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The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa


In recognition of her remarkable work as a role model and champion of inclusion and diversity, and for her dedication to public service and educating Canadians about national issues that reflect our values of integrity and respect, the university proudly confers upon the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. 

Madame Clarkson arrived in Canada from Hong Kong with her family in 1942 and made the incredible journey from penniless child refugee to accomplished broadcaster, journalist, and distinguished public servant in a multi-faceted lifetime.  

As Canada’s 26th Governor General (from 1999 to 2005), she demonstrated her passion for Canada’s North by establishing the Governor General’s Northern Medal, for outstanding contributions to the understanding and development of the North.

Upon leaving the viceregal office, with her husband John Ralston Saul, she co-founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) which helps new citizens feel involved and included in Canadian life. In addition to its special citizenship ceremonies, the ICC gives new citizens an opportunity to access and enjoy over 1,700 cultural institutions across the country, free for one year, under its Canoo program.

At age 26, she began her CBC broadcast career, headlining the program Take 30. Then in 1975, she was part of a team that launched CBC’s public affairs show The Fifth Estate, before going on to host and produce CBC’s first cultural program, Adrienne Clarkson Presents.

In the 1980s, she was Board Chair of the Canadian Museum of History, helping create a Canadian War Museum and negotiate the return of sacred objects to Indigenous Peoples.

In March 2007, Madame Clarkson became Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the first Canadian to be Colonel-in-Chief of a Canadian regiment. As Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces when she was Governor General, she developed a close tie with the Armed Forces and enjoys the connection with this small but proud and effective force today through her Regiment.

The University of Toronto’s Massey College established the Clarkson Laureateship for Public Service Award in her honour. She also founded the Clarkson Cup (Canada’s championship trophy for women’s hockey).

Madame Clarkson is among Canada’s most decorated citizens, receiving such accolades as France’s Grand Cross of the Order of Pleiades, and Germany’s Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit. Her many honorary fellowships include the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Conservatory of Music, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Her official titles include membership in the King’s Privy Council for Canada, Companion of the Order of Canada, Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, and the Canadian Forces Decoration.

A bestselling author, she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature from the University of Toronto, and after three years at the Sorbonne, she acquired a diploma in the French language. She has previously received 32 honorary doctorates from universities in Canada and abroad.