Legendary men’s volleyball coach Brenda Willis of Queen’s, former Montréal sport coordinator Jean-Pierre Chancy, broadcast journalist Cami Kepke and former Mount Allison athletic director Jack Drover were honoured at the 2023 U SPORTS Conference and Annual Meeting as the winners of the 2023 U SPORTS Honours Awards for their contributions to university sports in Canada.
Willis took home the Jean-Marie de Koninck Coaching Excellence Award, while Chancy was recognized with the Austin-Matthews Award. Kepke earned the Fred Sgambati Media Award and Drover was presented with the L.B. “Mike” Pearson Award.
Jean-Marie de Koninck Coaching Excellence Award: Brenda Willis, Queen’s
Brenda Willis was a trailblazer, spending 31 years as the head coach of the Queen’s men’s volleyball team, and for most of that time, she was the only woman coaching a male varsity team in Canada. Willis led her teams to 325 regular season wins, 30 playoff appearances and six OUA championships (2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012), as she took the program from practicing in secondary gyms, to the old Bartlett Gym and finally to the new Athletics and Recreation Centre, where Queen’s hosted the men’s volleyball national championship for the first time.
Willis was named the OUA men’s volleyball coach of the year six times (1990, 1992, 1999, 2002, 2007, 2018), and the overall OUA coach of the year in 2009-10. In 2018, she was awarded the OUA’s John McManus Award, which is given to a coach exemplifies the highest ideals and qualities of sportsmanship and service while engaged in coaching in university sport.
Willis, who was inducted into the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, was honoured by the Coaches Association of Ontario with its Andy Higgins Lifetime Achievement award.
Austin-Matthews Award (Outstanding Contribution): Jean-Pierre Chancy, Montréal
Jean-Pierre Chancy spent 29 years with the Université de Montréal athletic program. He joined the Carabins in 1989 as the school’s first women’s volleyball coach. His program got off to a quick start, winning a conference title in their second year and going on to win three banners in four seasons. He coached the Carabins women’s volleyball team until 2005, when he was promoted to varsity sport coordinator.
Chancy is originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but came to Canada as a political refugee when he was six years old, settling in Montreal. He started his coaching career in 1976 at the high school level and continued through to his involvement with the Celtique volleyball club, and finally his joining the Carabins in 1989. He also spent five seasons with the Canadian national development team.
During his time as varsity sport coordinator, the Carabins added teams in women’s hockey, cheerleading and both men’s and women’s rugby. In 2013, the Carabins won their first-ever CIS championship, in women’s hockey, and followed that up the next year with their first Vanier Cup.
L.B. “Mike” Pearson Award (Outstanding achievements inside and outside of university sport): Jack Drover, Mount Allison
Regarded as a man of principle, Jack Drover spent 35 years at Mount Allison University, the last 18 as the university’s athletic director. Drover, who was an All-Canadian as a player with the UNB Red Devils in the mid-1960s, had settled in Newfoundland and Labrador to teach and coach hockey. However, his life changed in 1974 when he came to Sackville to coach the Mount Allison men’s hockey and men’s soccer teams.
He became the athletic director at Mount Allison in 1991, and the Mounties football team advanced to the Vanier Cup in his first season. He was quickly faced with navigating the Mounties through a transformational period in university sport – particularly after the introduction of athletic financial awards by the then-CIAU in 2000 – and was a consistent advocate for a level playing field and the importance of assuring that all members can compete equally.
After leaving the coaching ranks in the late 1990s, Drover came out of coaching retirement to helm the newly formed Mount Allison women’s hockey team, who he led for the last seven years of his time with the Mounties.
Drover, who also served his community as the president of the Sackville Minor Hockey Association and was awarded the J. Charles Daigle Trophy by the New Brunswick Amateur Hockey Association in 1991.
Fred Sgambati Award (Contribution by a media member): Cami Kepke, Global Calgary
In a city with no shortage of sporting news to cover, Cami Kepke has used her platform to ensure local student-athletes are given the spotlight.
Kepke’s eye for sports and storytelling shine through in every feature. Memorable examples from the past season include her profile of Dylan Kalambay – a Calgary Dinos basketball recruit with a heart transplant, or her coverage of the Hockey Can’t Stop Tour, which saw the Ukrainian national university ice hockey team take on Canada West opponents in an exhibition tour of western Canada.
Kepke’s contributions to university sport go beyond her reporting. She has given her time as both a commentator and sideline reporter on Canada West TV and has emceed several other events, including the “Night of the Dino” awards gala.
Kepke, who graduated from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2015 and joined Global Calgary in 2019, also emphasized her commitment to ensuring exceptional coverage of female sports. Whether through sharing the inspirational story of Nataliia Klimenova, a women's volleyball player at Mount Royal University, or bringing the national champion MRU women's hockey team into the studio for a live interview, Kepke understands the influential role her coverage plays in inspiring the next generation of female athletes.