The Chancellors Message

The Honorary DegreesConvocation StoriesChancellor's Message



david_petersonEach spring, faculty and staff look forward with eager anticipation to the sound of the carillon ringing out across the St. George campus and the sight of black-gowned students making their way to Convocation Hall where family and friends wait to celebrate their achievements. Convocation is many-faceted.

At times it resembles an enormous wedding — a sprawling, joyous gathering of family and friends. Yet it is also a solemn occasion of great pageantry and tradition. Convocation offers a time to reflect upon the milestones achieved and the challenges that will follow. And it offers the university community an opportunity to acknowledge how far our dedicated students have come and how much further they may travel.

Each year, our graduates are joined by a select group of extraordinary men and women whose part in this ritual is significant.  They are here to receive an honorary degree, one of the highest distinctions a university can confer. Most receive this honour in acknowledgment of a lifetime of work — although this is not always so. As you’ll see from this year’s list, some of our distinguished recipients have accomplished a great deal in astonishingly few years.

An honorary degree reflects the values of this University: our belief in the power of ideas; our commitment to leadership and excellence; the pursuit of knowledge and the building of a better society. The exceptional men and women chosen to receive this honour have created works and achieved accomplishments that inspire us; they embody the strength, vitality and openness of the University, the boldness and imagination of our faculty and students.

This year’s honorary degree recipients join their names to an august list. The first person to receive an honorary degree from the university was Professor Henry Holmes Croft in 1850. In the years since, we have recognized a diverse array of powerful, inspiring voices, including: Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier; Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and J. J. R. Macleod; Vincent Massey; Billy Bishop; Bora Laskin; Margaret Atwood; Oscar Peterson; Roberta Bondar; Aung San Suu Kyi; Rick Hansen; Desmond Tutu; Toni Morrison; Atom Egoyan; Ernest McCulloch and James Till; Jane Goodall; and Neil Sterritt.

I am proud that so many alumni are receiving this honour.  These remarkable people have dedicated their lives to imagining and creating a better world. They are public servants and philanthropists, researchers and teachers, writers, leaders – they are people who have asked difficult questions, offered new ways of looking at the world, and made significant global contributions. They reflect the values and strengths of the University of Toronto and they demonstrate to our students the depth and breadth of the realm of possibilities that awaits them.

Approximately 12,500 students will graduate from the University of Toronto this spring, in ceremonies replete with rituals that date back centuries. A great many faculty and staff make a point of attending convocation each year. They look forward, as I do, to this wonderful event. They welcome one more opportunity to demonstrate support for our students’ dedication and pride in our students’ achievements.

Please join me in congratulating the graduates and honorary graduates of 2011.