The Honorary DegreesConvocation StoriesChancellor's Letter


nandan_nilekani Nandan Nilekani Convocation speech: 5/31/2011 2:30 PM

leader in Indian social & economic development

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Nandan Nilekani is co-founder of Infosys Technologies Ltd., a global corporation that has placed India at the forefront of information technology services. Nilekani’s book Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation sets out his vision for the future of India.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"I consider the honorary degree from the University of Toronto a very significant honour. Since taking up my job as chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, I have decided not to travel outside India and focus on my work. I have made only two exceptions — to receive this degree and to attend my daughter’s graduation!"

Thoughts on U of T:
"The University of Toronto is a truly outstanding university and I am very privileged to be honoured by it. It is a truly global university and is a worthy symbol of the stature and diversity of today’s Canada."

The role of the university today:
"Universities today are critical in modern society. Strategically, being at the forefront of the knowledge frontier has been a crucial aspect of advancement over the course of history.  The risk of knowledge obsolescence can only be addressed through a strong knowledge-based society and economy. Such an environment will naturally support universities that are at the frontiers of knowledge, which house specialists in every imaginable discipline."

kielburgers Marc (left) & Craig (right) Kielburger Convocation speech: 6/8/2011 2:00 PM

children's rights activists

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At age 12, Craig Kielburger (right), with his 17-year-old brother Marc (left), founded the charity Free The Children, dedicated to empowering young people, at home and around the world, to fulfil their potential as agents of change. Today, Free The Children involves more than one million young people in more than 45 countries and has built more than 650 schools and schoolrooms, in addition to clean water projects and alternative income initiatives, in seven countries.

Significance of the honorary degree:
“It’s very significant and very dear to receive this honour from the University of Toronto. I have a history of missing convocations due to my work with Free The Children. I missed my Grade 8 graduation due to travelling in Haiti and I missed my convocation from
U of T as well. I know my parents will be so excited for me to finally walk across the stage, especially given that this university is my father’s alma mater. Having obtained my degree in peace and conflict studies from U of T, it’s incredibly exciting for me.” C.K.

Thoughts on U of T:
“So many of my fondest memories come from my time at U of T.  Although I was often travelling and away from classes, I lived on campus for all four years of my studies. The two most important aspects of my life were Free The Children and U of T. Fortunately, I was able to combine the two with the help of great friends and the beginnings of a Free The Children chapter on campus. Me to We Style was introduced in the campus store and the student body contributed to adopting a village in Kenya.

“Now, some of our key team members are U of T graduates. Alumni travel with us on trips overseas. And the fact that I went to university in my hometown allows me to maintain close relationships with professors and friends. I’m so grateful to the university for all of the above.” C.K.

The role of the university today:
“I strongly believe that university must be a place not only of higher education but of higher values. My time at U of T was so special. Even though the equations from my stats class are a little foggy and I don’t remember all of the history dates I memorized, I’ll never forget the human experience. As a student in the peace and conflict studies program, I was able to strengthen my commitment to social justice issues. I’m so honoured to have a continuing relationship with this outstanding institution of higher learning.” C.K.

malcolm_gladwell2 Malcolm Gladwell Convocation speech: 6/14/2011 10:00 AM

writer, modern theorist

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The author of international bestsellers such as Outliers , What The Dog Saw , Blink and The Tipping Point , Gladwell graduated from Trinity College in 1984 with a degree in history. A staff writer at the New Yorker since 1996, Gladwell was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2005 and in 2009 he was named one of the 100 top global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"If I had known, 20 years ago, that I could get a degree from the U of T without going to class, it would have changed my undergraduate experience considerably. The only other honorary degree I've ever gotten was from the University of Waterloo, the university in my hometown. When I got that degree all I could think of was what John F. Kennedy (a Harvard grad) said when he got an honorary degree from Yale: "Now I have the best of both worlds — a Yale degree and a Harvard education."

Thoughts on U of T:
"On my floor in my second year at Trinity, Jim Balsillie, of RIM fame, was across the hall and next door to him was Nigel Wright — who I gather is now, basically, running Canada. At the time, Jim was broke and Nigel looked about 12 years old. Apparently things have changed.".

