Spring Convocation ceremonies celebrate excellence

Eleven men and women who have demonstrated commitment and excellence in the public service and private sector will receive honorary degrees from York University during its Spring 2011 Convocation ceremonies.

Here are the recipients in order of the Faculty ceremonies where they will be honoured.

G.M. Rao
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Schulich School of Business
Friday, June 10G.M. Rao, 10:30am 

G.M. Rao (left) is a highly successful businessman and founder of GMR Group, an Indian infrastructure organization. To face the challenges of tomorrow and meet the future needs of a fast-developing country like India, he has built a system-driven company with a strong emphasis on transparency. Rao has combined an entrepreneurial spirit with a dynamic team of professional managers, who work in an enabling and vibrant organizational culture, to sustain and consistently meet his vision of “building entrepreneurial organizations that make a difference to society through creation of value.”

His commitment to corporate social responsibility through the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation highlights the importance of giving back to society. The foundation works with underprivileged areas of the community in all locations where GMR Group has business interests and is active in the areas of education, health and hygiene, community development and empowerment. Rao has received many local and global awards, including Outstanding Corporation at the Ethics in Business Awards, presented at the European Parliament, Brussels, and the 2008 TERI Award, India’s best-known award for corporate social responsibility.

Roderick Macdonald
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Osgoode Hall Law School
Roderick Macdonald Friday, June 10, 3:30pm

Roderick Macdonald (right) is a prominent Canadian legal scholar and leader in legal education. He has distinguished himself as one of Canada’s most renowned public law scholars and is also a leading scholar of Quebec civil law. He is currently the F.R. Scott Professor of Constitutional & Public Law at McGill and president of the Royal Society of Canada – the first law professor to have been elected to the position.

Macdonald has received numerous awards including the Killam Prize for outstanding career achievement in research and the Sir William Dawson Medal for the Social Sciences by the Royal Society of Canada.

Piers Handling
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Fine Arts
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies I
Piers HandlingMonday, June 13, 3:30pm

Piers Handling (left) is the director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Under his leadership, TIFF has consolidated its position as one of the most important global film festivals. The evolution of the film festival can be attributed to his skills both as an executive and scholar. He has organized numerous international programs, including major retrospectives of Canadian, Latin American, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Hungarian cinema. In addition, Handling was one of the co-founders of Perspective Canada, which transformed the exhibition profile of Canadian films in this country. He has also written extensively on Canadian cinema and has been published in numerous film journals.

The TIFF festival reflects his combination of managerial and artistic acumen. In spite of its massive scale and incredible success, TIFF has never lost its focus on the creative process at the heart of the film industry and particularly the role of the individual filmmaker.

Peter Mansbridge
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies II
Peter Mansbridge Tuesday, June 14, 10:30am

For more than 30 years, Peter Mansbridge (right) has dedicated his career to working at CBC Television News, covering countless events both in Canada and around the world. As chief correspondent of CBC, he has attained eminence in the field of broadcasting.

He has received 12 Gemini Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism, including nine for Best Anchor, and two Gordon Sinclair Awards as Best Overall Broadcast Journalist. He was also awarded the gold medal for Best News Anchor at the 2000 New York Festival in a competition of television networks around the world. On July 1, 2008, Mansbridge was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada.

John Warkentin
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies III
Wednesday, June 15, 10:30am
John Warkentin
John Warkentin (left), professor emeritus of York University, has an international reputation as a historical geographer and is recognized for his efforts to raise the profile of Canadian history, as well as for his contributions to the University as an outstanding teacher and colleague.

His publications are many and distinguished. Perhaps his crowning achievement is his co-editorship of the three-volume Canadian Historical Atlas, a 30-year commitment. In its embrace and synthesis of geography, history, sociology, anthropology and literature, the atlas is a treasure trove of information about Canada and also a stunning work of scholarship and art.

His eminence in his field has brought much credit to York University, and he has given richly in setting the highest possible standard of conduct as a scholar and a Canadian citizen. Warkentin has received many honours, among them fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada, the Massey Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and, in 2002, the Order of Canada.

Michael Stevenson
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies IV
Wednesday, June 15, 3:30pmMichael Stevenson

Michael Stevenson (right) is an eminent university administrator, community and educational leader, as well as scholar, whose contributions to York University and to postsecondary education in Canada are both fundamental and numerous. As vice-president academic affairs and provost of York from 1993 to 2000, he demonstrated remarkable vision and leadership, most notably as author of the 1999 planning document, Strategic Planning for the New Millennium, the premises and priorities of which continue to shape York’s institutional directions and culture today.

