Eleven distinguished individuals to receive honorary degrees

York University will confer honorary degrees on 11 distinguished individuals during its Spring 2005 Convocation ceremonies, which run from June 11 to 18. This year’s honourees include leaders from a diverse set of disciplines, including business, law, the arts, aboriginal advocacy, journalism, humanitarian aid, science and academia.


“This year’s honorary degree recipients are a remarkable array of extraordinary individuals whose contributions and achievements are an inspiration to our newest graduates,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “They are truly ambassadors of York’s pioneering spirit and we are proud to formally induct them into the York University community.”


The recipients are: Knowlton Nash, journalist and broadcaster; Michèle Gendreau-Massaloux, scholar, university administrator, public servant; Hassanali Lakhani, business leader and philanthropist; Daphne Schiff, lecturer, humanitarian pilot, adventurer; Robbie Robertson, musician and aboriginal activist; Walter Carsen, arts philanthropist, and son Robert Carsen, opera director; David T. Suzuki, renowned scientist and environmentalist; Michael Wilson, business leader, mental health advocate and statesman; Frank Iacobucci, retired Supreme Court justice and acting president, University of Toronto; and M.G. Vassanji, author and novelist.


Knowlton Nash
Doctor of Laws
Special Private Ceremony
June 11


One of the most recognizable personalities in Canadian television, Knowlton Nash inhabits a unique space in news and public affairs broadcasting that has garnered him respect and admiration both nationally and worldwide. He began his career in print journalism at an early age as a copy editor for the wire service British United Press. Later, as a regular correspondent for the CBC’s Washington bureau, he interviewed key heads of state, including a succession of American presidents, and became a familiar face abroad during the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War. For many Canadians, however, Nash is universally recognized and respected for his work as anchor of the CBC’s flagship evening news program “The National”, a role which spanned an entire decade. Nash is a recipient of the Order of Canada and has written a number of books on the history of broadcasting at the CBC. 


Michèle Gendreau-Massaloux
Doctor of Laws
Glendon College Ceremony
June 11, 2:30pm


A scholar and administrator in the French university system with a distinguished career in public service, Michèle Gendreau-Massaloux is currently rector of the eminent international organization, l’Agence universitaire de la Francophonie  (AUF) – a position she has held since 1999. Previously, she served as rector of l’Académie de Paris and chancellor of the Universities of Paris. In her career as a public servant, she has served as spokesperson for the French presidency. She is a leading scholar of Spanish literature, having begun her career as an academic with the Institute of Spanish Studies at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. Her leadership has strengthened AUF, establishing both its international reputation and financial health, drawing together over 450 institutions internationally.

Hassanali Lakhani

Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Arts Ceremony I
June 13, 10:30am


Since his arrival in Canada in 1988, Hassanali Lakhani has made significant contributions to the Toronto Islamic community. Lakhani established the Noor Cultural Centre, which offers religious, educational, recreational and social programs, with an emphasis on justice and gender equality. The centre serves as a hub for dialogue on Islam and other world faiths. This includes the York-Noor Lecture Series, offered in collaboration with the Religious Studies Program in the Faculty of Arts at York University. More recently, Lakhani has established the Noor Fellowship in Islamic Studies at York, building upon the University’s existing Islamic Studies Program in its Division of Humanities and demonstrating how successfully the community can work with academia towards increased cultural understanding. Lakhani has a remarkable, lifelong history of philanthropic contribution to the many communities in which he has lived and conducted business.

Daphne Schiff

Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Arts Ceremony II
June 13, 4:30pm

A long-standing member of York’s academic community, Professor Daphne Schiff has taught in York’s Division of Natural Science, always bringing her characteristic flair to her classes, exciting students and engaging them in the pursuits of science. Her annual landing of her plane on York’s south fields for her “science of flight” course captured the attention of the entire University community. Her love of flying led her to membership in “the ninety-nines,” Amelia Earhart’s prestigious international women’s flying sorority, spending 25 years as a competitive flyer. In 1996, Schiff and her flying partner, Adele Fogle, competed in the first 26,000 kilometre Race of the Americas. Since 2000, the pair has volunteered with Air Solidarité to fly annual missions to deliver medical and teaching supplies to Africa.


Robbie Robertson
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education Ceremony
June 14, 10:30am


Cited for his work as an activist for aboriginal rights, Robbie Robertson is an award-winning musician of mixed aboriginal ancestry. A legendary musician and songwriter in his own right, he was the driving force behind The Band, collaborating with musicians such as Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan. Robertson is also a talented composer, having written scores for the Martin Scorsese films Raging Bull and The Color of Money. He is the recipient of three Juno Awards, as well as lifetime achievement awards from the National Academy of Songwriters, the Native American Music Awards, and the Aboriginal Achievement Awards. His recordings have been credited with helping First Nations music gain mainstream acceptance and recognition. Robertson’s international stature as an artist was recently reinforced in his performance at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. He is active as well in the area of prison reform and in particular in matters of aboriginal prisoner rights.

