University’s general counsel awarded coveted John Hackett Memorial Award

Harriet Lewis, York’s university secretary & general counsel, has been awarded this year’s coveted annual John Hackett Memorial Award for, among other things, her generous spirit and goodwill.

Lewis accepted the award at a recent conference of the Canadian Association of University Solicitors (CAUS) in Vancouver from outgoing CAUS president Mary Childs, legal counsel for the University of Guelph.

Right: Harriet Lewis

It is an award given to someone who personifies the values held by the late John Hackett, an original and founding member of CAUS, and who, like Hackett, earned the respect of CAUS members by demonstrating a dedication to goodwill, friendship and rigorous legal scholarship in university legal issues.

“There is no question that Harriet’s list of accomplishments is one which meets the test of rigorous legal scholarship in university legal affairs,” said Childs at the award ceremony. “However, the Hackett award is more than a professional citation of accomplishment. It is an expression of gratitude from colleagues who wish to acknowledge the gift of goodwill and kinship offered by the honouree. Harriet has offered to her colleagues advice, warmth, mentorship and generosity.”

Childs quoted a colleague of Lewis’ who said, “Harriet always looks for opportunities to help others shine, and in so doing the light shines back upon her in the form of our gratefulness and support. Harriet is warm and understanding…but look out, because she is also really strong and effective when need be. It’s not often that one finds these qualities in the same person.”

In addition, the award is given to someone who has been a long-standing presence in the university legal community. As general counsel, Lewis has helped define the role of university counsel and pioneered the adaptation of University regulations, policies and best practices to comply with evolving legal standards. “That insight, knowledge and experience has been shared to the benefit of all our members with a mix of warmth and good humour,” said Childs. “When one finds all those qualities in the same person and in a profession not always known for those attributes, it is indeed an honour to be able to allow that person’s light to shine.”

Lewis, who was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1977, spent several years in private practice before returning to York in 1988 in the role of University counsel. In June 1998 she was appointed University secretary and as such, is the secretary of the board of governors and its committees as well as the secretary of senate, its executive committee and sub-committee on honorary degrees and ceremonials.

She is also a member of the University Executive Committee, the President’s/Vice-President’s Committee and several other administrative committees. Lewis has served as chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Universities Reciprocal Insurance Exchange, and is a past-president of CAUS.