KPU to award honorary degree to former superintendent Mike McKay

Fri, Aug 29, 2014

Metro Vancouver, B.C. – If there was an award for the busiest retiree in Surrey, Mike McKay might just win it.

But there isn’t, so the former superintendent of the Surrey School District will have to be content with an honorary degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU).

“I’m humbled and overwhelmed,” said McKay, who retired from the district in December. “This was a tremendous and very welcome surprise and I am grateful to the Kwantlen Board for this honour.”

In his early retirement, McKay is staying active as project director for the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative, official trustee for the Cowichan Valley School District until board elections in November and strategic advisor to the Ministry of Education – roles that align with his passion for public education and helping all students activate their potential. He is also an associate at Circle Square Solutions, a consulting team led by former minister of education George Abbott.

During his tenure with the Surrey School District, student success rates improved at all levels, and McKay became known for his mantra, “every child, every chance, every day.”

“In many ways, Mike and KPU share the same philosophy – and that is, all learners should have the opportunity and the necessary support to achieve success,” said KPU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Alan Davis. “It’s fitting that Mike – a vehement advocate of education for all – should be awarded an honorary degree from an open access university such as KPU.”

Under McKay’s leadership, student learning in the district deepened to include critical thinking and problem-solving skills, adaptability and agility, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, and curiosity and imagination.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative McKay heads up is bringing the latest neuroscience research into B.C. classrooms in the form of new understandings and strategies of what is at the core of students’ ability to be focused and to function effectively. The self-regulation project aims to ensure all students have the opportunity for a meaningful and productive life as literate, compassionate, productive and happy citizens.

A keen student of education research, McKay says the science of learning is more advanced than ever, and too exciting not to be involved in.   Consequently, a sedentary retirement or an improved golf game never crossed his mind.

“I feel really fortunate to live in a community with so many organizations working together, aligning their resources to build capacity, to activate latent potential,” said McKay. “No longer are student futures determined by their lineage: name, race or income – those days are thankfully long gone and we really can impact the life chances of every youngster.”

He adds, “Quality education is not just for the privileged few – we have a much bigger responsibility to make a difference right across the community and it is great to see evidence of that commitment being met and for Surrey Schools to partner with Kwantlen Polytechnic University to help make that happen.”

Honorary degrees are awarded to those honoris causa in recognition of dignified achievements or outstanding service to the public. Nominees are exceptionally distinguished scholars, creative artists, public servants, prominent people in the community and the professions, and others who have made significant contributions locally, nationally or globally. Members of the community-at-large are invited to nominate honorary degree candidates.

McKay is one of several outstanding individuals who will be recognized with an honorary degree by KPU at fall convocation. KPU announced last week Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts would also be receiving an honorary degree in the fall.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region for 30 years, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses — Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley — offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, apprenticeships, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 18,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates and citations. Learn more at

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