Demonstrating the warm humility that has endeared him to colleagues, students and friends, Frank Iacobucci chose to speak largely through the words of others in his address to convocation at graduation ceremonies for York’s Osgoode Hall Law School on June 17.
The former supreme court justice, lawyer, scholar, teacher and university administrator quoted a diverse group of individuals, ranging from Oliver Wendell Holmes to his mother-in-law, as he accepted an honorary doctor of laws degree, his ninth from universities in Canada and abroad.
Right: Frank Iacobucci at Osgoode convocation ceremonies
“I am profoundly moved by the great honour I have just received,” Iacobucci told his audience. “York University has emerged as a great university and I am very, very pleased to be associated with York and Osgoode for many reasons. The excellence of the faculty members, the students and program at York is a source of pride for all who are involved with post-secondary education in our country.”
Noting that the ultimate measure of a great university lay in the accomplishments of its graduates, Iacobucci urged graduands to “not take for granted or ignore the immense power that you have as individuals to make a difference, not just to yourself or to your family but also to your community, your province and your country.” He also told them to be wary of cynicism and heed the advice of his late mother-in-law, whose favourite saying was “look at the donut, not at the hole.”
“There has been no more fascinating period in history than the present especially when one views it through the lens of the law, justice and democracy in the global world,” said Iacobucci.
Left: Chancellor Peter Cory, right, congratulates Frank Iacobucci on receiving his honorary degree
York Chancellor Peter Cory, also a former Supreme Court justice, said he was proud to confer the honorary degree on his friend and legal colleague. “This is one of the rare times that I can force Frank Iacobucci to listen to me,” joked Cory, who also received warm and fulsome praise from Iacobucci.
Osgoode Professor Marilyn Pilkington, a former student of Iacobucci’s who gave the introductory citation, noted his “great intellect, compassion, principles, pragmatism, wit and charm” and called him an “inspiring teacher and a distinguished jurist whose contribution to law and public affairs goes far beyond those two contributions for which we know him best.”
“We often tell our law students that their legal education will equip them for a wide range of careers,” Pilkington said.”Seldom are we able to present to them one individual who has engaged in and excelled at every one of them. He has enhanced his human dimension, brought people together, mediated their differences, made them feel good both individually and collectively, and provided both subtle and effective leadership. His equanimity is as legendary as his intellectual strength.”
As a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Iacobucci emerged as a leader in the interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He served as acting president of the University of Toronto in 2004-2005 and has also served as dean of its Faculty of Law, vice-president, internal affairs, and vice-president and provost. Iacobucci is also an honorary fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, 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.