York celebrates leaders in arts, culture and law

convocation stage

Thirteen exceptional people, including a journalist, an athlete, an innovation leader and champion of arts and culture, along with a senator, human rights activist and a judge will receive honorary degrees from York at spring convocation ceremonies June 8 to 16.

“We are pleased to recognize such a highly distinguished group of individuals,” says Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president and vice-chancellor. “These are talented men and women whose commitment to making a difference in the world serves as an inspiration to our graduates.”

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

Barbara TurnbullBarbara Turnbull,Journalist, activist
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Health I
Friday, June 8, 10:30am

Barbara Turnbull is a life reporter for the Toronto Star and an outspoken advocate for accessibility. Turnbull was left a quadriplegic after being shot in a robbery at the convenience store where she was working at the age of 18.

In 1997, she published her autobiography, Looking in the Mirror, speaking frankly about the facts of life for those with disabilities in our communities and in the workplace. Dedicated to advancing research into neural regeneration for paralysis, she created the Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Cord Research. She has devoted her time, energy, her book’s proceeds and all speaking fees to the foundation. In conjunction with NeuroScience Canada, the foundation has created the Barbara Turnbull Award, a major annual award in support of spinal cord research.

Turnbull is also a council member of the Robarts Research Institute for medical research programs and honourary co-chair of the University Health Network, which supports the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion initiative. She has been recognized by the YWCA of Toronto as a Woman of Distinction.

Laura Jane RobinsonLaura Jane Robinson,Athlete, journalist, activist
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Health II
Friday, June 8, 3:30pm 

Laura Robinson is a distinguished athlete, an accomplished author and freelance journalist, a coach and mentor, and a pioneer in the movement for women’s visibility, equity and opportunity in athletics.

As a young athlete, Laura Robinson witnessed first-hand the pressures, inequities and risks that were faced by women athletes. Through her journalism, Robinson has educated the Canadian public and sports authorities about gender and race disparity. Through her coaching and mentorship – particularly in the chronically under-served First Nations communities – she has put remedies into practice.

The author of five books on issues in sport, Robinson’s work has appeared in international media and she has produced several documentaries. Robinson’s contributions to the sports world as an advocate, thought leader and mentor are mirrored by her athletic achievements – she is a former member of Canada’s national cycling team, a provincial skiing champion and a national champion in rowing.

Robinson is the recipient of several awards, including the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, the Robertine Barry Prize by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Debwewin Citation for excellence in journalism and Best Short Live Film at the American Indian Film Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, for her documentary on First Nations athletes.

David J. McFaddenDavid J. McFadden,Energy lawyer, academic innovation supporter
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Environmental Studies and Faculty of Science & Engineering
Monday, June 11, 10:30am 

David McFadden spearheaded evolution of the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) as the chair of the board of directors from 2004 to 2011. Under his leadership, OCE solidified its capacity to bring together academic and industry partners to commercialize cutting-edge academic research and foster the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

He also served two years as a member of the Ontario Research & Innovation Council, developing a long-term innovation strategy for Ontario. A partner and member of the board of trustees at Gowlings’ Toronto law office, he acts for corporations, municipalities and utilities involved in the generation, distribution, marketing and financing of energy. He has also served on several government task forces, including the Ontario government’s Electricity Conservation & Supply Task Force and the Electric System Working Group, part of the joint Canada-US task force established to investigate the power blackout that hit Ontario and much of the northeastern US in August 2003.

He is currently a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, the Canadian Nuclear Law Organization, the Energy Council of Canada and member of Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy’s advisory council. The Association of Power Producers of Ontario named him the 2001 recipient of its Ontario Competition Award for Electricity in recognition of his efforts in advancing competition in the electricity industry in Ontario.

William J. S. Boyle,William J. S. Boyle,Innovation leader and champion of arts and culture
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Fine Arts and Faculty of Liberal Arts &Professional Studies
Monday, June 11, 3:30pm

A graduate of York University (BA ’69, MA ’71) William Boyle has had a multi-dimensional arts career that has been recognized both nationally and internationally. In his role as the chief executive officer of Harbourfront Centre, Boyle is considered the primary cultural architect of one of Canada’s largest multidisciplinary cultural centres.

