Honorary Degree Recipients Offer Words of Wisdom to Class of 2021

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Honorary degree recipients (left to right): Angela Swan, Roger Warren and Robert ThirskOwen Egan / Joni Dufour Owen Egan / Joni Dufour

The fall 2021 convocation ceremonies on November 25 and 26 took on special significance to the McGill community, as they were the first in-person ceremonies held at the University in two years, following the forced interruption of COVID-19. As part of the ceremonies, McGill bestowed honorary degrees on a trio of three very talented and committed individuals who serve as inspiration to its community of students, faculty, researchers and staff. Click on the video to watch the Words of Wisdom for the 2021 class as issued by each honorary doctorate.

Robert Thirsk, MDCM, OC, OBC

B.Sc. (ME) (University of Calgary), M.Sc. (ME) (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), MDCM (McGill University), MBA (MIT Sloan School of Management)

Doctor of Science, honoris causa (D.Sc.)

A Canadian icon of science and space travel, Dr. Robert Thirsk has made important contributions to medicine, science, the Canadian Space Program and science education in Canada.

A McGill MDCM graduate, Dr. Thirsk began his distinguished career as a member of the Canadian Space Agency’s Astronaut Corps in 1983. His first space mission was in 1996, a 17-day flight aboard the space shuttle Columbia. Later, in 2009, Dr. Thirsk spent six months as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station conducting cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and complex robotic operations for Canadian and international researchers. Along the way, he set the Canadian record for the longest time spent in space – 204 days, 18 hours.

Much of Dr. Thirsk’s work has been devoted to making spaceflight safer for astronauts, from researching the effect of weightlessness on the heart and blood vessels to developing strategies for the delivery of remote health care for future deep space explorers. He was also a strong advocate for science education, especially for young Canadians.

Robert Thirsk’s remarkable career as a scientist and astronaut, his commitment to science education, and his generous dedication to community involvement make him an inspiring role model for all, and especially for Canada’s future scientists.

Angela Swan

B.Comm., LL.B. (University of British Columbia), BCL (University of Oxford)

Doctor of Law, honoris causa (LL.D.)

Angela Swan is a distinguished lawyer, practitioner, teacher, mentor and acclaimed figure in Canadian contract law and the Canadian legal community. She received a Bachelor of Commerce and an LL.B. from the University of British Columbia and a BCL from the University of Oxford. She was called to the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1970.

With over fifty years of experience in the legal profession, she has expertly filled a number of positions, ranging from professor to esteemed advisor. An award-winning author, renowned educator and frequently cited scholar, she is considered one of the foremost experts in Canadian contract law and private law in general.

Professor Swan has inspired and informed generations of law students through her legal expertise and scholarship. Her accomplishments are all the more remarkable for a trans woman of her generation. Angela Swan is proud to be a member of the LGBTQ2 + community and contributes to its continued development.

Angela Swan has distinguished herself by achieving the highest professional standards of conduct, ethics, reliability and diligence. Her name is synonymous with “excellence” in contract law and is a shining example of a dedicated teacher and mentor.

Roger warren

Doctor of Law, honoris causa (LL.D.)

Generous, inspiring and humble philanthropist, Mr. Roger Warren has quietly made an impact in Canadian educational institutions and beyond for over 50 years.

After completing a three-year Bachelor of Commerce degree at McGill University starting in 1951, Mr. Warren struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and was unable to complete his fourth year. This had a huge impact on him, instilling a deep sense of compassion for others facing their own challenges, which in turn became the motivation behind much of his commitment and giving.

Roger Warren began his career in the investment industry in 1954, working in Toronto, New York and London, England. In 1984, he established the Rathlyn Foundation, named after his parents’ Ontario cottage, as a small private family foundation to support medical research, veterinary science, and education. The Rathlyn Foundation has since grown considerably and supports numerous institutions such as McGill University… Through the Foundation, Mr. Warren endowed McGill with graduate and professional scholarships in the faculties of arts, law. , sciences and the Desautels Faculty of Management, as well as scholarships for Aboriginal students.

Mr. Warren is a prime example of how extraordinary success can be achieved by overcoming challenges. Her generosity, perseverance and determination to help others have created monumental strides for the Canadian education sector and are a source of inspiration to all.


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