KPU awards Denise Amyot honorary degree: 'I know the power of education'

Tue, Feb 27, 2024

An innovative leader and tireless supporter of education will receive an honorary degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) today.

Denise Amyot, who served 10-and-a-half years as president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) before retiring last fall, will receive a Doctor of Laws from KPU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Alan Davis during convocation ceremonies Feb. 27 at the university’s Surrey campus.

“Receiving this honorary degree is a tribute to my parents who encourage me to pursue studies and encourage me during my career. It is also a tribute to all the teams I had the pleasure working with, accomplishing great inroads that have served individuals of different sectors, society, and Canada,” says Amyot.

The Doctor of Laws honorary degree is awarded in recognition of significant contributions and accomplishments in community and public service. 

“Denise Amyot has been a role model for women in leadership for decades now, and her work at CICan has transformed the organization into one of the leading voices for post-secondary education in Canada. She is a force of nature, and her work has directly and indirectly helped KPU achieve its mission in many ways,” says Davis.

Amyot started her career as a teacher in Ontario, Quebec, and Northwest Territories, and was the first French coordinator for the N.W.T. education department. She then began a 27-year career with the federal government, which included multiple positions at the assistant deputy minister level.

In 2013, she began her role at CICan, becoming the first woman and first francophone to lead the country’s largest post-secondary education network. It was at the Ottawa-based association that Amyot developed a culture of trust and partnership as she oversaw the delivery of member services, international programs, and advocacy work on behalf of the organization’s 139 members.

Under her leadership, CICan tripled in size and built a national and international project portfolio of nearly $500 million. She had a particular focus on accelerating reconciliation, boosting innovation, building campuses of the future, deepening global engagement, and growing talent for the 21st century.

Amyot also nurtured support among members for the 50-30 Challenge supporting diversity, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and oversaw the development of an Indigenous Education Protocol. The protocol is an aspirational document that underscores the importance of structures and approaches to address learning needs of Indigenous people, while supporting self-determination and socio-economic development of Indigenous communities.

“I am proud of the teams I had the pleasure to lead and how they grew while we worked together. We were able to make a difference in advancing issues for the benefits of clients and stakeholders by taking into account diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability,” says Amyot. “I am also proud of the drive I have to give back to my community with my volunteer work. This is very important to me.”

Known as an enthusiastic supporter and builder of education at all levels, Amyot walks the talk, having earned three bachelor’s degrees — in arts, education and sciences — a master’s degree in education from University of Ottawa, in addition to learning to speak four languages.

“My parents did not have a chance to go to high school or attend post-secondary education. But they persistently both emphasize the need and importance of education.”

Before she left CICan, Amyot created an endowment that will award a scholarship to a student at a member institution whose parents did not attend a post-secondary institution.

“I know the power of education and how it can transform lives. It is a big motivator for me.”