In 2003, former prime minister Jean Chrétien appointed Boyle to the Canada-Japan Forum.  Boyle is a member of the Order of Canada and in 2004 he received an outstanding contribution award from the Association of Cultural Executives. He was appointed a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Boyle has been described an effective advocate for the integration of the arts in the broader community and one of Canada’s greatest cultural mentors – a person who passionately promotes both emerging and mature artistic talent and innovation here and abroad.

Michael EnrightMichael Enright,Broadcaster
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies II
Tuesday, June 12, 10:30am

One of Canada’s most recognizable voices and the current host of CBC Radio’s “The Sunday Edition”, Michael Enright has been educating, entertaining and informing Canadians for more than 30 years.

Enright’s journalistic credits are impressive. He has written for Time, Maclean’s, the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, and is a former managing editor of CBC Radio News and longtime co-host of CBC Radio’s “As It Happens”. A fearless interviewer with boundless curiosity and a commitment to looking at stories differently, he has taught Canadians to demand more than the easy answer.

Don OliverDon Oliver,Senator, human rights activist
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies III
Tuesday, June 12, 3:30pm

Don Oliver has served as a Canadian senator since 1990. A tireless advocate for the rights of visible minorities, he helped change organizational practices in the Public Service of Canada that have led to increased hiring, promotion and retention of visible minorities. In 2005, he spearheaded the largest study in the history of Canada on barriers to the advancement of visible minorities in both the public and the private sector.

Oliver is the recipient of several honours, including the DreamKEEPERS Life Achievement Award from the Canadian Martin Luther King Day Coalition, an Outstanding Achievement Award from National Council of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service and a Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Jean-Robert PitteJean-Robert Pitte,Scholar
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies IV
Wednesday, June 13, 10:30am

One of the world’s eminent historical geographers, Jean-Robert Pitte has written more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles on the history of the French countryside, the geography of wine and a historical geography of the chestnut tree, among others. He was the president of one of France’s most distinguished universities, Université Paris-Sorbonne, from 2003 to 2008.

He was an adviser to the former French prime minister on education and youth employment, responsible for creating a national plan to improve youth success in the education system.

Jean-Robert Pitte is the recipient of several honours, including Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, Officier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques and Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

Barbara Jean McDougall ZimmermanBarbara Jean McDougall Zimmerman,Politician, PC, OC
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies V
Wednesday, June 13, 3:30pm

Barbara Jean McDougall Zimmerman, PC, OC, was a Member of the Parliament of Canada for nearly 10 years. She held several cabinet posts, including minister of state for finance and the status of women, minister of employment and immigration, and secretary of state for external affairs.

After leaving Parliament, she used her extensive experience in international policy to promote growth, development and solutions to conflict around the world as the Canadian representative to the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, the International Crisis Group in Brussels and the International Advisory Board for the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

She is a member of the board of the Canadian Opera Company and is chair of the Patrons’ Council for the Toronto Association for Community Living. She served on York University’s Board of Governors for eight years and is now an honorary governor. She was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.

Dominic Stephen BartonDominic Stephen Barton,Business leader
Doctor of Laws
Schulich School of Business
Thursday, June 14, 10:30am 

Current managing director of management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Dominic Barton is a leader in the field of corporate responsibility and responsible capitalism. He led McKinsey’s office in Korea from 2000 to 2004 and worked in Shanghai as McKinsey’s chairman in Asia from 2004 to 2009.

He is the author of Dangerous Markets: Managing in Financial Crises (with two co-authors) and China Vignettes: An Inside Look at China. Dominic Barton received the Magnolia Gold Prize from the Shanghai government for his outstanding contributions to the city’s development, was named one of the 100 most influential people in corporate governance by the National Association of Corporate Directors, and was named a Rhodes Trustee in 2010. He is also a member of the Schulich Dean’s Advisory Council.

