Former Prime Minister Acknowledged with Award at Annual Feast of St. Jerome

Former Canadian prime minister the Right Honourable Paul Martin is this year’s recipient of the Chancellor John R. Sweeney Award for Catholic Leadership.


Inspired by the legacy of the first lay Chancellor at the University, the award is presented each year to an exemplary leader living a life rooted in the values of truth, faith, and justice.

Canada’s 21st prime minister was honoured for his contributions to governance, finance, global health, and indigenous peoples.

“Paul Martin, through his selfless service, exemplifies the principles and values that were a hallmark of John Sweeney’s life,” says university President Dr. Katherine Bergman. “He has significantly improved the quality of life of the many people he has touched nationally and globally — and his legacy of informed kindness and service to others has left a lasting impact on our country and our global community.”

Bergman says that in his role as finance minister and later prime minister, Martin worked to advance the quality of health care, early learning and child education, and aboriginal rights.        

He reached a historic accord with Canada’s provinces, territories, First Nations, Metis Nation, and Inuit leaders that began the process of eliminating the gaps in health, education, housing, and economics between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

“His post-political life has been similarly committed to the promotion of the common good,” Bergman explains. “Mr. Martin founded the Martin Aboriginal Initiative, targeting education opportunities for Aboriginal Canadians, and developing business and economic opportunities with the Capital for Aboriginal Prosperity and Entrepreneurship Fund.”

Martin received the award at the Feast of St. Jerome Liturgy and Dinner on September 29th. In addition to celebrating the Catholic tradition of the feast with a liturgy, this scholarship fundraiser included a dinner and the awarding of the Chancellor John R. Sweeney Award for Catholic Leadership to former Canadian Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Paul Martin.


The event would not have been possible without the major sponsors, who included TD Wealth, Kuntz Electroplating Inc., The Diocese of Hamilton, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Heffner Lexus Toyota, TrustPoint Innovation Technologies Ltd., Dana Hospitality LP, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, The Congregation of the Resurrection, the Wellington Catholic District School Board, the School Sisters of Notre Dame Atlantic-Midwest Province, the University of Waterloo, Trade Service Group Inc., C&W Services, KWE Inc., and G & A Lock and Security.  

Due to circumstances beyond his control, Mr. Martin was unable to attend the event in person, but sent his remarks in a letter to the university’s President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Katherine Bergman. In his letter Mr. Martin acknowledged the honour of receiving this recognition, as he knew John Sweeney well, and identified St. Jerome’s University as “one of Canada’s great universities.” St. Jerome’s University Chancellor James Beingessner, Art Samson, and Paul Wending, former classmates of Mr. Martin at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, were on hand to accept the award on his behalf.


Mr. Martin’s letter was presented at the event by Dr. Bergman. His message focused on the importance of embracing indigenous knowledge for our country and the partnership we are seeking to build.  “I believe that St. Jerome’s University, with its tremendous reputation for knowledge, insight and understanding can play a major role here and I am sure it will,” noted Martin. 

John R. Sweeney

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, John R. Sweeney (1931-2001) was a widely respected and devout Roman Catholic, a devoted husband, a father of 10, and a grandfather of 21.


Sweeney’s life personified the social teachings of the Catholic Church, not only as a private citizen but also as a distinguished teacher, former Ontario cabinet minister, and long-serving politician. Among his many achievements are:

Teacher and principal for the Toronto Separate School Board (1952 to 1962)

Provincial School Inspector (1962 to 1968)

Director of Education for the Waterloo Region Separate School Board (1968 to 1975)

Member of the Ontario Legislature for the riding of Kitchener-Wilmot (1975 to 1990)

Cabinet posts including Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Housing

First lay Chancellor of St. Jerome’s University (1991 until his death, aged 70, in 2001)

The Chancellor John R. Sweeney Award for Catholic Leadership

The Sweeney Award is presented annually to an exemplary leader living a life rooted in the values of truth, faith, and justice. As such, the Chancellor John Sweeney Award for Catholic Leadership is bestowed upon those who publicly live out the gospel values and understand the need to demonstrate these values to a future generation of leaders.

Dr. Jack Sehl

Isabel Uriarte Latorre and Victor Rojas 

Dr. Donna Ward

Frank Clifford Sr.

Bruce Rodrigues

Sr. Joan Cronin, g.s.i.c.

Senator Noel Kinsella

Fr. Bernie Hayes, C.R.

John Milloy, MPP

Craig Kielburger

Rev. Dr. James McConica, C.S.B.

School Sisters of Notre Dame (Canadian Province)

Margaret Visser

The Honourable Allen J. MacEachen

Fr. Jacques Monet, S.J.

Congregation of the Resurrection (Ontario-Kentucky Province)

© 2018 St. Jerome's University 

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • email

290 Westmount Road, North | Waterloo, ON  N2L 3G3 | sjucomms@sju.ca | Tel: 519-884-8111 | www.sju.ca

St. Jerome's University Logo in white

We acknowledge that St. Jerome's University and the University of Waterloo are located on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe, and Haudenosaunee people.

© Copyright SJU