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Honorary degree recipients announced

Spring convocation will feature luminaries such as Raptors’ Masai Ujiri
March 08, 2017
Clockwise from top left: Phyllis Yaffe, Masai Ujiri, David McKay, Cindy Blackstock, Bonnie Schmidt, Louis Vachon and Heather McGregor

Photo: Honorary degrees will be presented at Convocation this spring to (clockwise from top left): Phyllis Yaffe, Masai Ujiri, David McKay, Cindy Blackstock, Bonnie Schmidt, Louis Vachon and Heather McGregor.

Seven outstanding candidates will receive honorary doctorates at this year’s convocation ceremonies, taking place from June 6 to June 16, 2017. Here are the distinguished leaders to be honoured:

Faculty of Arts
Cindy Blackstock
Activist, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
Doctor of Laws

As executive director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and professor, School of Social Work, McGill University, Blackstock’s promotion of culturally based equity for First Nations children and families and engaging children in reconciliation has been recognized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Frontline Defenders and many others. A member of the Gitksan First Nation, Blackstock has 25 years of social work experience in child protection and indigenous children’s rights. 

Faculty of Communication & Design
Phyllis Yaffe
Consul General of Canada in New York, Canadian film and television executive, past member of Ryerson Board of Governors
Doctor of Laws

Phyllis Yaffe was announced as Canada's Consul General in New York in July 2016. Yaffe has served as chair of the board of Cineplex Entertainment, lead director of Torstar Corporation and as a member of the boards of Lionsgate Entertainment and Blue Ant Media. A former board member of Astral Media, for many years she served as a senior officer, and ultimately as chief executive officer, of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. Yaffe has also served as chair of the board of governors of Ryerson University.

Faculty of Community Services
Masai Ujiri
President, Toronto Raptors
Doctor of Laws

For the past four seasons, Masai Ujiri has been president and general manager of Basketball Operations of the Toronto Raptors. Considered one of the most proactive executives in the NBA, Ujiri was named 2012-13 NBA Executive of the Year, the only non-American to win the award. A native of Nigeria, Ujiri played professionally in Europe for six years, and has also managed and coached the Nigerian junior and senior national teams. On a humanitarian level, Ujiri has promoted and developed the game of basketball throughout Africa. He is the founder of the Giants of Africa Foundation, which launched the Top 50 and Bigman camps in his homeland. Ujiri also has served as the director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program since 2002.

Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science
David McKay
President and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada
Doctor of Laws

David McKay was appointed president of the Royal Bank of Canada on Feb. 26, 2014, and chief executive officer and director of the board on Aug. 1, 2014. McKay holds an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and a bachelor of mathematics from the University of Waterloo. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto and is a member of the Catalyst Canada Advisory Board and the Business Council of Canada. McKay was the 2016 United Way Toronto and York Region Campaign Chair.

Faculty of Science
Bonnie Schmidt
Founder and President of Let’s Talk Science
Doctor of Science

Bonnie Schmidt is the founder and president of Let’s Talk Science, an award-winning, national charitable organization that she started in 1991 while completing a PhD in physiology. Let’s Talk Science helps children and youth fulfil their potential and prepare for their future careers and citizenship role by supporting their learning through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) engagement. Since its inception, nearly five million youth and educators have been reached and an estimated 26,000 volunteers have been engaged with Let’s Talk Science.

Ted Rogers School of Management
Louis Vachon
President and CEO of the National Bank of Canada
Doctor of Laws

As president and chief executive officer of National Bank, a position he has held since June 2007, Louis Vachon is responsible for the strategies, orientations and development of the bank and its subsidiaries. Vachon began his career in 1985 at Citibank and joined Lévesque Beaubien Geoffrion in 1986. Vachon serves on the board of Molson Coors Brewing Company, and the CH Group Inc. He is a Member of the Order of Canada and recipient of the Global Citizens Award recognizing his contributions to numerous social and cultural organizations.

The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education
Heather McGregor
CEO of YWCA Toronto
Doctor of Laws

For more than 20 years McGregor has led the YWCA’s growth and expansion. Her skills in the expansion of programs such as housing, employment, and the building of support for women and girls disadvantaged by multiple barriers, have created higher community profile and financial sustainability. Before joining YWCA Toronto, McGregor held leadership roles in the Settlement House movement where her work focused on activities with multicultural communities in the inner city.