Warren K. WinklerWarren K. Winkler,Judge, legal scholar
Doctor of Laws
Osgoode Hall Law School
Thursday, June 14, 3:30pm

Warren K. Winkler was appointed chief justice of Ontario in 2007, following 14 years as a trial judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario. As a superior court justice, he was a judicial mediator for many large national and international disputes, including the restructuring of Air Canada and the Walkerton tainted water disaster.

His expertise in civil litigation, class proceedings, commercial and administrative law and his skills as a mediator have contributed significantly to grounding judicial mediation into the court process in Ontario. In recognition of his superior mediation skills, the “Winkler Cup” is awarded annually at the Canadian National Mediation Advocacy Competition.

Osgoode Hall Law School established a scholarship in Winkler’s honour in 1988, in recognition of the double graduate. He is the recipient of the Toronto Lawyers’ Association Award of Distinction, the University of Toronto’s Bora Laskin Award for Outstanding Contributions to Labour Law, and the Ontario Bar Association’s Award of Excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Ratna OmidvarRatna Omidvar, Social activist
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education I
Friday, June 15, 10:30am

Having arrived in Canada in 1981 as a refugee, Ratna Omidvar has first-hand knowledge of the difficulties immigrants face in establishing careers and financial security. Forced to reinvent herself after her teaching qualifications were not recognized in Canada, she became a settlement worker helping skilled immigrants find jobs, and eventually became a sought-after expert on immigration and integration issues.

Omidvar is currently the president of Maytree Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to reducing poverty and inequality in Canada. It helped to accelerate the integration of immigrants and refugees so they can contribute quickly and effectively to society. She also serves as a director of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance and is the chair of the board of directors of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

She has been appointed to a number of task forces, including the Transition Advisory Board to the premier of Ontario and to former prime minister Paul Martin’s External Advisory Committee on Cities and Communities. Omidvar was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2006 and made a member of the Order of Canada in 2011.

Opiyo OloyaOpiyo Oloya, Educator, activist, humanitarian
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education II
Friday, June 15, 3:30p 

Currently the Superintendent of Education, Opiyo Oloya has been an educator with the York Region Catholic School Board for 23 years. He has worked to address important issues such as bullying and literacy, and has inspired student-led initiatives to reach out to students in Africa.

Born and raised in Uganda, Oloya became involved in national political activism for democratic reforms during the late 1970s. While president of the Makerere University Student Guild, he publicly condemned the 1980 national election as fraudulent, drawing the attention of Uganda’s president, Milton Obote. After he rejected the president’s request for a dialogue with students, Oloya was asked to surrender, but he chose exile in Kenya instead. Later that year, he was granted refugee status in Canada.

His activities – from founding the Karibuni African Music Program on CIUT in 1992 to his 2010 journey to Mogadishu, Somalia, with AMISOM troops – underscore his commitment to promoting peace and respect for all cultures and people. Oloya is also the founder of International Resources for the Education of African Deaf and Blind Children (I Read ABC).

Chantal HébertChantal Hébert, Journalist
Doctor of Laws
Glendon College
Saturday, June 16, 2:30pm

Chantal Hébert is one of the most respected political journalists in Canada – in both official languages. She is a columnist for the Toronto Star, Le Devoir and L’Actualité and appears weekly on CBC’s The National as a part of the At Issue panel and on Radio-Canada’s C’est bien meilleur le matin (radio) and Les Coulisses du Pouvoir (TV). She published her first book, French Kiss: Stephen Harper’s Blind Date with Quebec, in 2007.

A francophone whose family moved from Hull, Quebec, to Toronto when she was in high school, Hébert has a unique view on the challenges of living in a country with two official languages. Her experiences give her a distinct understanding of national political affairs and the different political cultures of Quebec and Ontario.

A Glendon graduate, she has served on Glendon’s School of Public & International Affairs advisory committee since its creation and was awarded a Bryden Alumni Award for Pinnacle Achievement in 2006. Hébert is also a recipient of APEX’s Public Service Citation and the Hyman Solomon Award for Excellence in Public Policy Journalism.