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Convocation 2015: legendary athlete Abby Hoffman receives honorary degree from U of T

Sports advocate, policy-maker posed as a boy in her youth to play in hockey league

Hoffman has been a prominent figure in Canadian sports for more than 50 years

The University of Toronto is recognizing athlete, advocate, administrator and policy-maker Abigail Hoffman with an honorary degree.

The longstanding advocate for high performance sport received her degree on June 9 during convocation ceremonies for students from University College.

Hoffman first gained notoriety as a youngster when she masqueraded as a boy in order to play in a boys-only ice hockey league in Toronto. A girl playing hockey and on a boys team was considered audacious in the socially conservative 1950s.

This early experience confronting barriers to participation by girls and women in sport led Hoffman to a life-long commitment to eliminating such discrimantory practices. At the University of Toronto she challenged the ban on access by women to the sport facilities in Hart House. In Canada and internationally she campaigned tirelessly for opportunities for women to enjoy full and equal rights to participate at the highest levels of international competition.

Hoffman has been a passionate advocate for high performance sport and support for athletes pursuing excellence. She has played leading roles in the fight against racism in sport and in national and international efforts to combat doping.  

The first woman elected to the Executive Board of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Hoffman is also the first woman to serve as Director General of the federal government agency, Sport Canada – a post she held for 10 years, and one of the first female members of the Council of the international governing body for track and field (the IAAF).

Hoffman competed in track and field in four Olympic Games, reaching the finals of the 800m event twice. She holds a Commonwealth Games title and won medals in four successive Pan-American Games. She was the flag bearer for the Canadian Olympic Team at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Hoffman attended University of Toronto graduating with an Hons BA in Political economy in 1968 before pursuing graduate studies at U of T in political science in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She joined the Faculty of Political Studies of the University of Guelph as an Assistant Professor in 1973.  

Hoffman has held a number of senior executive positions in the federal government. She is currently the Assistant Deputy Minister – Strategic Policy at Health Canada.  

Hoffman is an Officer of the Order of Canada.