Alumnus of the Year

Dr. Blair McMurren first earned his reputation for excellence as an undergraduate student at the University of Lethbridge. Majoring in English, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with great distinction in 1996, receiving the Faculty of Arts and Science Gold Medal (Arts) and the Governor General's Silver Medal for highest undergraduate class standing.

It would just be the start of what has become an impressive career for the born and raised Lethbridge product.

McMurren is being honoured as the University of Lethbridge Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the Fall 2010 Convocation ceremony, an award that recognizes individuals for exceptional professional achievements, academic excellence and/or contributions to society. McMurren hits the mark on each occasion.

Following graduation from the U of L, McMurren was elected to a Rhodes Scholarship for study in the UK at the University of Oxford. During his time at Oxford, he earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature and ultimately a Doctor of Philosophy in comparative literature, as well as a professional qualification and Master of Arts in translation from the University of Surrey at Guildford. His doctoral research examined the rhetoric and cultural politics of translation, and focused on translation as a theme and critical activity in the life and works of the Irish author James Joyce.

Having a longstanding interest in public policy issues, McMurren returned to Canada in 2002 to pursue a career with the federal government.

"The Canadian Privy Council Office came recruiting at Oxford, and they made a rather compelling pitch for working in public policy," says McMurren. "The idea of working on a variety of files, and having some influence on what would be happening in my country resonated with me."

His clear and thought-provoking approach has advanced a variety of priorities in areas ranging from cultural policy to environmental strategy.

McMurren's accomplishments as a young public servant have been recognized with honours including the Public Service Award of Excellence for Innovation (2006), for an initiative to transform public service recruiting practices, and a Deputy Minister's Award for Inspiration (2007).

A well-rounded individual, McMurren continues to cultivate his artistic abilities. He's a dedicated trombone player, was involved with numerous university and semi-professional ensembles throughout his academic career and continues to play with community concert bands and dance bands around Ottawa. He is also a creative writer and has published poems and short fiction in Canada and the UK.

Always eager to speak about his alma mater, McMurren is more than willing to serve as a mentor to future generations of U of L students.

"I'd like to help U of L students find out all that's available to them after they leave the University," he says. "This award is a very humbling thing. I'd like to offer my experience to students that are just finding their way."

McMurren is married to Juliet, a New Zealander, naturalized Canadian and archaeologist. The couple met in Oxford and has three sons: Gabriel (7), Hugo (2) and Joseph (seven months).