U of T to confer honorary degrees on 11 academic, business and community leaders

headshots of the 11 honorary degree recipients

From left to right, starting at top row: Blake Goldring, Joannah Lawson, Brian Lawson and Bruce Kuwabara; Harold Hongju Koh, Jane Corkin, Patrick Awuah and Rosemary Sadlier; Zanana Akande, Wilton Littlechild and Sarah Polley (photos by AGF, Chris Nicholls, Karri North, Koh Family, Eric Watters, Ashesi University, Lawrence Kerr, Hudson Taylor Photography, Lynn Streeter and Derek Shapton)


A fearless advocate of anti-racism who helped establish Black History Month. A leader of the global Indigenous rights movement who served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. And an Academy Award winner who has used her platform to speak up about inequities in the entertainment industry. 

These three luminaries – Rosemary SadlierWilton Littlechild and Sarah Polley – are among the 11 individuals who will receive honorary degrees from the University of Toronto this year and will address graduating students at convocation ceremonies in the spring or fall. 

“The dedication, vision and generosity of these extraordinary leaders are an inspiration to all members of the University of Toronto community," said U of T President Meric Gertler

“I'm looking forward to celebrating their remarkable achievements at our convocation ceremonies this year.”

Here is the full list of U of T honorary degree recipients for 2024:

Zanana Akande

Zanana Akande, a U of T alumna who, in 1990, became the first Black woman elected to the Ontario legislature, is recognized for her decades of constructive leadership and fearless advocacy for equity and diversity. Her work has focused on employment equity, community building, race relations and the empowerment of women. 

Patrick Awuah

Patrick Awuah, the founder and president of Ghana’s Ashesi University, is recognized for being a change-maker with an inspiring and outstanding commitment to global education. Dedicated to empowering African students, he launched a consortium of more than 150 African universities to establish standards for excellence in higher education across the continent. 

Jane Corkin

Jane Corkin, an internationally renowned gallerist who made Toronto a hub for modern and contemporary art, is recognized as a visionary in the art world and for fostering cultural conversations in Canada and beyond. Her influence on photography is particularly significant, helping to elevate awareness of the medium as an art form. 

Blake Goldring

Blake Goldring, an alumnus and accomplished business leader, is recognized for his service to the university through his civic and community service with local and national impact. A deeply engaged university citizen, Goldring’s volunteer and philanthropic contributions have had a profound impact on U of T – and especially its students – that will be felt for generations.  

Harold Koh

Harold Hongju Koh, a globally recognized legal scholar, is recognized for being a staunch defender of democracy and a vigorous advocate for the rule of law and human rights. A leading expert in international law, national security law and human rights, he is the Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, where he previously served as dean, and has represented Ukraine before the International Court of Justice. 

Bruce Kuwabara

Bruce Kuwabara, a founding partner of KPMB Architects who has shaped some of Canada’s most notable buildings and public spaces, including U of T’s Rotman School of Management, is recognized for his excellence in design and for his outstanding service to U of T as a devoted alumnus. He has also led several fundraising campaigns at the university and served as the inaugural chair of Waterfront Toronto’s design review panel. 

Joannah and Brian Lawson

Brian and Joannah Lawson, both U of T alumni, are recognized for their dedication to the university by serving as steadfast supporters, proud ambassadors and trusted advisers. Brian, vice-chair and director of Brookfield Corporation, served on U of T’s Governing Council for nine years, including one year as chair, and remains engaged as co-chair of the Defy Gravity campaign and Chancellor of Trinity College. Joannah served as a member of the board of trustees of Trinity College and on the campaign cabinet of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. She played a significant role in the establishment of The Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and continues to be involved in an advisory capacity. Together, Joannah and Brian have also made sustainability a principal philanthropic cause as reflected by their Integrated Sustainability Initiative at Trinity College.

Wilton Littlechild

Wilton Littlechild, a lawyer, Cree chief and former Member of Parliament, is recognized for his inspirational and transformative advocacy of Indigenous rights and human rights. An athlete who dedicated his career to improving the lives of Indigenous communities, he was a driving force for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and one of the founders of the North American Indigenous Games and World Indigenous Nations Games. 

Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley, a celebrated filmmaker and author, is recognized as an exceptional Canadian talent and advocate of equity and fairness. After acting in numerous film and television productions, she made her directorial debut in 2006 with Away from Her and went on to win an Academy Award for best-adapted screenplay for Women Talking in 2022, among other cinematic achievements. Polley also penned a national bestseller in Run Towards the Danger while using her platform to address issues such as income inequality and sexual abuse in the entertainment industry. 

Rosemary Sadlier

Rosemary Sadlier, a U of T alumna, author, historian, educator, social justice advocate, is recognized for her transformative work and leadership advancing anti-racism, Black women’s issues and Black history and heritage. She initiated the process to establish February as Black History Month and has championed the recognition of Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day at the local, provincial and national levels. Sadlier has also contributed significantly to African Canadian curriculum development and education, empowering generations of students and teachers. 

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