Eight distinguished individuals will receive York honorary degrees

York University will confer honorary degrees on eight distinguished people during its spring 2004 convocation ceremonies, which will run from June 12 to June 18. This year’s honourees include high achievers in fields as diverse as immunology, jazz music, international law, furniture making, Holocaust education, welfare economics, publishing and investment banking.


The recipients are: Avie Bennett, chairman of McClelland & Stewart Ltd. and the retiring chancellor of York University; Dave Brubeck, jazz musician; Richard Falk, professor of international law and practice at Princeton University; Saul Feldberg, founder and owner of the Global Group of Companies; John Hunkin, president and CEO of the CIBC group of companies; Fumiko Ishioka, director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Centre; Dr. Tak Wah Mak, cancer researcher and professor of medical biophysics and immunology at the University of Toronto; and Nobel laureate and welfare economist Amartya Sen.


Here are sketches of each honorary degree recipient, in order of ceremony.


Amartya Sen
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Arts Ceremony I
June 14, 11am


A world-renowned economist, theorist and academic, Amartya Sen is best known for his work in welfare economics. His research over the past 25 years has redefined the concepts of well-being, poverty, equity, and development. Drawing extensively from philosophy and economic theory, Sen has created close links between ethics and economics. His ideas have greatly influenced development economics and, more widely, the use of development as a concept of global scale, not just for Third World countries. His work is truly multidisciplinary, crossing from economics, philosophy and mathematics to lived experiences and policy analysis.


Born in India and educated in Calcutta and Cambridge, England, Sen was the master of Trinity College, Cambridge, until January, 2004, and remains a fellow. At Harvard University, he is the Lamont University Professor Emeritus and an adjunct professor at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. In 1998, he received the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on welfare economics. In 1990, Sen received both the Giovanni Agnelli International Prize for his research on ethics of modern society, and the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award for his work on understanding and preventing world hunger.


Avie Bennett
Doctor of Letters
Faculty of Arts Ceremony II
June 14, 7pm


Philanthropist Avie J. Bennett was first appointed as chancellor of York University in 1998. He was subsequently reappointed to a second three-year term in May 2001 (ending when his successor, Peter Cory, is installed at the Glendon convocation on June 12). Named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1997 and promoted to the Order’s highest rank of Companion in 2004, Bennett was also appointed to the Order of Ontario in 1996.


In 1985, Bennett purchased McClelland & Stewart, the distinguished Canadian publishing house, after a successful career in the shopping centre development business which he and his family pioneered. He maintained the M&S commitment to Canadian literature, publishing roughly 100 new titles each year. In June 2000, Bennett made a gift of the company to the University of Toronto.


In 1991, Bennett had purchased Hurtig Publishers of Edmonton, publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia. In December of 2003, after being appointed Chair of the Historica Foundation of Canada, Bennett donated The Canadian Encyclopedia to the foundation with the understanding that Historica would make the resource available free online in both French and English. The Historica Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of Canadian history. With gifts totaling $3 million and matching funds from York, the Historica Foundation has established two endowed research Chairs in the Faculty of Arts at York, one in Canadian History and one in Canadian Literature.


Bennett’s volunteer work has extended to such organizations as the National Ballet of Canada, the United Way of Greater Toronto, and the Advisory Board of the Schulich School of Business at York University. He will also continue as a member of the board of directors of the York University Foundation.


Fumiko Ishioka
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education Ceremony
June 15, 10am


Since 1998, Fumiko Ishioka has been the director of the Holocaust Education Resource Centre in Tokyo. With a passion for making history meaningful to children, she has dedicated her life to educating others about the issues of racism and anti-Semitism. As part of the centre, Ishioka started the children’s group Small Wings to help inspire young people to recognize their own power and to actively fight injustice and intolerance of all kinds.


In 1995, Ishioka decided to create an exhibit of artifacts in the centre to educate children about the Holocaust. She received a number of items from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland, including a brown leather suitcase with a painted inscription: “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Waisenkind [orphan]”. Encouraged by the children of Small Wings, Ishioka spent the next year searching for the story behind the suitcase. Her quest finally led her to Toronto and to George Brady, Hana’s surviving brother. That resulted in the book Hana’s Suitcase (2002), written by Canadian author and radio producer Karen Levine. The book, which tells the story of the short life of Hana Brady and the life of her brother, who survived the Holocaust, also shows the impact the suitcase has had on the children of Japan and how it has been used to teach tolerance, respect and compassion. Available in 26 countries, it has sold more than 250,000 copies.

Saul Feldberg
Doctor of Laws
Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies Ceremony
June 15, 7pm


The Downsview-based Global Group of Companies is a world leader in contract office furniture. Its founder, Saul Feldberg, has imbued the corporation with warmth, style, and entrepreneurial spirit which is reflected in the exemplary working environment his employees enjoy. Feldberg started making office furniture in 1966. The key company controlled by Global, the Teknion Corporation, has pioneered the development of ergonomic furniture and has won over 50 design awards. Teknion is now the fifth-largest furniture manufacturer in North America, with annual sales of more than $1.5 billion. The Global Group also controls the OBUS Forme company.


