was indeed an honour,” says Ready of receiving the degree. “I’ve followed Kwantlen over the years and I’m very impressed by their broad curriculum. I think it’s a great institution.”

Ready started his career in 1965, when he was the representative for the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. He was a labour negotiator for them for 13 years.

“I learned a little bit about balancing people’s interests and understanding the opposite side’s interests, including my own. That’s what it takes to resolve conflict.”

After working for the Steel Workers’ Union, Ready went into mediation.

“It’s been a labour of love for me and I’ve spent a great number of years at it.”

In 1982 Ready set up his own business with the desire to be independent of government.

He has notably dealt with such disputes as the B.C. Transit strike in 2001 and the B.C. Teachers’ strike in 2014. His success is widespread throughout the nation, having dealt with everything from oil and gas and forestry, to human rights and discrimination, to name a few.

“You’ve got to be able to use whatever techniques are available to you to move the parties in the same direction in the labour dispute,” he says. “Sometimes it takes patience and sometimes it takes persistence, and sometimes it takes cajoling. There are a number of techniques you use to move people into finding common ground between disputing parties.”

Brad McQuhae receiving his honourary degree (Kwantlen Polytechnic University / Flickr)

Finally, Brad McQuhae also received his honourary degree from KPU the same day as Ready. His business, Newlands Systems, is a leading manufacturer in brewing equipment. McQuhae helped initiate KPU’s brewing and brewery operations program by being a part of the original advisory counsel, and by donating equipment.

“I [was] somewhat dumbfounded, and flattered in other ways as well,” says McQuhae of being an honorary degree recipient. “It’s not an experience I expected to go through, so it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

McQuhae began brewing 32 years ago, having started in one of the first in-house brew pubs in Canada, Spinnakers Brew Pub, in Victoria.

“When I started brewing, the craft brewing industry was in its infancy. I ended up doing a bit of consulting and then I started Newlands in 1990. I started Newlandsas a brewing services company, but I found out there was more money in brokering equipment.”

Now McQhuae’s business has over 150 employees, three manufacturing locations in Abbotsford, and they’re opening another one in South Carolina.

“In 2013 I was approached by Kwantlen to sit on their advisory board because they were looking at doing a brewing school. I was intrigued with that because I thought their timing was perfect—the craft industry, especially in B.C., was just starting to explode.”