Three original thinkers to receive honorary degrees from York

York University will confer honorary degrees on three distinguished individuals during its Fall 2007 Convocation ceremonies, which run from Oct. 19 to 21.

The recipients are Denise Chong, acclaimed journalist and author; Dr. Sheela Basrur, former Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario and champion of the public health system, and Charlotte Gray, celebrated author and historian.

"It’s a privilege to welcome these distinguished Canadians into the York community," said Mamdouh Shoukri, York president and vice-chancellor. "It is our hope that our newest graduates will be inspired by their achievements."

Denise Chong
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Education
October 20, 10:30am

Denise Chong has achieved eminence as an economist, public servant and author. She became a trailblazer for a more inclusive Canadian public service, first in the Department of Finance and later as senior economic advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office, where she worked closely with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Chong left the public service in 1985 to establish herself as a writer. Her highly-acclaimed books – The Concubine’s Children and The Girl in the Picture: The Kim Phuc Story – forged her reputation as a leading chronicler of the Asian-American experience. The Concubine’s Children won the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the City of Vancouver Book Award, and was short-listed for a Governor General’s literary award, as was The Girl in the Picture. Chong has continued her involvement in public life, serving on task forces, public boards and committees, including the Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service, the National Advisory Board on Culture Online, and the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Northern British Columbia.

Dr. Sheela Basrur
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Health, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science & Engineering
October 20, 3pm

Dr. Sheela Basrur served as the first medical officer of health for the amalgamated City of Toronto, leading one of the largest public health bodies in North America. Her leadership in handling the SARS outbreak in Toronto in 2003 earned her the respect of health care professionals around the world. In this role, Basrur was known for her ability to address systemic problems and her unique understanding of issues facing Toronto’s diverse communities, particularly those of immigrants and refugees. She was instrumental in the city’s banning of non-essential "cosmetic" pesticides and improving public health standards in Toronto’s restaurants. Basrur went on to serve as chief medical officer of health and assistant deputy minister of public health in the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care. She is a recipient of the YWCA Toronto 2004 Women of Distinction Award and an honorary member of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Charlotte Gray
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, Osgoode Hall Law School, Schulich School of Business
October 21, 10:30am

One of our country’s best-known writers of Canadian history, Charlotte Gray is the author of six books, most recently Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell. She has won numerous awards, including the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the Canadian Authors Association/Birks Foundation Award for Non-fiction, the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award for non-fiction and the Floyd S. Chalmers Award in Ontario History. Her first book, Mrs. King: The Life and Times of Isabel Mackenzie King, was nominated for a Governor-General’s literary award. In 2003, she was awarded the University of British Columbia Medal for Biography and the Pierre Berton Prize for distinguished achievement in popularizing and promoting Canadian history. She has contributed to many of Canada’s major magazines and newspapers and won several major magazine awards. Gray is a member of the Order of Canada.

York University’s Fall 2007 Convocation Ceremonies will be streamed live over the Internet. Click here to view the ceremonies.