Honorary graduate Susan Scace

Alumna and community leader Susan Scace has spent her life helping others through a wide range of volunteer contributions to educational and charitable ventures both local and national.

For her outstanding service to the university and to the community, the University of Toronto confers the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa upon Scace June 18. (Watch the ceremony online.)

U of T News asked Scace to share some reflections on the role of the university and the importance of living life to the fullest.

What went through your mind when you found out you were going to receive an honorary degree?
I was greatly honoured and overwhelmed with the thought of the many worldly people who have been honoured by the U of T in the past. It is truly daunting.

What achievement in your life are you most proud of and why?
I’m a mother, we have two wonderful children, their spouses and grandchildren, and I’ve been married for fifty years. I would highlight that more than anything else.

What do you think has been your greatest key to success?
I guess I’ve always been naturally a volunteer. I was brought up that way and I’ve been a mentor to people all my life. I’ve had many friends who’ve inspired me. My husband has inspired me with his integrity, perseverance and his love of the book. That, as much as anything, spurred me on for three quarters of my life.

What advice do you have for graduating students?
My speech is really talking to them as to how they can achieve fulfilment. I’ve based it on a couple of psychologists who are from Pennsylvania and I guess there are seven characteristics other than intelligence, on which to concentrate.  The first one is grit, which is largely perseverance. The second one is self-control and includes integrity, self- discipline and will-power. The third is zest, a sense of being motivated and the willingness to step out of your comfort zone. The fourth is social intelligence, by which I mean listening and communicating other than just by texting.

The next thing is gratitude: volunteering, mentoring and giving back to the University what it has given to you, both monetarily and on a mentoring basis. Then there’s optimism, which is obviously at its height with the students at this point, but life is the rough and the smooth and they need to maintain this optimism. Finally, we come to curiosity; reading and travelling to appreciate different cultures of the world.

What is the true value of a post-secondary degree?
Oh, it’s discovering the world, discovering so many different subjects and meeting friends.  One of the things I tell students to do is to keep in touch with their friends from University, because I think that’s really an important part of the fun in life. The gift of University is that you’re learning with like minds, expanding your own thoughts and this makes it possible for you to make a difference in the world. So, I don’t think a job is primary, I think it’s an extension of your person.

What do you wish more people knew about U of T?
That it is the pre-eminent university in Canada and that, as David Naylor said in his vision 2030, it rivals any of the private universities in the States and the publicly funded universities in Britain. It has been a fantastic opportunity to have studied at U of T and hopefully they’ll realize that and give back to it as they can.

What is your favourite memory from your days at U of T?
I remember the beautiful campus, studying in the library at Trinity College and hours of discussion sitting around a table in the Buttery. Also, I met my husband on a blind date at the Conversat at Trinity!


A dedicated community leader and builder, Susan Scace (nee Kernohan) has given generously of her time, talent and expertise to a number of important organizations and institutions. She was a board member of the Junior League of Toronto from 1974 – 1979 and chairman of the Canadian Development of the Association of Junior Leagues of America from 1980 -1982. In addition, Scace has been a board member of many not-for-profit organizations including The National Ballet of Canada, the North York General Hospital, Young Peoples Theatre, Canadian Stage Theatre, the Distress Centre and the United Way Campaign Cabinet.

Scace co-transcribed the correspondence of John Graves Simcoe and William Osgoode from the archives of the Law society of Upper Canada-Osgoode Hall which were published as Wolford Letters and Friends of the Chief Justice. She is the author of Take Me with You Please, a many faceted self-help book for university students. It was published when her son and daughter went off to University.

At the University of Toronto, Scace has been a member of Corporation of Trinity College since 1970 and on the Executive Committee as vice chairman from 1990 to 1996. As a government appointee to Governing Council in 1994, she was on the Business Board, Planning and Budget, and the Campaign Cabinet. Scace serves on the Honorary Degree Committee of Trinity College and the Boundless Campaign Executive Committee.

Scace serves on the board of the Sunnybrook Hospital sitting on the Quality Care, Governance, and Research and Education committees. She is also the chair of the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation which oversees the Loran Scholarship; awarded to 30 university students across Canada on the basis of character, service and leadership along with academic excellence.

Her honours include an Arbor Award and an Honorary DSL from Trinity College.

Susan is the wife of Arthur R A Scace, a distinguished graduate of this University, the mother of Patrick and Jennifer with whose spouses Carrie Scace and Jeffrey Racine, she shares in the delight of three grandsons; Matthew, Jonathan and Adam.

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