Five extraordinary individuals to receive honorary degrees

Five extraordinary individuals will be honoured as part of York University’s Fall 2009 Convocation ceremonies, which run Oct. 16 to 18 at the Keele campus.

Those being honoured include former provincial cabinet minister and ambassador Alvin Curling, actor and environmentalist Woody Harrelson, civic leader and pastor Brent Hawkes, business leader and philanthropist Timothy Price, and activist and scholar Shelagh Wilkinson.

"These individuals are remarkabale both for the level of success they have achieved, and for the diverse areas in which they have succeeded – politics and acting, activism and academia, business and community leadership," said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.

Alvin Curling
Former provincial cabinet minister and ambassador 
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Arts and Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies (I)
Sunday, Oct. 18, 10:30am

Alvin Curling has served the public in many different ways. He was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1985 in the suburban Toronto riding of Scarborough North. Appointed minister of housing that year, he was the first black Canadian to hold a cabinet position in Ontario. He has served as the speaker of the legislature and was Canada’s envoy to the Dominican Republic in 2005-2006. Most recently, he co-chaired, with York Chancellor Roy McMurtry, the premier’s Task Force on the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence. Curling is credited with establishing the first comprehensive housing policy for the province. He is a tireless crusader for the betterment of our communities and particularly for the advancement of the less fortunate in society. 

Woody Harrelson
Actor and environmental activist
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Fine Arts, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Science & Engineering, Glendon
Saturday, Oct. 17, 3:30pm

Woody Harrelson is well known for his prolific work as an actor, particularly in the television series “Cheers”, as well as for his Academy Award-nominated performance in The People vs. Larry Flynt and most recently, the critically acclaimed film Zombieland. He is also a deeply committed activist and uses his celebrity to promote sustainability and environmental causes. Leading by example, he is dedicated to educating young people about the environment. In 2001, he embarked on a bicycle tour of the Pacific Coast Highway accompanied by a biofuelled bus to promote simple organic living. Along the way, he stopped and lectured at college and university campuses. The tour became the subject of the Genie Award-nominated documentary Go Further and Harrelson co-authored the companion book How to Go Further: A Guide to Simple Organic Living. Together with his wife Laura Louie, Harrelson runs the Voice Yourself Web community, dedicated to giving a voice to environmental activism.

Reverend Brent Hawkes
Senior pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Graduate Studies, Osgoode Hall Law School, Schulich School of Business, Faculty of Health
Saturday, Oct. 17, 10:30am

Brent Hawkes has been a civic leader for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community for 25 years. Since 1977, he has served as senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for LGBT parishioners, and is one of Canada’s leading gay rights activists. The Metropolitan Community Church has served as a bastion of open-mindedness and welcomes all people, especially LGBT people who have been rejected from other congregations. Hawkes and his congregation have raised funds for LGBT charities, including HIV/AIDS organizations. As a community leader and social activist, he has tirelessly advocated for equal rights for the LGBT community. In 2007, Hawkes was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

Timothy Price
Business leader, philanthropist
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Schulich School of Business Executive MBA
Friday, Oct. 16, 10am

Timothy Price is currently the chair of Brookfield Funds at Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and has served previously as chair of the board of directors or chief executive of a number of Brookfield’s predecessor companies. He is an active volunteer in the community and at York University, where he has served as vice-chair of the Board of Governors and currently serves as chair of the York University Foundation Board of Directors and co-chair of the York to the Power of 50 campaign. He is also a generous donor to York University. In the community, Price serves on the boards of the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health Foundation, and the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall.

Shelagh Wilkinson
Scholar and activist
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Arts and Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies (II)
Sunday, Oct. 18, 3:30pm 

Professor Shelagh Wilkinson is well known in Canada and around the world for her work to improve access to higher education as well as health and political rights for women. She was the first editor and a tireless supporter of Canadian Woman Studies, a journal that has raised the profile of issues in a most inclusive way, incorporating research other than scholarly or government studies, poetry and life-writing. Of particular note is her role in the creation of the Women’s Studies Bridging Program at York, which has brought so many women across the divide between their lives in the community and the world of academia, an example of her academic outreach and quest for social justice. 

York University’s Fall 2009 Convocation ceremonies will be held in the Centre of Excellence, known as Convocation Pavilion, in the Rexall Centre complex. They will also be streamed live over the Internet. Click here to view the ceremonies.