Photo Credit: Sarah de Guzman
Photo Credit: Sarah de Guzman

Governor General’s Medal recipient rowing her way to the top


Catherine Chénier-Gagnon returned to Dawson College on Nov. 24 to receive the Governor General’s Collegiate Bronze Medal. Academic Dean Diane Gauvin presented the medal to Catherine at an intimate and socially distanced ceremony witnessed by her parents and a few teachers.

The medal means that Catherine, a graduate of Science (Health), achieved the highest overall average upon graduation of all students in Dawson’s Class of 2020. In her remarks, the Academic Dean pointed out that the medal has been previously awarded to Pierre Trudeau, Gabrielle Roy and Robert Bourassa.

Honed her determination at Dawson

Catherine moved to Montreal from Aylmer to enroll in the Health Profile of the Science Program and to join the storied Dawson Blues women’s hockey team. Coming to Dawson honed her determination.

“Having completed all prior schooling in French, I also had to adapt to education in English,” she said. “I had to get accustomed to a new city and a new learning environment. Managing school and trainings was most challenging.”

Catherine feels honoured to receive the medal. “It is an unexpected recognition of the time and effort I have put toward academics,” she said. “I feel privileged, given the many other students who also invest significant energy in their studies.”

Stimulating learning environment

Catherine most appreciated Dawson’s “stimulating learning environment.”

“There is a strong sense of community at Dawson,” she said. “We are encouraged to participate in a variety of events and activities while pursuing our studies. The balance between a reputable education and vibrant student life is what makes the Dawson experience unique.”

New passion for rowing

While at Dawson, Catherine discovered a new passion and decided to focus her determination on the sport of rowing. “During my last two semesters, I joined Quebec’s High-Performance Rowing Program. This change meant juggling studies, training and weekend travel to the training facility located in the Eastern Townships,” Catherine said.

Catherine is completely dedicated to rowing. She is taking a break in her studies with the aim of getting to the international level of rowing for her age. In a few years, she plans to return to school to study medicine.

Advice for students aiming high

The Governor General’s Medal recipient advised students who wish to succeed to ask their teachers questions and to make a study checklist.

“Do not be afraid to ask questions!” she said. “We are fortunate at Dawson to gain knowledge and skills from a devoted faculty. Learning from people who are readily supportive makes it much easier to perform in school. What worked for me was to create a weekly studying checklist, outlining what had to be completed for each day. Building this plan in advance and trying to stick to it as much as possible brought the structure I needed to keep up with schoolwork with a busy training schedule.”

Last Modified: December 1, 2020