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Honorary graduate Eric Jackman

Honorary degree recipient Eric Jackman is a leading supporter of early childhood education

When alumnus Frederic (Eric) Jackman receives his honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto on June 20, he’ll celebrate a group of people he expects will have a huge impact on our youth.

“Many of the students graduating at that Convocation ceremony are about to become teachers,” says Jackman, who holds a BA (economics) and MA (psychology) from U of T. “These teachers will become very important role models for children and adolescents.”

Jackman has a personal interest in the contributions the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) graduates will make to early education. As one of the first Canadians to receive a doctorate in the field of human development from the University of Chicago, he firmly believes that understanding infant development and early childhood learning is the answer to many of society’s current issues.

“To encourage successful and productive adulthood – however that is defined – we need to pay more attention to the genetic, social and emotional influences that influence a growing child,” he says.

To that end, in 2010 Jackman made the largest gift in Canadian history to support research for early child development, at what is now known as the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at OISE.

“I knew that OISE is interested in how children learn, and they study teaching methods,” he says. “School is essentially a child’s training ground for life, so it’s important to understand the best ways to learn.”

Jackman came to his calling as a psychologist after he graduated from U of T in 1957. Taking a break from his work as a stockbroker, he went to Asia for six months and found himself intrigued by the diversity of cultural practices.

“I was just fascinated. I said to myself, I don’t want to be a stockbroker. I’m not sure what I want to do, but I’m going to go back and study behavioural science.” Studying people became his passion.

Jackman likes to be involved. Through volunteering and philanthropy, Jackman has touched the lives of many Canadians. He’s particularly proud of the two organizations he founded: the Psychology Foundation of Canada (promoting mental fitness in children and families) and the Canadian Journalism Foundation (to enhance the quality of Canadian journalism).

As well as being President of Invicta Investments and Chairman of the Jackman Foundation, he actively supports the arts, education, and a variety of community organizations. He has received the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. In addition, he has received honorary doctorates from Assumption, York and Windsor universities.

As for the OISE graduates of 2013, Jackman has some words of advice. “I hope you become teachers because you have a passion for teaching. If it’s not satisfying, I hope you listen to your heart and find out what you want to do in life – then go out and make it happen.”

Question & Answer with Eric Jackman

What is your proudest achievement?
My family makes me proud. And, I am proud of completing my PhD; bloody hard work! I am proud of starting organizations that focus on areas of need in society. One is The Psychology Foundation of Canada which draws attention to the need to raise healthy children. It is imperative that we have a greater focus on the healthy start in life rather than curing sickness later in life. The early years are so critical. Our programs Kids Have Stress Too® and Parenting For Life are having an impact on early development. I might add also that I have made a philanthropic commitment to the University of Toronto’s Institute of Child Study’s capital campaign. Another organization is the Canadian Journalism Foundation, founded to improve Canadian journalism.

What has been your greatest key to success?
Having parents, family and friends who supported my dogged persistence to complete things I start. It is a truism that, “persistence pays off”. As Chancellor of the University of Windsor I could tell by the smile on their faces when elderly graduands, having taken courses, one at a time, for many years, acknowledged my words when I said, “Congratulations, you have studied a long time, persistence certainly paid off”.

What is one thing you would tell a graduate to prepare their life after graduation?
“Follow your passion and be true to yourself. Don’t get stuck in a job that loses its excitement.” For myself, after my BA in economics I worked as a stock broker. It didn’t do anything for my “soul,” but travelling broadened my experience and piqued my interests. So, back to school I went studying psychology and later human development.

I am so pleased that last year the University of Toronto initiated The Fraser Mustard Institute of Human Development (a multi-disciplinary research group).

What is the true value of a university degree?
There is no substitute for education, what you learn and remember are with you for your lifetime; education changes how you view the world. Get more if you can, and travel lots.

What do you wish more people knew about the U of T?
The University of Toronto is such a high ranked world University. Just tops!

For his outstanding service to U of T and to the broader community, Jackman receives the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, June 20, at the Convocation ceremony for students graduating from OISE. (Watch the ceremony online.)