Honorary doctorate recipients celebrated at convocation


Above: left to right, Lorna R. Marsden, James Bartleman and Avi Bennett

Three honorary doctorates, three unique messages. York’s Fall Convocation provided lessons in social policy, activism and the creative process.

Over the course of three days, honorary doctorates were conferred on Jutta Limbach, president of the German Goethe-Institut and former chief justice of the German Supreme Court; Ontario Lt.-Gov. James Bartleman, and celebrated Canadian author Guy Vanderhaeghe.

“Convocation recognizes and celebrates the remarkable achievements of both our newest graduates and our honorary degree recipients who have had a profound impact in fields ranging from exemplary foreign service, to award-winning fiction, to ground-breaking work in social justice and the law,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “Their tenaciousness in defining success on their own terms makes them ideal role models for our students.”

Jutta Limbach

On Nov. 7, York conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree on Jutta Limbach. During her convocation address to graduates of the Faculty of Education, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Osgoode Hall Law School, Schulich School of Business, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Limbach highlighted the role of feminism as an agent of change in social equality. She offered views on intercultural exchange as a mechanism for increasing mutual acceptance and understanding between genders, nations, cultures and religions.

Limbach observed that even with an increasing number of women entering the legal profession, there is still considerable distance to travel before true equality will be a reality. She challenged graduates to focus on breaking barriers that preclude true gender and social equality.

“Canada is identified in global studies about gender injustice as having made good progress with the introduction of concrete equality practices through professional bodies and the state,” said Limbach.

“The fact that Madame Lorna R. Marsden is the second female University president and the presence of so many young women here shows that equalization has undergone great progress here in Canada.”

In closing her remarks, she said, “I ask you to remember this point, women make up half of society and are mothers of the other half. The thing you must learn as women is that nobody gives you power, you must take it, for power gives you responsibility for the common good, and that is something women and men should share.”

Lt.-Gov. James K. Bartleman

Since taking office in March 2002, Ontario’s 27th lieutenant-governor, James K. Bartleman, has focused on three priorities: encouraging aboriginal communities, especially young people; speaking out to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness; and supporting initiatives that fight racism and discrimination. On Nov. 8,  York conferred an honorary doctor of law degree on Bartleman.

Inspired as a teenager by an English teacher who said, “Remember every challenge you overcome makes the next one easier,” Bartleman has dedicated his life and career putting this motto into practice. He spoke to the new graduates of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.

“You are the ones who will have the greatest opportunity to influence social policy, you will work in areas that highlight the leadership of society and the public,” he said. Noting that his three areas of priority were derived from his own personal experience, he urged graduates to discuss social issues openly and to work to dispel myths, prejudice and inaccuracies. “Even if you work one person at a time, you will produce a paradigm shift of understanding,” he said.

“When your values are challenged, I trust that you will speak up on the side of fairness, justice and equality, that you will champion the rights of others and bring out the best in others,” said Bartleman. “In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, be the change that you wish to see in the world.” 

Bartleman has received the Hugh Lafave Award (2003) for his advocacy involving mental health, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1999) for public service. He is also the author of the award-winning Out of Muskoka (Penumbra Press, 2002), a memoir of his early life; he has donated all royalties to a scholarship for aboriginal Canadians. Bartleman previously served as foreign policy adviser to the prime minister, as high commissioner to Australia and South Africa, and as ambassador to the European Union, Israel and Cuba.

Guy Vanderhaeghe

On Nov. 7, Vanderhaeghe was honoured for his lifetime achievements as a novelist and for his contribution to Canadian literature. During the Faculty of Arts convocation ceremony, he was conferred with an honorary DLitt.

For the full story about the ceremony and what Vanderhaeghe said, visit the Nov. 10 edition of YFile.