As a child,  the Polish-born Feldberg experienced the tragedy of the Holocaust. It shaped his life and values. In addition to being a highly ethical entrepreneur, Feldberg is also a philanthropist. Remembering the hardship he endured during the Holocaust, he shares his wealth with more than 30 different charities.

Dr. Tak Wah Mak
Doctor of Science
Faculty of Pure and Applied Science & Faculty of Environmental Studies Ceremony
June 16, 10am 


The heart of cancer research today revolves around understanding how the regulatory systems in the human body which control cell death go wrong. Unchecked cell death is the root cause of cancer. At any given moment, the human body creates millions of new cells, while just as many die. This biological ebb and flow and the crucial balance that must be maintained between the two processes is the focal point of the ground-breaking research by Dr. Tak Wah Mak, Canada Research Chair in Inflammation Responses and Traumatic Injury at the University of Toronto. When the balance is interrupted, cells multiply uncontrollably without dying. As a result, they are violating a process called apoptosis, the important regulatory system that programs cells to die at certain times. Mak has shed new light on why apoptosis goes wrong and his research has created a new understanding of T cells, the essential warrior cells that lie at the heart of the body’s immune system response. His research has led to critical discoveries in determining which genes are responsible for the function of T cells and their role in cancer.


An international scholar, Mak joined the faculty of the University of Toronto in 1975. He is also the director of the Advanced Medical Discovery Institute in the University Health Network. Mak trained at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Alberta and the Ontario Cancer Institute. The founding director of the Amgen Institute, he is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has been elected a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. Mak is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He has received numerous awards including the Stacie Prize and the Novartis Prize in Immunology.


Dave Brubeck
Doctor of Letters
Faculty of Fine Arts Ceremony
June 17, 2:30pm


An international jazz legend and jazz icon, Dave Brubeck has been making beautiful music since the 1950s. His famed quartet produced the hit “Take Five”, a classic jazz tune that hit the charts in the late 1950s and became the theme for countless television and radio shows. The youngest of three musical brothers, Brubeck was born in Concord, California in 1920. He grew up on the family’s cattle ranch and following studies in veterinary science and a stint in the army, he studied composition with Darius Milhaud, the famous French composer who was teaching at Mills College in Oakland, California. After completing his studies and with the encouragement of Milhaud, he formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951. The quartet, all four of whom were stars in their own right, reigned over popular jazz until 1967.


Over his long career, Brubeck has performed with such greats as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. He has recorded with Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing and Carmen McRae. He entertained world leaders at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in Moscow in 1988 and has performed for eight US presidents, as well as princes, kings, heads of state and Pope John Paul II. Brubeck has also worked on classical works including ballets.


At 84, Brubeck continues to compose and perform; he celebrated his 80th birthday with the London Symphony Orchestra. To date, Brubeck’s discography features contributions to over 150 albums. He has received many honours for his music, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The University of the Pacific has honoured him with the establishment of The Brubeck Institute, dedicated to the furtherance of contemporary music of all styles, with an emphasis on improvisation, a musical art form pioneered by Brubeck.

John Hunkin
Doctor of Laws
Schulich School of Business Ceremony
June 18, 10am


As president and CEO of the CIBC group of companies, John Hunkin presides over one of North America’s largest financial services institutions. In June 2003, Hunkin brought forward a recommendation to the CIBC board of directors to separate his roles of chairman and chief executive officer. This realignment is in keeping with what other best-practice organizations are doing in the area of corporate governance and is designed to ensure that CIBC employees, customers and shareholders perceive a clear delineation and accountability between the two roles.


Hunkin joined CIBC in 1969 and held various positions before moving over to investment banking subsidiary Wood Gundy as president in 1988. He was named Wood Gundy’s deputy chairman and chief executive officer in 1990. In 1992, he was appointed president of CIBC’s investment and corporate banking operations and the following year was elected to the board of directors. He assumed the role of chairman and chief executive officer in 1999.


Hunkin is Chair of the the Advisory Council of York University’s Schulich School of Business; a former member of the York University Board of Governors; and a member of the board of directors of the York University Foundation. His charitable work extends far into the community. He is on the board of trustees for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Foundation and the board of directors of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. He is also a member of the Conference Board of Canada. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Manitoba and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business.


Richard Falk
Doctor of Laws
Osgoode Hall Law School Ceremony
June 18, 2:30pm


As a professor of international law, Richard Falk is considered by many to be one of the great legal minds of the 21st century. An accomplished author of more than 20 books, his most recent effort, The Great Terror War (2003), considers the American response to September 11, including its relationship to the patriotic duties of American citizens. A prolific writer, speaker and activist in world affairs, he has been highly critical of Israeli policies and the US involvement in Iraq. In 2001, Falk served on a three-person Human Rights Inquiry Commission for the Palestine Territories that was appointed by the United Nations. Previously he served on the UN Independent Commission on Kosovo.


Falk is the Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and a visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He serves as the Chair of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s board of directors and as honorary vice-president of the American Society of International Law. Falk holds a BSc from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, an LLB from Yale Law School and a JSD from Harvard University.