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DDSB announces 2021 Definitely Durham Hall of Fame inductees

Hockey legend Dale Hawerchuk and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott among recipients

Oshawa hockey legend Dale Hawerchuk, who died at the age of 57 following an ongoing battle with cancer, has been inducted into the Durham District School Board’s 2021 Definitely Durham Hall of Fame.

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

Former Oshawa hockey legend Dale Hawerchuk was one of four to be inducted into the Durham District School Board’s (DDSB) hall of fame.

The board announced four new inductees into the 2021 Definitely Durham Hall of Fame at its most recent board meeting. The inductees included Hawerchuk, who passed away in August 2020 after a battle with cancer, Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, songwriter Geoff Warburton, and Olympian and Pan American Games medalist Jessica Phoenix.

Dale Hawerchuk

Hawerchuk, one of Canada’s hockey stars, demonstrated excellence on the ice during his 16-year NHL Hall of Fame career and exemplified greatness through his charity work.

“Dale was an inspiring leader, teacher and builder with an unmatched commitment to helping others,” states the DDSB, adding he believed it was his responsibility and that of his family to do whatever they could to give back, never expecting acknowledgement in return.

Hawerchuk passed away in August 2020 after an ongoing battle with cancer.

Hawerchuk’s sister, Dayna, accepted his award on his behalf.

“As a former DDSB attendee and proud sister, I am honoured to accept this award on behalf of my brother, Dale,” she says, adding she’s sure her brother would have been honoured to receive this nomination, as he was very thrilled by the park being named after him.

“I’ve always been very proud of my big brother, not just his athletic skills, but as a human being,” Dayna continues. “He’s always been very family oriented, as well as thoughtful, kind, considerate. Outside of his talent though, to be remembered as a kind, humble and generous person… you can’t ask for more than that.”

Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott

Elliott built a successful career in business and law, working first as an auditor at one of Canada’s largest banks before co-founding a law firm. She later pursued a commitment to public service; she was elected MPP for Whitby-Ajax in 2006, and re-elected four more times.

She was also appointed Ontario’s first-ever patient ombudsman, and has spent the last six years as the Ontario deputy premier and minister of health.

Elliott, who grew up in Whitby, says she is a “very proud graduate” of DDSB schools and credits her education to where she is today.

“Every step along the way at every school I was offered encouragement to continue learning, to ask questions, to see the bigger picture,” she says. “I learned to see the bigger picture, to push myself, to make sure I do the research, to do the job thoroughly and properly, and so much more.”

She notes she’s grateful for the teachers that made a huge impression on how she does her work today.

“This has a great deal of meaning for me and I want to thank you very, very much for including me in this award,” she adds.

Geoff Warburton

Warburton is a songwriter from Pickering whose love of music inspired him to learn the guitar, frequently playing alongside family members in church on Sundays.

During his years at university, Warburton met singer/songwriter Shawn Mendez, which led to a longstanding collaboration, and most notably, a pair of multi-platinum singles, one of which was nominated for song of the year at the 2019 Grammy awards, states the DDSB.

“It’s an honour to have been recognized along with these other inductees and a privilege to have grown up attending both Vaughn Willard Public School and Pineridge Secondary School,” he says. “I’ve had so many supportive teachers and coaches over the years who have invested so much into my life and I couldn’t thank you enough.”

Jessica Phoenix

Phoenix, who grew up in Uxbridge, is a two-time Olympian and five-time Pan American Games medalist, equestrian mentor, coach, and inspirational public speaker.

She competed in her first equestrian competition in 1996, achieving the champion Ontario training level with her horse, Let’s Boogie, and quickly moved on to compete nationally and internationally while being named to Canadian teams in several Olympics, World Equestrian Games and Pan American Games.

In her spare time, Phoenix shares her story with students, teaching them the values of dedication and commitment to achieve one’s dreams.

“To be able to grow up in Durham Region and go to these incredible schools, and to now watch my children going to the same incredible schools, is just a dream come true,” says Phoenix, adding she and her sister being able to do the Rise school tour in Durham Region and speak to hundreds of students has a great deal of meaning to her as well.

“Thank you for this honour,” she adds, noting she will be sporting her award in the barn next to all her other medals.

Plaques of the Definitely Durham Hall of Fame Inductees will be featured on the wall in the atrium outside the board room at the education centre.

“Our Hall of Fame holds tributes to all of our inductees and offers a reminder to everyone who passes by of the possibilities for success in which we are share,” says Board Trustee Scott Templeton.

He notes the board pays tribute to the inductees as outstanding role models for the students of today and into the future.

“To this year’s inductees, we say thank you for raising the bar high and for providing us with examples and reminders of our collective goal that DDSB students can and will meet the great future success.”