McGill to bestow 11 exemplary individuals with honorary degrees at Spring Convocation


Published: 29Apr2009

Eleven exceptional individuals will be recognized with honorary degrees from McGill University during this year’s spring convocation ceremonies. From Canada’s first black female MP to a groundbreaking computer scientist, and from a leading American university president to a remarkable Montreal activist and volunteer, these recipients will join approximately 6,300 graduating students, and take the stage during Spring Convocation ceremonies from May 22 to May 29.

McGill University honorary degree recipients, spring 2009:

(In order of presentation)

Professor Walter P. Falcon, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Friday, May 22, 2:30 p.m.

A distinguished scholar of international repute, Professor Walter Falcon is the Farnsworth Emeritus Professor of International Agricultural Policy and Deputy Director of the Food Security and Environment Program at Stanford University. Professor Falcon has made great contributions to worldwide food security and to the problems relating to world hunger. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to academia, teaching and research, Professor Falcon was elected a Fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. John Blachford, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Faculty of Science, Monday, May 25, 10:00 a.m.

John Blachford is the President of H. L. Blachford Limited, a company that designs, manufactures, and supplies lubricants and chemicals for the metals, rubber, and plastics industries. Dedicated to Responsible Care®, a global initiative, Dr. Blachford believes in sharing a common commitment to advancing the safe management of chemical products and processes. He has been named a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, an award granted to individuals for exceptional contributions to the chemical profession. Dr. Blachford has been a generous and visionary philanthropist. At McGill, he contributed the major gift which created the Fessenden Innovation Professorships, and helped to create the Trenholme Chair in University Libraries.

Dr. Frances E. Allen, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Faculty of Science, Monday, May 25, 2:00 p.m.

For her "pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of optimizing compiler techniques that laid the foundation for modern optimizing compilers and automatic parallel execution," Frances Allen became the first woman recipient of the prestigious Turing Award in 2006. She joined IBM Research in 1957 and worked there until her retirement in 2002. Her research focus on how to automatically parallelize programs has, in recent years, become a mainstream issue. In addition to the Turing Award, Dr. Allen has received many other distinctions. She is an ACM and IEEE Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Frances Allen is a remarkable scientist with a passion for research who has broken many barriers for women in her field.

Professor James J. Duderstadt, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Faculty of Engineering, Tuesday, May 26, 10 a.m.

Nuclear engineer, university president, researcher and author, Professor James J. Duderstadt is one of America’s pre-eminent authorities on the subject of higher education and the information revolution. He is credited with re-shaping the University of Michigan’s campus, creating a more equitable environment for women and overseeing the development of the Institute of Humanities, the Institute of Molecular Medicine, and the Davidson Institute for Emerging Economies. The youngest person ever appointed Dean of the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, Professor Duderstadt went on to become the first engineer to serve as the University’s Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs. Two years later he was named University President.

Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Health Sciences, Tuesday, May 26, 2 p.m.

Dr. Lawrence Tabak is Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR, USA). He promotes research on oral and craniofacial health and disease. Dr. Tabak’s research focuses on the structure, biosynthesis and function of mucins, a group of molecules that protect all mucosal surfaces of the body.  His work on the structure, biosynthesis, and function of salivary mucins, and pathogenesis of salivary gland disease is groundbreaking. His landmark work on the structure of the major oligosaccharides was named a "Citation Classic" by Science Citation Index.

Mrs. Kappy Flanders, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Health Sciences, Tuesday, May 26, 2 p.m.

Kappy Flanders has achieved a range of stellar community-based accomplishments within the Jewish community, in Montreal and for McGill University.  Her work includes leading the first Women’s Mission to Israel (1972), serving as President of the United Israel Appeal of Canada (1974), chairing the Israel Cancer Research Fund, founding the Council on Palliative Care, and establishing the Eric Flanders Chair in Palliative Care Medicine for McGill University. In 2001, she launched McGill’s Mini-Med, a series of popular lectures now spread to other McGill faculties and other universities. Mrs. Flanders is a McGill Governor Emerita and the recipient of numerous awards, notably the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal for her contribution to the establishment of the Council on Palliative Care (2003). As a volunteer and often at her own expense, she has been active in many successful initiatives linking McGill and the community.

