McGill University celebrates graduates and honorary doctorate recipients at fall convocation

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An astronaut, a lawyer, and a philanthropist receive McGill’s highest honours, sharing the stage with graduating class at in-person ceremony
Published: 23Nov2021

This fall, 700 graduating students, who completed their programs at the end of Summer 2021 at McGill University, will cross the stage for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2019. The four in-person fall convocation ceremonies will take place on November 25th and 26th, 2021 at Place des Arts, where graduates will celebrate together with family and friends.

McGill is proud to confer honorary degrees, at fall convocation, to highly talented and engaged individuals who serve as an inspiration for its community of students, professors, researchers, and staff. This year, the university will confer its highest honours upon former astronaut Robert Thirsk, esteemed lawyer Angela Swan, and celebrated philanthropist Roger Warren during its ceremonies.

“This year’s honorary doctorate recipients excel in a diverse range of areas and are a source of awe and inspiration to our community,” says Professor Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill. “Their work is transformative, changing how we understand ourselves and our world, and helps to push the boundaries of the possible. Their leadership and generosity serve as wonderful examples for us all. It will be a pleasure to welcome them in person to receive our University’s highest honour.”

“We are very proud of the strength and resilience of our graduates. They are innovators, creative thinkers, and entrepreneurs who have risen to the challenges of COVID-19 with the same courage that brings them here today,” says Chancellor John McCall MacBain.

The ceremonies, which will be held at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, 175 St. Catherine Street West, will look a bit different than convocations of the past due to public health guidelines. Among other measures, proof of vaccination and masks will be required for graduates, families, and guests.

During the celebrations, the University will also recognize the leadership of three exceptional individuals, and their outstanding contributions to both their own fields and to society.

Robert Thirsk

Doctor of Science, honoris causa

A Canadian icon of science and space travel, Dr. Robert Thirsk has made key contributions to medicine, science, the Canadian Space Program, and science education in Canada. He holds the Canadian record for the most time spent in space. Much of Dr. Thirsk’s work has been dedicated to making space flight safer for astronauts, from researching the effect of weightlessness on the heart and blood vessels to strategizing the delivery of remote healthcare to future deep space explorers. Robert Thirsk has also been a tireless advocate for scientific education, particularly for Canadian youth.

Angela Swan

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

Angela Swan is a distinguished legal scholar, practitioner, teacher, mentor and an acclaimed figure in both Canadian contract law and the Canadian legal community. An award-winning author, renowned educator, and frequently cited scholar, she is regarded as one of the most distinguished experts in Canadian contract law. She has inspired and informed several generations of law students with her legal expertise and scholarship. Angela Swan is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community and contributes to its ongoing development.

Roger Warren

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

A generous, inspiring, and humbling philanthropist, Mr. Roger Warren has been quietly making an impact within Canadian education institutions and beyond for over 50 years. In 1984, he established the Rathlyn Foundation as a small, private family foundation to support medical research, veterinary science, and education. The Rathlyn Foundation has since grown tremendously and supports numerous institutions such as McGill University. In addition to his financial support and long-term giving that will continue to benefit students for years ahead, Mr. Warren has generously offered his time and energy over the years to supporting McGill students.

Read the full profiles

The full schedule of the McGill University fall 2021 convocation ceremonies is listed below:

Thursday, November 25, 2021

10:00 am EST

Honorary degree: Dr. Robert Thirsk, Doctor of Science, honoris causa

3:00 pm EST

Friday, November 26, 2021

10:00 am EST

Honorary degree: Angela Swan, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

3:00 pm EST

Honorary degree: Roger Warren, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

A livestream of the ceremonies will be available here.


About McGill University

Celebrating 200 years of discovery and learning, McGill University ranks as one of the top universities in Canada and the world. McGill’s mission is to create and share knowledge by offering the best possible education, by carrying out research and scholarly activities judged to be excellent by the highest international standards, and by providing service to society. These activities span three campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, and some 300 programs of study. Every year, McGill welcomes over 40,000 students, attracting more than 30% from 150-plus countries, and has the highest percentage of PhD students of any Canadian research university. Nearly 60% of its student population speaks French.

Contact Information

Contact: 
Cynthia Lee
Organization: 
Media Relations, McGill University
Email: 
cynthia.lee [at] mcgill.ca
Office Phone: 
(514) 398-6754
Mobile Phone: 
(514) 793-6753
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