Yukon author to receive honourary doctorate degree

Ivan Coyote will be the first to be presented with an honourary degree from Yukon University

Ivan Coyote will receive a honorary doctorate degree from Yukon University (Courtesy/Yukon University)

Ivan Coyote will receive a honorary doctorate degree from Yukon University (Courtesy/Yukon University)

Award-winning author Ivan Coyote will receive a doctorate degree from Yukon University on June 3.

Coyote will be presented with the university’s first honourary doctorate degree — a Doctor of Arts — at the annual convocation ceremony of the institution taking place at the Ayamdigut campus in Whitehorse.

The honourary degree is in “recognition for their writing, storytelling, performances and presence in schools,” a statement by the university read, adding that Coyote’s stories have brought joy to readers around the world.

“Their performances across three decades of live events from Anchorage to Australia have enthralled audiences, leaving them helpless with laughter and soaked with tears,” the statement read. “Showing up to countless classrooms, libraries and gymnasiums, Coyote has shared a message of safety and compassion with students and teachers across North America, inspiring and strengthening anyone who has ever felt they didn’t fit in to take up space and live their truth.”

Yukon University president and vice-chancellor Lesley Brown commented, “In showing up and speaking with thousands of youth, and those entrusted with their care, about the complexities and nuances of gender identity, the cruelties of refusing to see one another as we are and the kindness and compassion of affording one another the space and dignity of our personal experiences, Coyote has made a difference to millions of people.”

“An honorary doctorate is the highest award that a university can bestow. It is a celebration of an individual, and it is a celebration of our status as a university. We are proud to recognize Ivan Coyote with the very first honorary doctorate degree award from Yukon University.”

Coyote is a third-generation Yukoner who was born and raised in Whitehorse.

Their work tackles the complex and intensely personal subjects of family, class, gender identity, queer liberation and social justice.

For 20 years, they have visited schools across North America “telling stories to encourage talking and action to foster safety and social justice in our hallways, gymnasiums and classrooms for students, teachers and all staff. They are also often asked to speak to labour activists, social justice advocates, university students and health care providers.”

The statement added that through Coyote’s work, “they have created space for love and understanding, hope and acceptance, belonging and equity. Their presence has instilled pride and strength of existence in countless LGBTQ2S+ people, particularly youth and young adults.”

This is not the first recognition for Coyote from academic institutions. In 2017, they received an honourary Doctor of Laws from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and have been hosted as writer-in-residence at SFU, the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Winnipeg. Most recently, they held the Alice Munroe Chair in Creativity at Western University.

They have written 13 books, created four short films and released three albums. Their short story collection Rebent Sinner was a finalist for the 2020 Governor General’s Award for English language non-fiction. Their most recent book, Care Of, released in June 2021, was shortlisted for a 2022 Lambda Literary Award and a finalist for the 2021 Governor General’s award for English language non-fiction.

During the ceremony, Coyote will deliver the key address to graduates, their families, faculty, staff and dignitaries in attendance.

Contact Patrick Egwu at patrick.egwu@yukon-news.com