David Suzuki

Doctor of Science
Faculty of Science & Engineering, School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Environmental Studies Ceremony
June 14, 3pm

An award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster, David Suzuki has received consistently high acclaim for his 30 years of work in broadcasting, explaining the complexities of science in a compelling, easily-understood way. He is well-known to millions as the host of the CBC’s popular science television series, “The Nature of Things”, and founded the long-running CBC radio series, “Quirks and Quarks”. An internationally-respected geneticist, Suzuki was a professor at the University of British Columbia from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. He has received numerous awards for his work, including a UNESCO prize for science, a United Nations Environment Program medal, and the Order of Canada, and was the recipient of the prestigious E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship Award for “Outstanding Canadian Research Scientist Under the Age of 35”. Suzuki has 15 honorary doctorates from universities in Canada, the United States and Australia. For his work in support of Canada’s First Nations people, he has been honoured with five names and formal adoption by two tribes.

Walter Carsen and Robert Carsen

Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Fine Arts Ceremony
June 14, 7pm

Father and son duo Walter and Robert Carsen have made outstanding contributions to the arts, both in Canada and internationally. Walter Carsen’s philanthropic contributions and his son Robert Carsen’s artistic vision have benefited artists and audiences in distinct ways. Walter Carsen has an unparalleled history of supporting the arts in Canada, making transformational gifts to organizations such as the Shaw Festival, Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada Council, and especially to the National Ballet of Canada. Robert Carsen has established an international reputation as a director of opera as well as theatre. He has been one of the major figures in challenging the traditional conventions in his field, and has broadened the expectations of audiences regarding concept and staging of operatic works.

Michael Wilson

Doctor of Laws
Schulich School of Business Ceremony
June 17, 10:30am

Business leader, mental health advocate and former federal minister of finance, Michael Wilson has had a distinguished career as an advocate for social change. As a minister of the crown, he executed his duties in an exemplary manner and his keen business acumen is legendary. Wilson has also been an outspoken and inspirational advocate of mental health issues. Determined to eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness, he has been unwavering in his support of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Toronto-Peel Mental Health Implementation Task Force and the NeuroScience Canada Partnership. He was appointed in 2005 as the special adviser to the health minister on mental health in the federal government workplace. His efforts have motivated business leaders across the country to become active in public service. In 2002, he was awarded the Special Recognition Award from the Canadian Psychiatric Association for “unwavering leadership to achieve the goal of Mental Illness Awareness Week”.

Frank Iacobucci

Doctor of Laws
Osgoode Hall Law School Ceremony
June 17, 3pm

Justice Frank Iacobucci, a lawyer, legal scholar, public servant and judge, has made an outstanding contribution to Canadian scholarship, law and public life. As a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, he emerged as a leader in the interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He began his term as acting president of the University of Toronto in Sept. 2004, and has also served as dean of its Faculty of Law, vice-president, internal affairs, and vice-president and provost. A former director of the University of Toronto Foundation, Iacobucci is also the recipient of eight honorary degrees from universities in Canada and abroad. He is an Honorary Fellow of St. John’s College at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In recognition of his long and distinguished career in public service, he has received numerous civic awards both in Canada and Italy.


M.G. Vassanji
Doctor of Letters
Joseph E. Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies Ceremony
June 18, 10:30am


M.G. Vassanji is an award-winning author who has attained eminence in his field in a remarkably short space of time. Of his six books, three have won prestigious awards. His first novel, The Gunny Sack, won a regional Commonwealth Writers Prize, and his two most recent novels – The Book of Secrets and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall – have both won Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize. Vassanji’s other books include the acclaimed novels No New Land, Amriika, and a collection of stories titled Uhuru Street. In addition to his writing, he has contributed to the literary and South Asian communities,  including his role as a co-founder and editor of the Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad. His unique place in Canadian literature comes from his elegant, classical style, his narrative reach, and his interest in characters trying to reconcile different worlds within themselves. Vassanji was awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize in 1994 in recognition of his achievement in and contribution to the world of letters, and was, in the same year, chosen as one of 12 Canadians on the Maclean’s Honour Roll.


Approximately 6,500 graduate and undergraduate students will graduate during the ceremonies, joining York’s more than 170,000 alumni. All convocation ceremonies except Glendon’s will be held on the Keele campus, in the special tent-like structure located on the Osgoode-Atkinson green between Osgoode Hall Law School and the Atkinson Building. The Glendon ceremony will be held on the Glendon campus.


York University’s 2005 Spring Convocation ceremonies will be streamed live over the Internet. Click here to view.


The archived coverage of York University’s 2005 Spring Convocation ceremonies will be available at:  http://www.yorku.ca/mygraduation/Convocation/webcast/June2005/jun2005archive.htm.