Twelve exceptional people, including a dancer, athlete, philanthropist, humanitarian, social activist and human rights lawyer, are among those who will be honoured by York University at spring convocation ceremonies June 7 to 15.
“The collective and individual contributions of these distinguished men and women have made the global community a better place for all of us,” says Mamdouh Shoukri, president and vice-chancellor, York University. “Each one of them, by example, inspires our graduates to fulfill their own potential in their chosen work and as citizens of the world.”
Here are the recipients in order of the Faculty ceremonies where they will be honoured:
Rick Hansen, Athlete, accessibility and inclusiveness advocate
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Health I
Friday, June 7, 10:30am
Winner of 19 international wheelchair marathons, nine gold medals at the 1982 Pan American Wheelchair Games, and six Paralympic medals, Rick Hansen is renowned for his tireless work in support of persons with disabilities and for promoting barrier-free education. He is best known in Canada and globally as the Man In Motion, who wheeled more than 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries, raising $26 million for spinal cord research and accessibility initiatives. He established the World Record for Longest Wheelchair Marathon, Guinness Book of World Records, and moved thousands of people to make a difference in their communities.
In 1987, Hansen established the Rick Hansen Foundation to continue his quest for an accessible and inclusive world. His leadership has helped to generate more than $280 million for spinal cord research and quality-of-life programs.
Hansen was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the BC Sport Hall of Fame in 2007. He has received the Order of Canada and Order of British Columbia.
Bengt Lindqvist, Accessibility rights advocate
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Health II
Friday, June 7, 3:30pm
Bengt Lindqvist’s leadership and dedication to the rights of persons with disabilities has had a lasting effect on the policies of governments and the lives of people throughout the world. Serving as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability from 1994 to 2003, he monitored the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, a framework to further the equality and full participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development. His work led directly to the creation of Disability Rights Promotion International, a collaborative project working to establish a comprehensive and sustainable international system to monitor the human rights of persons with disabilities, which is based at York University.
A language teacher by profession, Lindqvist was also a Member of Parliament in Sweden from 1982 to 1986, serving as Minister for Social Services and Family Affairs between 1985 and 1991. He is currently serving as Special Adviser to the Ministry for Social Affairs in the field of international disability matters.
Lindqvist has received numerous awards, including the King’s Medal.
Douglas Bergeron, Philanthropist, technology innovator and business executive
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Environmental Studies and Faculty of Science & Engineering (Lassonde School of Engineering and Faculty of Science)
Monday, June 10, 10:30am
Arguably one of the Lassonde School of Engineering’s most successful alumni, Douglas Bergeron graduated in 1983 with a degree in Computer Science. He later embarked on a remarkable career in the software and telecommunications sector, becoming a rising star in Silicon Valley. With his innovative spirit, he combined his understanding of technology with the essence of entrepreneurship to create profitable enterprises. His accolades include the 2007 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
He has championed causes in support of higher education, particularly in the areas of disease-related research support services, entrepreneurship, women in technology, and STEM education. He has also been a major presence in the battle against Multiple Sclerosis. Dedicated to philanthropy, entrepreneurship and social responsibility, Bergeron and his wife, Sandra recently donated $2 million to York University to create the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST) Program, with the aim of nurturing some of Canada’s brightest minds: individuals interested in effecting change through entrepreneurship and technology.
Peggy Baker, Artistic director, choreographer and dancer
Doctor of Letters
Faculty of Fine Arts and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies I
Monday, June 10, 3:30pm
One of Canada’s most eminent artists, Peggy Baker’s work as a dancer, choreographer, educator and advocate for dance has raised the profile of dance across the nation, expanded artistic expectations, and deepened dance education. Her teaching has inspired several generations of dancers, in the contexts of both modern dance and ballet.
In 1974, she was one of the founding members of Toronto’s Dancemakers. In 1980, she joined the celebrated New York-based Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, where she was a featured performer for eight years. She became the first-ever Artist-in-Residence at Canada’s National Ballet School in 1990. A decade later, she launched the Choreographers’ Trust, through which she has passed on her solo choreographies. She has also taught master classes through Peggy Baker Dance Projects for more than 20 years.
