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Five Laurentian Graduates to be honoured by the university's alumni association at this year's Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Laurentian University Alumni Association (LUAA) will honour five outstanding graduates at this year’s  Distinguished Alumni Awards to be held on Thursday, October 11, 2018, at the McEwen School of Architecture.

The recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards are:

  • Rising Star Achievement Award – Ashley Kirwan (B.Sc. ’08, M.Sc. ’17), Co-founder, President, CEO and Principal Geologist at Orix Geoscience Inc.
  • Trailblazer Award – Kirk Petroski (BA ’94, MBA ’01), Founder and CEO, Symboticware
  • Catalyst Award – Leo Gerard (Honorary Doctorate of Letters ’94), International President of the United Steelworkers
  • Alumni Honour Award – François Chartrand (BA ’14), Senior Product Designer at Headspace
  • Distinguished Leadership Award – Susan Irving (H.B. Com. ’98), Senior Director of Marketing at PepsiCo Global Snacks Group

“Laurentian University alumni are changing the world through their professional contributions and dedication to their communities,” said Interim President and Vice-Chancellor of Laurentian University Dr. Pierre Zundel. “I look forward to celebrating these exceptional individuals with the Laurentian community.”

Newly launched this year as part of the LUAA’s Strategic Plan and as a replacement for the former Alumni Recognition Awards, the awards recognize the inspiring talent, effort and influence of the University’s graduates—locally and worldwide. 

“It’s a great day when you have an abundance of nominations of incredible alumni to choose from. While there were tough discussions and decisions, we are thrilled with the nominees we will be honouring,” added Adam Cecchetto, President, LUAA.

Tickets for the event can be purchased via the LUAA’s events page.


Consult the full biographies of the recipients below


The Rising Star Achievement Award recognizes alumni who achieved an exception level of distinction, creative leadership and contribution to their profession or to their community since graduating (within the past 10 years).

Ashley Kirwan, is the Co-founder, President, CEO and Principal Geologist at Orix Geoscience Inc., a mining industry leader with three offices located in Toronto, Sudbury, and Winnipeg. 

With 10 years of experience in the exploration and mining industry, Ashley has worked throughout North and South America, including projects in Nunavut, Nevada, and Ecuador. She worked as an exploration geologist with Bridgeport Ventures Inc. in Nevada, and with both exploration and underground projects with QuadraFNX Mining Ltd. (now KGHM) in Sudbury, Ontario. 
In 2016 Ashley, along with her business partner, Shastri Ramnath, was named one of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining. Both were nominated for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards in 2017. 

Ashley makes it a priority to hire Laurentian graduates and students because of the high quality of education and real-world experience they bring to the job. She also encourages the sponsoring of Laurentian’s Goodman School of Mines as well as Sudbury industry initiatives, such as the Goodman Gold Challenge, CIMU, Mining Matters, and WIM. 

Ashley was featured in the LU Alumni magazine 'Geology Grad turns Entrepreneur' in March 2016 and has presented to Women in Mining Branches and in the Sudbury Start Up lecture series. Orix has appeared in articles in the Globe and Mail, as well as ‘Sudbury Solutions’.




Aiming to celebrate the innovative spirit that actively seeks change rather than waiting to adapt to change, the Trailblazer Award honours alumni who have created a new process, product, service, or organization that has generated significant impact within their profession, community or society-at-large.

Kirk Petroski is the Founder and CEO of Symboticware, a Timmins-based company that brings mining exploration surveying technology to Northern Ontario. 
In 2008, he cultivated an idea to develop a wireless hardware/software platform to help mining companies improve mobile equipment safety and efficiency, which has resulted in accelerated growth of Symboticware Incorporated. 

Kirk’s commitment to the economic sustainability of the community extends to various committees and boards. He currently sits on the University of Sudbury Board of Regents, was past Chair of the Board of Directors for Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA), and was also a founding member of Sudbury Code_Op initiative. 

Together with his Laurentian University sweetheart, Maria Petroski, Kirk is the proud parent of two wonderful children, Jonas and Aria, who are active in community sports and music.



The Catalyst Award recognizes community members, including non-alumni, that volunteer directly or on behalf of Laurentian University. The recipients devote their time and energy to supporting the university and building strong communities, being catalysts for change and progress.

Leo W. Gerard is International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), the largest and most diverse industrial union in North America and the dominant union in paper, forestry products, steel, aluminum, tire and rubber, glass, chemicals and petroleum. 

Under Leo’s direction, the 850,000-member USW has heightened its focus on reversing the decline of U.S. manufacturing. During his tenure, the USW has grown through organizing and through mergers with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) and the 13,000-member Telecommunications Workers Union in Canada, among others. 

Leo has long championed strategic alliances with unions around the world; in 2008, the USW joined with Unite, the biggest union in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, to create the global union Workers Uniting. He is also co-founder of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labour unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding jobs in the green economy.



Aiming to celebrate alumni who have achieved recognized success in their professional activities, their community endeavours or in making significant contributions to Laurentian University and the Laurentian University Alumni Association, the Alumni Honour Award is intended to foster alumni relations and to create an Alumni Honour community.

François (Frank) is a Senior Product Designer at Headspace, the world’s most popular meditation app, with over 1 million paying members, 30 million free users, and features in both the App Store (Editors’ Choice) and Google Play Store. Prior to this position, Frank was a designer at global digital agency Edenspiekermann where he worked on projects for Red Bull and Time Inc. 

Born and raised in Sudbury, Frank attended both Laurentian University (Communication Studies) and Cambrian College (Graphic Design) before completing a Master of Arts degree at top U.S. design school, the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. 

Forever a student and a teacher, he regularly speaks at conferences worldwide from San Francisco to Paris. He’s an optimist at heart, and believes in the power of technology to bring people joy and purpose.



LUAA’s highest honour, the Distinguished Leadership Award aims to celebrate alumni who have attained and maintained national and international recognition of excellence in their service to a profession, a sector of activity and/or a community during their entire career, and most importantly beyond the recognition of a single remarkable achievement.

Industry leader with a passion for brands and a reputation for delivering business results through strategic integrated marketing campaigns, Susan Irving is currently the Senior Director of Marketing at PepsiCo Global Snacks Group. In this role, she is responsible for developing and driving a cohesive, fully integrated global marketing agenda for Doritos, Cheetos and Sunbites, three of the company’s billion-dollar brands. 

Prior to joining PepsiCo’s Global Snacks Group, Susan spent more than a decade at PepsiCo Canada leading successful campaigns that drove profitable growth for brands including Cheetos, Doritos, Lay’s, Ruffles and Tostitos. With nearly two decades of business experience spanning all aspects of consumer marketing, Susan is known for her leadership and collaborative approach of working with teams to deliver breakthrough, insight-driven consumer campaigns and programs that deliver growth. 

She has been recognized with several industry accolades including CMAs, Cassies, Cannes Lions, The Bessies, Media Innovation Awards and Canadian New Media Awards. She was also among Marketing Magazine’s prestigious Top 30 under 30. 

Committed to community engagement, Susan currently holds a board position as the VP GTHL with the Leaside Hockey Association, is a judge for the Globe and Mail’s Young Marketers Competition and the CMAs, is a keynote speaker for several North American Conferences, and is also an active supporter of, a program dedicated to connecting today’s experts with tomorrow’s trailblazers.

Susan lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband Todd and their two sons.