The role of the university today:
"My tuition at the U of T, in the early 1980s, was under $1,000 a year. An affordable college education is one of the greatest building blocks of social mobility. We need to remember that."

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mladen_vranic Mladen Vranic Convocation speech: 6/1/2011 2:30 PM

Professor Emeritus, international expert in diabetes

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Professor Emeritus Mladen Vranic was one of the last post-doctoral fellows to work with Dr. Charles Best. A world-renowned expert in diabetes, Vranic's groundbreaking work in the field of glucose metabolism, exercise, hypoglycemia and stress transformed the landscape of diabetes research. Through nearly five decades of scholarship, Vranic has taught and mentored many of the current leaders in the field.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"I was honoured to receive the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada but I think the honorary degree is the greatest honour you can have from your own university. I've loved every second of my academic life and it is very rewarding to know that peers consider what I have done to be of value to our society. It validates my life's work and it's marvellous to be recognized by my adopted country. It's a great feeling."

Thoughts on U of T:
"The University of Toronto is a truly great institution that attracts some of the most outstanding faculty and students from around the world. Early in my career, I was drawn here because of its international research reputation. The discovery of insulin in 1921, in our Department of Physiology, is one of the most important medical breakthroughs ever made and had a profound institutional impact. The excellence of its programs and the collaborative interdisciplinary culture are key to the kind of innovative research that leads to major discoveries."

The role of the university today:
"Universities are the instruments by which civilization moves forward. They nourish and enable creative thinking and the unbiased search for truth. They encourage meaningful discourse and competitive thinking so that individuals facing everyday challenges can collectively make the country more prosperous. In the field of medicine, the progress has been more spectacular over the past 60 years than ever before, and there is a direct line to the university research that has led to dramatically improved mortality and morbidity throughout the world."

michael_lapidge2 Michael Lapidge Convocation speech: 6/10/2011 2:30 PM

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world renowned scholar in medieval studies
In 1971, Professor Michael Lapidge became one of the first people to graduate with a PhD from the University of Toronto's Centre for Medieval Studies. Today the Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, is the author or co-author of more than 200 publications and one of the world's foremost scholars in medieval studies, recognized by such academic bodies as the British Academy, the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften and the Accademia dei Lincei.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"An honorary degree from the institution which is my alma mater is a matter of great pride and joy. I may be the first graduate of the centre to be awarded an honorary degree but I will certainly not be the last: for more than 40 years the centre has been producing graduates of the highest quality, many of whom now have pre-eminent standing in medieval studies in North American universities."

Thoughts on U of T:
"The Centre for Medieval Studies is regarded throughout North America and Europe as the outstanding centre of its kind in the world. It has achieved this reputation, in my view, by maintaining the high standards that it has expected of its graduates from the very beginning, in particular, by requiring from them proficiency in Latin. Latin was the lingua franca of medieval Europe, written and spoken by anyone who was literate; it is simply impossible to study medieval literature and history, art history and philosophy at a sophisticated level without fluent understanding of Latin."

The role of the university today:
"For the medieval scholar of today, the availability of huge databases makes it possible to read through vast numbers of medieval texts in seconds; but I often find in the work of today's scholars that the results obtained so quickly by searches through electronic corpora are inadequately understood and can only be properly understood if the searcher has sound knowledge of Latin. The Centre for Medieval Studies at U of T is exceptional in requiring in all of its graduates a high competence in Latin."

bert_orland_wasmund Bert Wasmund Convocation speech: 6/15/2011 2:30 PM

engineer, inventor

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An international expert in metallurgical and chemical processes for smelting metals, Bert Wasmund
is renowned for his technological innovations that reduced energy consumption and harmful emissions while improving workplace health and safety. The executive director of Hatch Ltd. received his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto in 1966.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"I believe an honorary degree from one's alma mater is of very special importance. U of T is where I honed my chemical engineering skills and was trained during my doctoral studies to develop the self-discipline required to formulate and develop innovative solutions to major industrial problems.