A member of the Order of Canada and Order of Ontario, Baker is known internationally for her generous and unflagging devotion to art.
Bromley Armstrong, Human rights, race relations and labour relations leader
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies II
Tuesday, June 11, 10:30am
One of Canada’s eminent human rights advocates, Bromley Armstrong has demonstrated dedication, passion, and lifelong commitment to the battle against racism. For over six decades, he has worked in civil and human rights, orchestrating civil society and government support for race relations and advocacy for public policy human rights reforms, which has led to greater levels of social justice for all Canadians.
Armstrong began his quest for increased levels of social justice when he immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in 1947. As a prominent and determined labour activist, he engaged the support of groups such as the National Unity Association and the Toronto-based Joint Labour Committee on Human Rights, and became instrumental in spearheading the passage of laws in Ontario prohibiting discrimination in housing and public places. He is also a founding member of numerous organizations, including the National Black Coalition in Canada and has been a mentor to university students and other community members. His autobiography is aptly titled: Bromley: Tireless Champion for Just Causes.
He is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, and has been awarded the Order of Distinction from Jamaica.
Gregory Sorbara, Former Ontario Cabinet Minister and lawyer
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies III
Tuesday, June 11, 3:30pm
Graduating in 1978 from Glendon College and in 1981 from Osgoode Hall Law School, Gregory Sorbara is a champion and longtime friend of York University. In his various capacities within the Government of Ontario in the late 1980s and early 1990s and again in the 2000s, he emerged as one of the most resourceful and well-respected of Ontario’s political leaders. He has championed post-secondary education as a catalyst for social and economic growth, as well as a driver of community building. His landmark second budget as Minister of Finance in 2005 featured the bold plan to invest significantly in increasing accessibility for low-income students while funding more enrollments and expanded faculty, graduate scholarships and research.
Sorbara has served in a number of leadership roles at York University, including as board member of the Alumni Association, and as a member of the advisory council of the York Circle. His dedication to York has been manifested in many ways, including his passionate advocacy for a subway extension to York and for many of the ambitious new buildings transforming the Keele campus.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, Human rights lawyer (currently imprisoned in Iran)
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies IV
Wednesday, June 12, 10:30am
Since graduating with a degree in law from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran and passing the Bar, Nasrin Sotoudeh has represented victims of human rights violations, including political dissidents such as Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and families of executed political prisoners. She has also taken on cases of child abuse and spousal abuse. As a leading Iranian human rights lawyer and women’s rights activist, she was an initiator of the “One-million Signature Campaign”, an attempt to reform the Islamic Family Law. Arrested in 2010 on charges of conspiring against national security, she was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin Prison, where she remains today.
Her courageous work fighting for justice and freedom under the most difficult and life-threatening of conditions has been recognized with several international prizes, including one from Italy’s Committee for Human Rights, the US PEN Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, and the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Serge Godin, Business leader
Doctor of Laws
Schulich School of Business
Thursday, June 13, 10:30am
Serge Godin is the founder and executive chairman of CGI Group, one of the largest global business consulting systems integration and outsourcing services companies, growing from two employees in 1976 to more than 72,000 in over 40 countries today. A highly successful entrepreneur and a Canadian pioneer in the field of information technology, Godin is also a leading Canadian philanthropist. In addition to helping many organizations raise money for education, healthcare and youth, he established a family foundation, Foundation Jeunesse-Vie, which has provided support for more than 90 schools, hospitals and youth groups.
Under Godin’s strong leadership, the task of being a responsible corporate citizen was embedded in CGI’s corporate values. Over the years, CGI has donated millions of dollars to various causes in the fields of education, healthcare and social services.