As the former president of Simon Fraser University, having retired in 2010, Stevenson made profound contributions to the growth of SFU and its development in new directions, as well as to the revitalization of the city of Vancouver.

Landon Pearson
Honorary Doctor of Laws Landon Pearson
Faculty of Health I
Thursday, June 16, 10:30am

Landon Pearson (right) has worked tirelessly for the rights of children in Canada and internationally. After many years of leadership, including as president and chair of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth and founder and chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, she was appointed to the Senate in 1994, where she continued her work for children. Since her retirement from the Senate, she has opened the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights at Carleton University, where she is an adjunct professor.

Pearson has received numerous awards nationally and internationally in recognition of her outstanding contributions to humankind, including the Canadian Volunteer Award and the Norma V. Bowen Humanitarian Award of the Ontario Psychological Foundation. In 2008, she was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

Bengt Saltin
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Health II
Thursday, JuneBengt Saltin 16, 3:30pm

Bengt Saltin (left) is well-known in the field of exercise physiology and is recognized as one of the earliest and most influential figures in generating the creative research that underpins many of the basic concepts around the theory of “exercise as medicine”. His pioneering research contributions to basic cardiovascular and muscle physiology, with exceptional applications to exercise physiology, are world-renowned.

He has published extensively, has established a world-class Muscle Research Centre in Copenhagen (on which the York University Muscle Health Research Centre is modelled) and has been a mentor to many students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty members who have visited him over the decades. Saltin has made an unparalleled contribution to knowledge of exercise adaptations, health and human physiology. For all of his efforts, he has received numerous awards from prestigious physiological, medical and exercise science organizations.

Dr. Samantha Nutt
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education I
Friday, June 17, 10:30amDr. Samantha Nutt

Dr. Samantha Nutt (right) is a medical professional with over 15 years of experience working in war zones. Committed to peace, human rights and social justice, her ambition has always been to help war-affected women and children. She has worked in some of the world’s most violent flashpoints – with War Child Canada, the United Nations and non-governmental Organizations – including Iraq, Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia, to name a few.

Over the course of her professional career, and as the founder and executive director of War Child Canada, Nutt has spearheaded efforts to provide direct humanitarian support and long-term programming to war-affected children and their families, and to promote greater awareness in Canada concerning the rights of children everywhere. Her work has been widely recognized around the world. Among other honours, she was the recipient of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 Award  and was recently named one of 25 Transformational Canadians, both by The Globe and Mail. Nutt was also designated by Time Magazine as one of Canada’s Five Leading Activists and was chosen as one of 200 Young Global Leaders in the World by the World Economic Forum. She was also awarded the Order of Ontario, the highest official honour in the province of Ontario.

Jean Augustine
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education II
Friday, June 17, 3:30pm

Jean AugustineBorn in Grenada, Jean Augustine (left) came to Canada in 1960. Early in her career, she served as an elementary school principal and later as chair of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority. She was the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to the House of Commons, where she served as minister of state for multiculturalism and the status of women, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister and deputy speaker.

In 2007, she was nominated by the Government of Ontario to become the first fairness commissioner, a position created to advocate for Canadians with foreign professional credentials.

She has shared her expertise and enthusiasm with others as a member of several community boards, including at York University. Every year, she makes a better future for young women through the Jean Augustine Scholarship, a fund that helps single mothers attend college. She is the recipient of many awards and is a member of the Order of Canada.

Jacques Ménard
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Glendon campus
Saturday, June 18, 2:30pm

Jacques Ménard Jacques Ménard (right) has had a distinguished career as a business leader. For more than 10 years, he has served as president of BMO Financial Group Quebec. He is also chairman of BMO Nesbitt Burns and is the past chairman of Hydro-Québec, the Investment Dealers Association of Canada and the Task Force on the Sustainability of the Quebec Health Care and Social Services System. At the same time, he has served as director of a large number of institutions, including the Montreal Heart Institute, the Institute for Research and Public Policy, and the Trudeau Foundation.

He has also made a unique contribution to Quebec public life by launching a public campaign to create awareness and concern about the extent to which Quebec youth are not completing high school. To raise awareness, Ménard chaired an action group and also published a book on the topic. He was named an officer of the Order of Canada and the Order of Quebec.

Ceremonies begin Friday, June 10 and continue to Saturday, June 18, 2011. They will be held at the Tennis Canada Rexall Centre on York’s Keele campus, with the exception of the Glendon College ceremony, which will take place on June 18 on the Glendon campus, 2275 Bayview Ave.

The Convocation website includes a full schedule of all ceremonies. If you can’t attend, you can watch the Spring 2011 Convocation ceremonies live on the Convocation website. After the event, all ceremonies will be archived on the Convocation website.