"This recognition reinforces our close ties with academia. Dr. Henry S. Acres, who founded our predecessor company, Hatch Energy, was the world's pioneer developer of hydroelectricity facilities at Niagara Falls. He was recognized in 1924 with an honorary DSc from his alma mater, U of T. Today, we fund engineering research chairs, graduate and undergraduate scholarships, participate on advisory boards, and most important, have access to well-trained engineering employees for our company."

Thoughts on U of T:
"I obtained superb training from excellent U of T staff that included many young professors brought in from outside, along with well-established innovative, entrepreneurial professors. My small one-bedroom apartment across from the Wallberg Chemical Engineering Building was not fancy but it was inhabited by very interesting and friendly academic people — and it enabled 24-hour access to my research laboratory in the Wallberg Building.

"I enjoyed the fellowship of a marvellous group of fellow graduate students who socialized and worked together very collegially. U of T graduate students and professors of the 1960s have maintained close relationships and still hold regular dinners where we share past experiences and present ideas."

The role of the university today:
"Our world has entered a massive, largely uncontrolled experiment. Its population has burgeoned and developed an insatiable appetite for our limited resources such as oil, water, food, land, minerals, etc. Clearly, new innovative solutions are essential. The responsibility for developing these solutions lies collectively with our governments, industrial/resource bases and especially the education and research conducted in our universities. The University of Toronto excels at meeting these needs."

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john_daniels John H. Daniels Convocation speech: 6/2/2011 2:30 PM

developer, philanthropist

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Renowned philanthropist and developer John Daniels graduated in 1950 from the University of Toronto's School of Architecture. He led Cadillac Fairview Corporation for 20 years, working on landmark projects such as the Toronto Dominion Centre and the Eaton Centre.

Since 1983, The Daniels Corporation has supported many charitable initiatives and in 2008, Daniels gave the university the largest ever private gift to an architecture school in Canada.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"As the son of a teacher and having grown up in an environment of educators, this recognition has a special significance to me and my family. To be welcomed into the RAIC College of Fellows one year, followed by an honorary degree from the University of Toronto this year, is a most humbling and totally unexpected experience."

Thoughts on U of T:
"The University of Toronto, and particularly the School of Architecture, has broadened my knowledge of development of building and construction, sharpened my creative instincts and prepared me to face the challenges of today's world and succeed in a competitive environment."

The role of the university today:
"I believe that the university must be a place that frames the whole person and his life values and leads one to a full and meaningful life." 

paul_martin Paul Martin Convocation speech: 6/3/2011 10:00 AM

former PM of Canada

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Canada's 21st prime minister graduated from St. Michael's College and from the university's Faculty of Law. Paul Martin oversaw the Kelowna Accord, an historic consensus with provincial, territorial and aboriginal leaders to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians. Since leaving office Martin has worked to promote social and economic development in Africa and among aboriginal Canadians.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"I'm very proud of being a graduate of the University of Toronto law school and of St. Mike's before that. The fact that I will be receiving this honorary degree along with this year's graduating class from the law school fills me with a great deal of emotion and gratitude, despite the fact that I would not have had the marks to get in when they did."

Thoughts on U of T:
"The University of Toronto is one of the world's great universities. I speak to many audiences in and out of Canada these days and whenever I'm being introduced I always insist that they include the fact that I graduated from the University of Toronto. I don't do that because I bring honour to the university — I do it because the university brings honour to me.

"Of course if I had to name the person from the University of Toronto who had the greatest influence on my life it would be my wife, Sheila. She graduated from University College the same year I graduated from the law school. (I've always said if she wants to get a real education, she can go back to U of T again and go to St. Mike's — college rivalries are still strong. Sheila has asked for the right of reply: I told her no way, this is my blurb.)

"I graduated 50 years ago but every spring I have the same recurrent nightmare. I'm just sitting down at an exam for a course I have no recollection of ever attending — and I look at the questions and I don't recognize a single one of them. I suppose I'm going to have that dream for the rest of my life."