In recognition of his accomplishments, Godin has received numerous honours, including the Order of Canada and the Ordre national du Quebec. He was also inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Lawyer and children’s rights advocate
Doctor of Laws
Osgoode Hall Law School
Thursday, June 13, 3:30pm
Well-known for her involvement in projects relating to access to justice, judicial independence, and public outreach, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond received her law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1985, before going on to complete her master’s degree in international law from the University of Cambridge and a doctorate of law from Harvard Law School. She was appointed to the bench in 1998. Currently on leave from the Saskatchewan Provincial Court, she is serving as British Columbia’s first Representative for Children and Youth.
Turpel-Lafond has brought dedication and commitment to each of the positions she has held throughout her legal career. From lawyer in private practice to professor of law to judge to advocate for children’s rights, she is a true pioneer, particularly as the first Aboriginal tenured professor of law in Canada, and the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the judicial bench in Saskatchewan.
Her awards include one of Time magazine’s “Top 20 Canadian Leaders for the 21st Century” and the Perry Shawana Award for the leadership and advocacy she has provided for children’s rights.
Mary Anne Chambers, Former Ontario Cabinet Member and business leader
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education I
Friday, June 14, 10:30am
Mary Anne Chambers has served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and as Senior Vice President of Scotiabank. An advocate for socially progressive programs and policies, she has made a significant difference within the fields of education, social services and health care, particularly in her positions as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and Minister of Children and Youth Services. She improved the access to, and quality of, post-secondary education and training, initiated a review that led to fairer accreditation and hiring practices for internationally trained individuals, and effected positive change in early learning and child care, child protection, children’s mental health services, services for children with complex special needs, and youth justice programs and facilities.
In addition to her volunteer work with a significant number of local, national and international organizations, Chambers has also devoted time to working as chair of the newly formed advisory council for the York Centre for Education and Community. She is a philanthropist to numerous causes, and has personally funded more than 30 scholarships for first-year post-secondary students.
Craig Kielburger, Humanitarian and social activist
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education II
Friday, June 14, 3:30pm
At the age of 12, Craig Kielburger founded Free the Children, the world’s largest network of children helping children through education. He also co-founded Leaders Today, an organization that annually provided 350,000 young people with important leadership skills through a unique local and international training program. Throughout the years, Free the Children has built more than 450 schools worldwide, provided $11 million in medical supplies and more than 200,000 school and health kits to people in need, and established alternate income projects to help more than 20,000 women.
As an author, Kielburger has reached a wide audience and touched many lives. His first book, Free the Children, won the Christopher Book Award and was translated into eight languages. With his brother Marc he wrote Take Action! – A Guide to Active Citizenship, Take More Action, and From Me to We, books that encourage people to create a better world through volunteerism and social involvement.
Kielburger has won many prestigious awards, including the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award and the World Economic Forum GLT Award.
Jean-Michel Lacroix, Scholar and educator
Doctor of Laws
Saturday, June 15, 2:30pm
Jean-Michel Lacroix is an internationally respected scholar and a notable academic leader. Currently Professeur de civilisation nord-américaine at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, he served as president of the institution in 2001-2002. Prior to this, he served as Recteur-Chancelier de l’Académie in Besançon, a prestigious position that made him the representative of the Minister of Education in charge of education, including at the university level, in that designated region of France. He took up similar posts in Aix-Marseilles in 2002 and in Orléans-Tours in 2004.
Instrumental in advancing the study of Canada at the university level in France, Lacroix has also contributed significantly to the field’s international scope. A founder of the Association française d’Études canadiennes, he was also co-editor of the journal Études canadiennes and vice-president of the Association nationale France-Canada. He became France’s representative on the Council international d’Études canadiennes in 1983 and was the council’s president from 1989 to 1991. His contributions to research and scholarship include editing 20 volumes in Canadian Studies that span a broad range of subjects, including politics to culture to language.
The Convocation website includes a full schedule of all ceremonies, which will take place at the Convocation Pavilion located at the Rexall Centre on the Keele campus, with the exception of the final convocation ceremony, which will be held at the Glendon campus.