York confers an honorary degree on Mark Nathanson

York University has conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree on philanthropist Mark Nathanson. The awarding of the degree took place during a special private ceremony on Monday, Feb. 25, in Nassau, Bahamas. Nathanson, who was supposed to have received his honorary degree during Fall 2006 Convocation ceremonies for Osgoode Hall Law School, had been unable to travel to Toronto for health reasons.

The degree, conferred by York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, recognizes Nathanson’s business career and philanthropic work.

Left: Mark Nathanson

"The Nathanson name is well-known to members of the Osgoode community. In 1997, Mr. Nathanson made a substantial gift to Osgoode Hall Law School in honour of his parents to endow the Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime & Corruption," said Patrick Monahan, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School. "Nine years later, he supported broadening the centre’s mandate and changing its name to the Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security. He continues to contribute actively to the work of the centre while having utmost respect for the academic independence and autonomy of the law school to shape the centre’s research agenda."

Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1946, Nathanson worked as a teenager in his parents’ wholesale grocery operation where he learned the values of running a business with integrity and honesty. Later, after a period in university, he moved to England and became involved in a number of business ventures in the electronics and telecommunications fields, as well as the natural resource sector. In 1988, he got his big break with the discovery and subsequent development of a huge gold deposit in Western Mali, Africa.

In his business experience in many countries around the globe, he saw first-hand the debilitating effects on all sectors of a society that result from widespread and unchecked organized crime activity and from corruption among public officials, and he resolved to do something about it by creating the Nathanson Centre.

"He was also determined to give back to the community so that others could share in and benefit from his own good fortune. His generosity is legendary," said Monahan. "Recently, he made a substantial gift to St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. for The Maria Nathanson Center of Excellence for Gastrointestinal, Pulmonary and Renal Medicine & Research, named in honour of his late wife, Maria, who faced the challenges of renal disease for almost 30 years."

Nathanson’s lifelong contributions to the community have been reflected in numerous honours, awards and distinctions that he has received over the years. He is a trustee of the New York City Police Museum and benefactor of the museum’s forensics room; a director of the US Federal Law Enforcement Foundation; a director of New York’s Finest Foundation, which honoured him as Man of the Year at a dinner in 1999; and a charter member of the Canadian Chapter of Transparency International, a voluntary non-profit organization whose mission is to curb corruption and to encourage all parties to international business transactions to operate at the highest levels of integrity. He is the recipient of the 2000 New York Police Department Commissioner’s Award and the 2000 Federal Drug Agents Foundation Award for outstanding service to law enforcement internationally.