Global citizen Paul Cadario has worked tirelessly to reduce poverty around the world

Honorary graduate Paul Cadario

Paul Cadario has spent his career improving living standards of people in the developing world.

A  former senior Manager at the World Bank, Cadario is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Global Innovation at the University of Toronto, jointly appointed to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and the Munk School of Global Affairs.

The U of T alumnus, who graduated in 1973 with a degree in Civil Engineering before earning a master of arts degree from Oxford University and a master of science degree from American University, now mentors U of T students in the Master of Global Affairs program and at the Centre for Global Engineering.

Cadario served on the Governing Council from 1985-1994 and as President of the University of Toronto Alumni Association from 2007–2009, and was inducted into the University’s Engineering Hall of Distinction in 2008. He receives an honorary degree from U of T June 19 (watch the ceremony online) and spoke with U of T News about his achievements and the value of a university education.

What went through your mind when you found out you were going to receive an honorary degree?
When [U of T President] David Naylor emailed just before Christmas that he had "a university business matter" to discuss with me, I was puzzled. When he told me what it was, I was thrilled. It's a great honour, and having been on the Governing Council and the Honorary Degrees Committee, I knew the amount of due diligence and debate that went into the decision. I am in very celebrated company.

What achievement in your life are you most proud of and why? 
I was involved in many exciting things in over 37 years at the World Bank, and around U of T as a volunteer for much of that time. Working on China as its opening up was starting in the late 1980s was very exciting, but if I had to pick something 'in my day job', it was being responsible for the first World Bank-financed projects in Guinea-Bissau and in Mongolia, when they decided to join the World Bank. 

Around the University, I think that supporting Engineering as they agreed on and then put in place the new undergraduate curriculum with its design orientation was a challenge and I'm really pleased at how well it's worked out. And being the 'venture investor' in the School of Public Policy and Governance makes me very proud when I meet the students and graduates of that program and see how smart and committed they are to making the public sector work better and Canada a better place.

What is the key to your success?
I'm curious, and I think I ask good questions. I'm also very intuitive, and I like to "connect the dots" on things where the data take you only so far.

What advice would you offer to graduating students?
Remember that your first job is not your last job, and take every aspect of your life, and not just at work, as a way to learn something new. Remember that "I'm too busy" is a way of saying "something else is more important": make sure that's true, particularly if it involves disappointing a family member.

What is the true value of a university degree?
It teaches you how to think. Much of the content you learn, particularly in science and engineering, will change over the course of your life; understanding the fundamentals of one's discipline makes it possible to acquire new knowledge and be discerning about it, and how your practice needs to change. A better world needs people who think critically. We need to see great universities – particularly publicly-funded ones like U of T – as being important public goods.

What do you wish more people knew about U of T? 
U of T, as a great, globally-significant research university, is among the best places for the brightest students to come. Great students ask the questions that provoke great professors to think about things in new ways, which is how the boundaries of knowledge get expanded. In the 21st Century, cities are where ideas come to rub shoulders, and U of T is part of one of the most dynamic and interesting cities on the planet.


Paul Cadario joined the World Bank in 1975 and played a diverse number of roles worldwide, including nearly two decades with the World Bank’s frontline development programs in Western Africa and China and then with public sector management throughout Asia. Among the challenges he enjoyed were establishing the first World Bank-financed operations in Guinea Bissau and Mongolia and managing the strategy, budget and logistics for the Bank’s work in twenty-two former Soviet and central European states after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1998, he began working on the World Bank’s efforts to modernize and streamline its business for the digital age of transparency and accountability, starting with the renewal of the Bank’s global information systems. Focusing on results, quality assurance, and compliance, from 2001 he oversaw the multi-billion dollar portfolio of grants managed and disbursed by the World Bank as a trustee for governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations and private development partners. His work took him from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from Guinea to Indonesia, and from Bhutan to Burundi.

Cadario’s ties as a volunteer to U of T have been strong for over 40 years. He was a member of the Governing Council twice, as a student in 1972-73 and then as an elected Alumni Governor from 1985 to 1994. He was the first president of the University of Toronto Alumni Association to live outside the GTA. He chairs the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Department of Civil Engineering. He is also a member of the advisory boards for the School of Public Policy and Governance and for the MGA Program of the Munk School of Global Affairs. He serves as a University representative on the Banting Research Foundation board and mentors MBA students at the Rotman School of Management. He supports fundraising on behalf of the University as president of the Associates of the University of Toronto, Inc. and as a member of the Engineering Campaign Cabinet for Boundless.

After his retirement from the World Bank in 2012, Cadario was appointed Distinguished Senior Fellow in Global Innovation at the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and the Munk School for Global Affairs.

Cadario earned his BASc in civil engineering from the University of Toronto in 1973. A Rhodes Scholar, he received a BA and MA in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of Oxford. More recently, he earned a master’s degree in organizational development from American University.

As an undergraduate, Cadario worked as a U of T research assistant in the Northwest Territories where he developed a passion for Inuit art that remains to this day.


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