Announcing honorary diploma recipients

May 17, 2024

Announcing honorary diploma recipients

NorQuest College’s Honorary Diploma is one of the highest accolades the college can bestow. Reserved for individuals of exceptional merit, this accolade acknowledges extraordinary achievements, outstanding service, or transformative contributions to the college or wider society.

At its convocation ceremonies on May 30 and 31, 2024, NorQuest will award Honorary Diplomas to three exceptional community members in recognition of their extraordinary contributions: Zahra Somani for Business Leadership, Lewis Cardinal for Indigenous Voice in Leadership, and Dr. Jasneet Parmar for Health Science.

Zahra Somani

Zahra is a lifelong entrepreneur with a deep track record of impact in the healthcare and education sectors.

She currently serves as Chief Advancement Officer at the Aga Khan University, a leading university and hospital system that serves over 2 million patients and 3600 students annually across its six campuses on three continents.

After starting her career as a teacher, Zahra transitioned into entrepreneurship. For more than two decades, she has been a Partner at Pirani Group, an Edmonton-based company that owns and operates retail and restaurant franchises throughout Canada and employs nearly 1,000 people.

Zahra's commitment to community building is evident through her leadership roles. She has chaired the boards of the Edmonton Community Foundation (through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic) and the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation. Additionally, her service extends to the University of Alberta and Edmonton Elks, where she has held board positions. Noteworthy is her chairmanship of NorQuest College's $20 million capital campaign, showcasing her ability to manage a broad array of responsibilities.

Zahra dedicated eight years to serving as President of the Aga Khan Council for Edmonton and is widely recognized for integrating her experiences across business, academia, and healthcare to build civil society. In recognition of her contributions to Canadians, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

Lewis Cardinal

Lewis Cardinal is a communicator and educator. Lewis has dedicated his life’s work to creating and maintaining connections and relationships that bridge cultural divides. His extensive record of local and international public service includes roles such as Board Member of Theatre Network Society, Vice-Chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada-Alberta, Chair of the Global Indigenous Dialogue of Initiatives of Change-International, Trustee for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and Honorary Board Member of the Board of Sponsors at Martin Luther King Jr. International College of Ministers and Laity, at Morehouse College in Atlanta, USA, among others.

Lewis has been honoured with two medals from Queen Elizabeth II: the Diamond Jubilee Medal for Public Service and the Platinum Jubilee Medal for his remarkable contributions to the Province of Alberta. Additionally, he has received the Indspire Award for Public Service, the Province of Alberta’s Centennial Medal for his work in Human Rights and Diversity, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Grant MacEwan University, and the prestigious Honorary Degree of “Doctor of Sacred Letters” from St. Stephen’s College at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.

Lewis is Woodland Cree from the Sucker Creek Cree First Nation in Treaty No. 8 in northern Alberta. His consulting company, Cardinal Strategic Communications, specializes in Indigenous education, communications, and project development. He is also owner, CEO, and Head Storyteller of Red Earth Blue Sky Productions, a media production company. Currently, Lewis is Project Manager for “kihcihkaw askî–Sacred Land” in the City of Edmonton, the first designated urban Indigenous ceremony grounds in Canada.

Jasneet Parmar

Dr. Parmar serves as a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta, with over three decades of experience as an academic, educator, clinician, and advocate in seniors' care. Across her extensive career, encompassing roles as a medical educator, healthcare provider, and leader, and in her personal life, Dr. Parmar consistently demonstrates NorQuest's core values of respect, safety, and inclusion. In her work with underserved populations, including patients with complex care needs, elder Albertans, and caregivers, Dr. Parmar has tirelessly championed collaboration toward a more inclusive and compassionate healthcare system that respects the dignity and well-being of all individuals. Recognizing the need for interdisciplinary staff education in elderly care, she has been deeply engaged in their training throughout her career.

Her most significant transformational work has been galvanizing the healthcare system to support family caregivers, uniting key stakeholders in the process. This collaborative effort has gathered tremendous momentum, with stakeholders working together across the continuum of care, across health and social sectors, across Alberta and Canada, to bring family caregivers out of the shadows, recognize them, and work towards supporting them.

Dr. Parmar's body of work is an exemplar of NorQuest's purpose in everything that she does: "How will this change lives for the better?”

Nominate a recipient today!

NorQuest College faculty, staff, board, and community members are eligible to nominate a deserving individual for an Honorary Diploma. Nominations are open year-round. Please visit the Honorary Diploma webpage for more information and to make a nomination.