Media Releases

Renowned human rights advocate, banking boss and film legends among those set to receive honorary U of T degrees

February 27, 2015

TORONTO, ON — Track star Abby Hoff­man raised the bar for women in sport, Mark Car­ney helped Cana­da weath­er the first finan­cial storm of the 21st cen­tu­ry and Frank McKen­na strength­ened the country’s ties with the U.S.  Beyond our bor­ders, Graça Machel fought tire­less­ly for human rights in Mozam­bique, while Ital­ian film­mak­ing duo Rober­to Benig­ni and Nico­let­ta Braschi enchant­ed the world with a life-affirm­ing tale of joy found in the dark­est places. They are among 15 indi­vid­u­als set to receive hon­orary degrees from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

This year’s recip­i­ents, who will be hon­oured pri­mar­i­ly dur­ing con­vo­ca­tion cer­e­monies in 2015, also include thought lead­ers and renowned sci­en­tists and researchers. A sched­ule of events for the spring and fall cer­e­monies will be released as June con­vo­ca­tion approach­es.

“We are tremen­dous­ly excit­ed that these extra­or­di­nary indi­vid­u­als have accept­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s high­est hon­our,” said Pres­i­dent Mer­ic Gertler. “Their lead­er­ship extends across an incred­i­bly wide range of fields, and each of them is an inspi­ra­tion to the entire U of T com­mu­ni­ty.”

The hon­ourees are:

Arnold Aber­man – Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus Arnold Aber­man trans­formed the Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to while he was dean from 1992 to 1999. As vice-provost, he played a major role in restruc­tur­ing the Toron­to teach­ing hos­pi­tal sys­tem, bring­ing the hos­pi­tals into a much clos­er, coop­er­a­tive and inte­grat­ed rela­tion­ship with the Uni­ver­si­ty.

Alfred Aho – World-lead­ing com­put­er sci­en­tist Alfred Aho is known for his ground­break­ing research on pro­gram­ming lan­guages, com­pil­ers and algo­rithms. He has co-authored some of com­put­er science’s most wide­ly-used text­books, includ­ing The Design and Analy­sis of Com­put­er Algo­rithms and Prin­ci­ples of Com­pil­er Design. The Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor is also a co-inven­tor of the AWK pro­gram­ming lan­guage and con­tributed to the devel­op­ment of sev­er­al UNIX fea­tures.

Rober­to Benig­ni – Rober­to Benig­ni is a high­ly accom­plished Ital­ian film­mak­er, actor and writer best known for his 1997 film La vita è bel­la (Life is Beau­ti­ful). The film became the most suc­cess­ful Ital­ian film of all time and the most suc­cess­ful non-Eng­lish film ever. It was nom­i­nat­ed for sev­en Acad­e­my Awards, with Benig­ni win­ning the award for Best Actor – the first for a male per­former in a non-Eng­lish-speak­ing role – as well as Best For­eign Lan­guage Film and Best Orig­i­nal Dra­mat­ic Score. His con­tri­bu­tion to per­form­ing arts earned Benig­ni a nom­i­na­tion for a Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in 2007.

Nico­let­ta Braschi – A high­ly suc­cess­ful Ital­ian actress and pro­duc­er, Braschi boasts an exten­sive fil­mog­ra­phy. She has had sev­er­al suc­cess­ful film col­lab­o­ra­tions with her hus­band, includ­ing John­ny Stecchi­no (1991), Il mostro (1994), and La vita è bel­la. For her role as Dora Orefice in the lat­ter, Braschi received a nom­i­na­tion for a Screen Actors Guild award. In 1997, Braschi’s per­for­mance in Pao­lo Virzi’s Ovoso­do earned her much praise from crit­ics and audi­ences alike. A year lat­er, she was award­ed the David di Donatel­lo Award, as Best Sup­port­ing Actress, for her role in this film. In 2002, she became a mem­ber of the jury at the Berlin Film Fes­ti­val.

Mark Car­ney – In the five years that he head­ed Canada’s cen­tral bank, Mark Carney’s actions played a major role in help­ing Cana­da avoid the worst impacts of the finan­cial cri­sis that began in 2007. In Novem­ber 2012, Queen Eliz­a­beth II appoint­ed Car­ney as the first for­eign­er to lead the Bank of Eng­land. As a result of changes that took effect in 2013, the role comes with vast­ly enhanced pow­ers, and his appoint­ment is arguably the most sig­nif­i­cant in the Bank of England’s 318-year his­to­ry.

Jan Gehl – An award-win­ning Dan­ish archi­tect and urban design con­sul­tant, Jan Gehl has helped trans­form urban envi­ron­ments in cities like Copen­hagen, Lon­don and New York. His designs, such as devel­op­ing the car-free zone and bike-path net­work in Copen­hagen, reflect his the­o­ry that cities should be built shaped to the needs of the inhab­i­tants. His first book, Life Between Build­ings, is con­sid­ered a clas­sic. He has act­ed as a con­sul­tant to city coun­cil and city plan­ning depart­ments across Europe, North Amer­i­ca, Aus­tralia, Japan, Sin­ga­pore and Sau­di Ara­bia.

Abi­gail (Abby) Hoff­man – It began in the mid-1950s with Abby Hoff­man cut­ting her hair short at the age of nine so she could join a boys’ hock­ey league. She went on to com­pete in track and field at four Olympics, won gold at the Pan Am Games in 1973 and 1981 and even­tu­al­ly became the first woman to head Sports Cana­da. Hoff­man was also instru­men­tal in the estab­lish­ment of the women’s hock­ey cham­pi­onships. While work­ing to rev­o­lu­tion­ize women’s sports in Cana­da, Hoff­man also made strides for women right at U of T, as a leader in the cam­paign to gain admis­sion for women to Hart House.

