(photo by Johnny Guatto)

First Nations champion, film and TV trailblazers, academic giants to receive honorary U of T degrees

The list includes former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario James Bartleman, producer and Degrassi creator Linda Schuyler, Toronto International Film Festival Director and CEO Piers Handling, Chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cynthia Barnhart, and Manjul Bhargava, the first Canadian winner of the Fields Medal.

They are among the 10 people who will receive honorary degrees from the University of Toronto this year.
“We will be delighted to count these extraordinary individuals among the honorary graduates of the University of Toronto,” said President Meric Gertler. “Each exemplifies in a unique way a commitment to excellence that reflects our highest ideals and will inspire our graduating students.”

A schedule of events for the spring and fall ceremonies will be released as June convocation approaches. The honourees include:

Cynthia Barnhart – Cynthia Barnhart serves as chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is the Ford Foundation Professor of Engineering in MIT’s civil and environmental engineering department. Barnhart has made significant contributions to MIT, where one of her priorities has been improving the student experience. Among other initiatives, she led the creation of policies for responding to sexual misconduct on campus and improved campus mental health services. As an engineer, Barnhart has made seminal contributions to the development of transportation systems that are used by America’s leading airlines. 

James K. Bartleman – The Honourable James Bartleman is former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and a celebrated author. He has broken barriers to realize a lifetime of outstanding achievements on the international diplomatic stage and at home. As one of this country’s most accomplished Indigenous persons, Bartleman has dedicated himself to supporting and advancing literacy among First Nations communities.

Manjul Bhargava – Manjul Bhargava has made fundamental advances in mathematics, specifically in algebraic number theory and the theory of elliptical curves. Bhargava was appointed full professor at Princeton University in 2003, just two years after earning his PhD. His scholarly achievements have been recognized with many awards, including the Fields Medal in 2014, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics. Although the Fields Medal is Canadian in origin, the brainchild of University of Toronto mathematics professor John Charles Fields, it has eluded Canadian mathematicians until now. Bhargava is the first Canadian-born mathematician to receive the award. 

Piers Handling - Piers Handling is the director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), a position he has held since 1994. Through his leadership, he has transformed Toronto by creating one of Canada’s most successful cultural organizations. TIFF contributes significantly to Toronto’s economy and has increased the city’s prominence on the world stage. At the same time, Handling has championed and showcased Canadian films and filmmakers.

M. G. Venkatesh Mannar - M.G. Venkatesh Mannar is a leader in the global fight against malnutrition.  He has pioneered cost-effective and sustainable solutions for micronutrient deficiencies and focused on using innovation and technology to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. Mannar moved to Canada in 1990 and served as president of Ottawa’s Micronutrient Initiative (MI) for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership, MI played a major role in the development and expansion of supplementation and food fortification programs that benefit nearly 500 million adults and children in more than 75 countries every day.

Richard (Dick) Pound – For more than 20 years Dick Pound has been one of the most influential members of the International Olympic Committee. As an athlete, Pound was a swimming finalist at the 1960 Olympic Games and as an author he has written nine books. From 1999 to 2007, Pound was the founding president of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) where he brought determined, principled efforts to promote honest and fair competition, while championing volunteerism, accountability and education. He remains a member of WADA’s foundation board as well as one of Canada’s most-recognized figures in international sport. 

Robert Putnam – Robert Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, is often referred to as the world’s most important social scientist. His work routinely explores issues of deep societal interest such as the nature of international negotiations, the conditions necessary for democracy to flourish, the decline of civic life as well as the causes and effects of inequality. Putnam regularly advises heads of state and government.

David Schindler – David Schindler holds the Killam Memorial Chair and is Professor of Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on the ecology and chemistry of aquatic ecosystems. Throughout his career, he has addressed environmental challenges ranging from lake eutrophication, acid precipitation, climate change and the impacts of oil sands development. Schindler has developed simple yet clever whole-lake experiments to demonstrate the often-contested causal factors of many environmental problems, thereby providing scientific evidence to inform the public and inspire policy changes. He is an influential champion for fundamental research, education, scientific engagement and public debate.

Linda Schuyler – Linda Schuyler has been a leading force in Canadian television for more than 30 years. Using her understanding of teenagers gained from teaching grades 7 and 8 and her appreciation of the power of the moving image developed while a U of T student, Schuyler created one of the most successful and influential television franchises ever broadcast. Shown in 150 countries, the various iterations of “Degrassi” have informed young audiences about topical issues ranging from bullying to transgender identity. Her commitment to compassionate social advocacy through storytelling is television at its finest.

Gerald (Gerry) W. Schwartz – Gerry Schwartz is a renowned entrepreneur and city-builder, widely admired for his leadership, generosity and community involvement. He is the founder of Onex Corporation, the largest private equity firm in Canada. In addition, he is a visionary philanthropist and a dedicated volunteer: his contributions to education, research, and arts and culture have had a profound impact on Toronto and Canada. The University of Toronto continues to benefit from his wisdom and advice more than two decades after he completed a nine-year term as governor.

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