The Honourable Jean M. Augustine, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Faculty of Education, Wednesday May 27, 10 a.m.

Jean Augustine is the first black woman elected to Canadian parliament. She worked as a domestic and clerk while earning an Ontario Teacher’s Certificate, and completed a Master of Education Degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Jean Augustine has served on many boards including the Board of Governors of York University, which established the Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment to commemorate her 70th birthday. During her term as a member of Parliament beginning in 1993, Jean Augustine has held many positions, including Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister; Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus; Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and The Status of Women; Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Assistant Deputy Speaker. Her work initiated two important motions in Parliament: the declaration of February as Black History Month in Canada and the installation of the Famous Five Statue on Parliament Hill.

Professor Michael E. Porter, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Desautels Faculty of Management, Wednesday, May 27, 2 p.m.

Professor Michael Porter’s ideas have enabled companies and governments to increase their economic edge. As a renowned scholar, his theories have been used by companies and political jurisdictions (including Quebec and Canada) on all continents. His work on the relationship between competition and society has evolved to include research on health care, the environment and philanthropy. Prof. Porter is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a non-profit, private sector organization that promotes economic development in distressed U.S. urban neighbourhoods. He is also co-founder of the Centre for Effective Philanthropy, an organization dedicated to improving foundation performance.

Mr. Melvin Charney, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Religious Studies, Thursday, May 28, 10 a.m.

Melvin Charney has produced an impressive body of work combining art and architecture for more than 30 years. His work has provoked interest on the nature of the urban landscape and the connection between the notion of site and physical location. He is best known for his large-scale installations including Les maisons de la rue Sherbrooke (1976) and A Chicago Construction (1982). Mr. Charney has won a number of competitions including the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights in Ottawa inaugurated in 1991. In 2003, Mr. Charney was appointed chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec for his outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the growth of Quebec. In 2006 he was named Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honour bestowed by the French government for individual contribution to culture.

Professor Richard Sorabji, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Faculty of Arts, Thursday, May 28, 2 p.m.

Considered one of the foremost historians of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, Professor Richard Sorabji is Charterhouse and Oxford educated. He founded the King’s College Centre for Philosophical Studies in London in order to promote the study of philosophy. As founder and director of the international "Ancient Commentators on Aristotle," he has overseen the publication of more than 60 volumes of translation of philosophical texts. Since becoming Emeritus Professor Philosophy at King's College he has held teaching positions at Gresham College, London; the University of Texas at Austin, he has also served as a distinguished visiting scholar at New York University and visiting professor at City University of New York among others.

Professor Richard M. Buxbaum, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Faculty of Law, Friday, May 29, 10 a.m.

Richard M. Buxbaum is one of the world’s pre-eminent international and comparative law experts. He has held positions including Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Comparative Law (1987-2003) and Dean of international and area studies at U.C. Berkeley (1993-1999), and has taught at the U.C. Berkeley Law School since 1961.  Buxbaum has been an engaged public-interest activist and litigated for public housing, free speech and the anti-Vietnam war movement. He has drafted model securities and corporations laws, and been active in various efforts to ensure access to higher education for minority groups. His distinctions include the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Award for the Humanities and the Arts in 1992 and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.

The above recipients join a pantheon of McGill honorary degree recipients that includes, among others: Sir Frederick Banting (1939); British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1944); President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1944); UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld (1956); politician and diplomat Adlai Stevenson (1959); Mayor Jean Drapeau (1965); painter Jean-Paul Riopelle (1968), writer Saul Bellow (1973), writer and human rights activist Elie Wiesel (1994), linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky (1998), writer Mordechai Richler (2000), director Atom Egoyan (2003), singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell (2004); Governor-General Michaëlle Jean (2006) and Bibliothèque et Archives nationales president Lise Bissonnette (2007).

Convocation ceremonies will be held on McGill’s lower campus, with the exception of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences ceremonies, which will be held at the Macdonald campus in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.

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