The role of the university today:
"For a time, it seemed people considered knowledge mostly for the sake of their careers. Education became very quantitative and the ability to model things and produce arithmetical answers became incredibly important. Many will disagree, but I believe in the notion of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. You can't model everything — the unexpected does happen and you prepare for it by developing critical thinking, qualitative judgment and an understanding of history.

"When I look at the current crop of students I feel terrific. These are not easy economic times but when I speak to students and hear of their ambitions I feel incredibly encouraged and incredibly impressed."

koh_young Koh Yong Guan Convocation speech: 6/6/2011 2:00 PM

High Commissioner of Singapore to Canada

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The high commissioner of Singapore to Canada, Koh Yong Guan is one of the most esteemed public servants in the modern history of Singapore. As a Columbo Plan scholar from 1966 to 1972 he completed two degrees in engineering at U of T. He now serves as the chair of Singapore's national pension fund.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"I received my BASc in 1970 and MASc in 1972. I had wanted to do my PhD at U of T but had to return to Singapore because I was a scholarship student and post-independent Singapore desperately needed people for its civil service. This honorary degree fulfils that aspiration. I feel the honour even more deeply because it is from U of T."

Thoughts on U of T:
"The period between 1966 and 1972 when I was at U of T was probably the most colourful and eventful one. The hippie and flower-power culture was in full bloom and there was the Vietnam War and the first landing on the moon, which we watched live in front of city hall. The campus, and campus life at St. George, was very much part of the canvas of life during this exciting period. Some of it was shocking for those of us from the more conservative Asian cultures, but you very soon adapted and got used to it.

"My wife and I walked around the St. George campus last September. I could not help feeling that all the young students walking around were very much like we were and how we felt when I first arrived on campus more than 40 years ago. At the end of the day, our aspirations and values are surprisingly similar."

The role of the university today:
"U of T was where I spent an important part of my life. I went through its doors and it is part of my life. The undergraduate and postgraduate programs were the structured parts that shaped and enforced the discipline in the way I think and see and analyze problems, and more important, find solutions to them. For this, U of T has equipped me remarkably well. Most important, my years at U of T equipped me to learn and relearn things. I have no doubt it will continue to do so for the generations of young students who will come through its doors."

"But there is another aspect. The years at St. George gave me the opportunity to live life experiences and make friends — many of whom are lifelong friends, Canadians and non-Canadians. Friends are an invaluable group you will increasingly appreciate through the journey of life. The university is all that and much more, and will continue to be so."

dunlaps David M. and J. Moffat Dunlap Convocation speech: 6/10/2011 10:00 AM

philanthropists, volunteers

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Distinguished volunteers and philanthropists, the Dunlaps' significant endowed gifts to establish the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics built on a legacy that began with their family's establishment of the Dunlap Observatory in 1935. David (above), who graduated from engineering at the University of Toronto in 1961, and Moffat (below), an equestrian and former show jumping World Champion, have been tireless supporters of education, health-care and equine research at Guelph University and Seneca and Humber Colleges.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"With the establishment of the David Dunlap Observatory in 1935, our grandmother's intention was abundantly clear — she was determined to establish a worldwide reputation of excellence for the U of T's Department of Astronomy. Our contribution towards the establishment of the Dunlap Institute was simply to divine and then carry out the decisions she would have made had she been alive to carry them out herself. To be recognized for our 25-year effort in that regard is rewarding indeed." J. Moffat Dunlap

Thoughts on U of T:
"Not an ordinary place, this U of T — so many opportunities to explore so many different fields. If ever asked by a new student for advice as to how to spend one's time at this marvellous institution, I would counsel that person to take full advantage of what is offered and never, ever miss a chance to try something new." David Dunlap

The role of the university today:
"When one reads about the huge increase in the number of institutions of higher learning being established around the world and especially in countries such as China and India, the need to run, just to stay in the race, is daunting. Excellence in research and education, which is what the U of T is all about, must never be allowed to falter and fully deserves the support of its many graduates."

sonia_labatt2 Sonia Labatt Convocation speech: 6/13/2011 2:30 PM

philanthropist, volunteer

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Sonia Labatt holds a PhD in environmental management from the University of Toronto and is an adjunct faculty member with the Centre for Environment. A distinguished volunteer and philanthropist, she is a long-serving member of the Faculty of Arts and Science Dean's Advisory Board and an Arbor Award winner.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"It has special significance for me, since it is being conferred by my own alma mater. I have received all three of my degrees at U of T. This is not usual, but in my case the first and second degrees were separated by over 25 years (1960 and 1989)."