Maria Klawe – Maria Klawe is a renowned com­put­er sci­en­tist, math­e­mati­cian and inter­na­tion­al­ly-rec­og­nized advo­cate for women in sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing and math (STEM). As dean of sci­ence at UBC, dean of engi­neer­ing at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty and pres­i­dent of Har­vey Mudd Col­lege, a high­ly-regard­ed under­grad­u­ate engi­neer­ing school, Klawe pio­neered inno­v­a­tive strate­gies to sup­port under­rep­re­sent­ed groups in STEM.

Graça Machel – Graça Machel is a tire­less advo­cate for women, chil­dren and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment. As min­is­ter of edu­ca­tion in Mozam­bique, she imple­ment­ed uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion in the coun­try. In 1994, Machel’s ground­break­ing report on the impact of armed con­flict on chil­dren led the U.N. to appoint a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the issue. Machel is a found­ing mem­ber of the Glob­al Elders, a group of inde­pen­dent glob­al lead­ers brought togeth­er by Nel­son Man­dela, who offer their col­lec­tive influ­ence and expe­ri­ence to sup­port peace build­ing, help address major caus­es of human suf­fer­ing and pro­mote the shared inter­ests of human­i­ty. Machel will receive her hon­orary degree in 2016.

Bob McDon­ald – Bob McDon­ald has been engag­ing audi­ences of all ages for decades with his pas­sion for sci­ence. With CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, and as the sci­ence cor­re­spon­dent on The Nation­al, McDon­ald has a glob­al reach through dig­i­tal media and a week­ly audi­ence of over 500,000. He is applaud­ed for com­bin­ing his love of sci­ence with his abil­i­ty as a jour­nal­ist to make sci­ence eas­i­er to under­stand for the greater pub­lic. Many of the caus­es he sup­ports, includ­ing Let’s Talk Sci­ence, fur­ther pro­mote sci­ence edu­ca­tion across the coun­try.

Frank McKen­na – For­mer New Brunswick pre­mier Frank McKen­na led the province to unprece­dent­ed growth and pros­per­i­ty between 1987 and 1997. He pro­mot­ed small- and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es, gen­er­at­ed bud­get sur­plus­es, reduced the provin­cial debt and sup­port­ed the Canada‑U.S. Free Trade Agree­ment. He went on to become Canada’s ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States. As deputy chair of TD Bank Group, McKen­na has helped the bank expand its North Amer­i­can port­fo­lio, mak­ing it one of the 10 largest banks in the world.

Jacque­line Novo­gratz – Founder and CEO of the Acu­men Fund and one of the world’s most inno­v­a­tive voic­es in phil­an­thropy, Jacque­line Novo­gratz is wide­ly rec­og­nized as a thought leader on devel­op­ment and aid to devel­op­ing coun­tries. Under her lead­er­ship, Acu­men Fund has invest­ed more than $80 mil­lion in African and South Asian com­pa­nies that pro­vide afford­able health care, water, hous­ing and ener­gy to the poor. In 2009, Novo­gratz was named one of For­eign Pol­i­cy magazine’s Top 100 Glob­al Thinkers.

Sir Paul Nurse – Sir Paul Nurse is renowned for his land­mark con­tri­bu­tions to cell biol­o­gy, and his lead­er­ship of some of the world’s most pres­ti­gious research orga­ni­za­tions. His role in iden­ti­fy­ing the pro­tein mol­e­cules that con­trol the divi­sion of cells earned him the 2001 Nobel Prize in Phys­i­ol­o­gy or Med­i­cine, which he shared with Lee Hartwell and Tim Hunt. Their break­through dis­cov­ery has led to sig­nif­i­cant advances in med­i­cine, biol­o­gy and can­cer research over the past 25 years. Nurse was pres­i­dent of the Rock­e­feller Uni­ver­si­ty from 2003 to 2010, and cur­rent­ly serves as pres­i­dent of the Roy­al Soci­ety and direc­tor and chief exec­u­tive of the Fran­cis Crick Insti­tute in Lon­don.

Sir Richard Peto – Over the past 20 years, Sir Richard Peto of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford has been the most influ­en­tial epi­demi­ol­o­gist in the world. His stud­ies on tobac­co and chron­ic dis­ease risk fac­tors, large-scale clin­i­cal tri­als and meta-analy­ses have direct­ly con­tributed to improved patient care in Cana­da and around the world. Peto has con­duct­ed many large ran­dom­ized tri­als of now com­mon­ly-used treat­ments, and sev­er­al large col­lab­o­ra­tive meta-analy­ses of all avail­able tri­als that have changed world­wide prac­tice in a num­ber of areas, includ­ing chemother­a­py and radio­ther­a­py.

Paul Vol­ck­er – If you have stud­ied eco­nom­ics, you’ve heard of the Vol­ck­er Rule, which pro­hibits banks from engag­ing in pro­pri­etary trad­ing that is not at the behest of its clients, and from own­ing or invest­ing in a hedge fund or pri­vate equi­ty fund. Econ­o­mist Paul Vol­ck­er, after whom the phrase was coined, served as chair of the Unit­ed States Fed­er­al Reserve from 1979 to 1987 and is wide­ly cred­it­ed with end­ing America’s spi­ral infla­tion at the time. His approach to fight­ing infla­tion rep­re­sent­ed a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to our under­stand­ing of macro­eco­nom­ic forces in the glob­al econ­o­my. Dur­ing the finan­cial cri­sis of 2008–2009, he was asked to serve as the chair of Pres­i­dent Obama’s Eco­nom­ic Recov­ery Advi­so­ry Board.


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