Thoughts on U of T:
"At the University of Toronto, students have access to the best instruction and the benefits of advanced research. They have impressive choices among very strong programs, with access to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary teachings. All of this opens up opportunities for them to think creatively and with imagination."

The role of the university today:
"There is no doubt in my mind that universities have a major role to play in preparing individuals for the changes and challenges of today's world. Higher education is critical to Canada's future, to make us as individuals and as a country more competitive and prosperous. We need today's graduates, and institutions such as the University of Toronto, to think differently in order to drive creative thinking and innovative approaches to difficult situations in today's complex world."

arthur_labatt Arthur Labatt Convocation speech: 6/13/2011 2:30 PM

philanthropist, volunteer

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Arthur Labatt, co-founder and former president of Trimark Financial, is a past chancellor of the University of Western Ontario and the founding chair and director of the KiBO Foundation. Elected to the fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 1997, the distinguished volunteer and philanthropist was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 1996.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"Being awarded an honorary degree from an accredited university is a very important milestone in a person's life. An LLD (honoris causa) from the University of Toronto is an incredible honour. Over the years I have become well acquainted with U of T, both through Sonia's association with this prestigious university and through my involvement with a number of its teaching hospitals."

Thoughts on U of T:
"Canada has a number of truly world-class institutions and the University of Toronto certainly ranks among them. With half a million alumni spread around the world it is well known for its excellence in teaching and research. The university and its teaching hospitals have by far the largest research budget in Canada. It has produced 10 Nobel laureates and there are many famous discoveries emanating from U of T. The discovery of insulin is a prime example. The stem cell was discovered in 1963 and the first artificial pacemaker came from here."

The role of the university today:
"One of the largest concentrations of biotech firms in the world resides within two kilometres of the downtown campus. These firms have more than 5,000 principal investigators on staff. This is an incredible institution."

anne_sado Anne Sado Convocation speech: 6/15/2011 10:00 AM

President of George Brown College

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The president of George Brown College, Anne Sado graduated from engineering at the University of Toronto in 1977 and from the Rotman School of Management in 1981. She has served as president of the YWCA of Metropolitan Toronto, chair of the Trillium Health Centre, member of the advisory board for the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and member of the advisory board for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Significance of the honorary degree:
"This means a great deal. It's a wonderful recognition of my career and volunteer accomplishments made even more meaningful because it's recognition by my peers in education."

Thoughts on U of T:
"I'm eternally proud of my choice to attend U of T. My experiences at U of Thelped shape my approaches to my career and to the relationships I have considered so critical to my success.

"On my first day of engineering, another female student welcomed me and strongly encouraged me to sign up for the volleyball, basketball and hockey teams. I can't quite remember the words she used but it seemed like more than just an invitation to come out and play some sports. I later learned that almost all of the women enrolled in engineering had to sign up or we wouldn't have enough players to field a team! The enrolment of women in engineering still lags that of other professional faculties but it is significantly better than in the 70s. I was one of only four women in my industrial engineering class!"

The role of the university today:
"Given Canada's aging demographic profile and the structural changes in our economy, education is critical to the social and economic development of our city, province and country. To meet the labour market needs of our economy we will need at least 70 per cent of the population to have a post-secondary credential. Today's level is about 62 per cent. That is a very strong result compared to other jurisdictions but not enough for the future. Research is also critical for our success. We must develop innovation literacy in students at all levels — developing highly qualified and skilled personnel to drive us to more competitive levels of achievement."

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