Leaders in social justice, Canadian broadcasting and professional athletics are among several recipients of honorary degrees to be conferred next week during summer convocation at the University of Guelph.  

One of the highest honours bestowed by the University, honorary degrees celebrate individuals whose accomplishments have inspired the U of G community. 

The University’s summer convocation ceremonies will be held from Tuesday, June 11 to Friday, June 14. Close to 4,000 students are registered to attend convocation with more than 15,000 family members and guests, which will make the ceremonies one of the most highly attended to date. 

For a full schedule, visit this link

Here are this year’s honorary degree recipients:  

Zanana L. Akande

Zanana L. Akande, a trailblazer for Black communities in Canada, is a former educator and the first Black woman to be elected to the legislature and appointed a cabinet minister in the province of Ontario.  

Long before the social determinants of health were formally defined, Akande, a passionate and determined advocate for social justice, worked tirelessly to draw awareness and find solutions to address poverty, racism, inadequate education achievement, substandard housing and underemployment.   

Her fearless stance in public debates on issues of equity and diversity is reflected in her decades of service to institutions whose missions focus on education, community building, race relations, the empowerment of women and multiculturalism.  

Isabel Bassett

A portrait of Isabel Bassett against a leafy background

A trailblazer in the public, private and non-profit sectors, Isabel Bassett is a distinguished individual whose outstanding contributions to social justice and women’s issues have been recognized with several awards, including the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada.  

Her exceptional leadership, character and dedication to serving the public good extend beyond her service as Minister of Citizen, Culture and Recreation in the Ontario legislature, where she is widely considered one of the most socially progressive members of the Progressive Conservative government. As chair and CEO of TVOntario, she revived the public broadcaster to make it more relevant and increased its popularity among Ontarians of all ages. 

Michael Clemons  

Michael “Pinball” Clemons is an inspirational athlete and leader both on and off the field. A two-time All Star CFL player and three-time Grey Cup Champion, Clemons broke barriers as the first Black head coach to win a Grey Cup. A longtime friend of the University, he was instrumental to bringing the Toronto Argonauts back to U of G’s Athletic Performance Centre for spring training. 

Through The Pinball Clemons Foundation, Clemons has leveraged his success to inspire youth through literacy programs, scholarships, bursaries and employment opportunities, aligning with U of G’s commitment to Improve Life. 

V.I. Lakshmanan  

Dr. Vaikuntam Iyer Lakshmanan is a luminary whose transformative impact spans diverse fields including metallurgy, entrepreneurship, public policy, philanthropy and community welfare.  

Lakshmanan has been an integral connection for fostering intellectual collaborations between Canada and India, co-founding organizations such as The Indus Entrepreneurs, the Canada-India Foundation and the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation.  

He is the only Indo-Canadian to have received both the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award from the Government of India and to be appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.  


Ottoline Leyser   

Ottoline Leyser

An eminent development biologist at the University of Cambridge, Dr. Ottoline Leyser has made discoveries in plant hormone signaling that have revolutionized our understanding of shoot branching in plants. 

Among the first rank of scientists of the last quarter-century, Dr. Leyser has advocated for women in science and for the development of young scientists and has been at the forefront of the movement to improve public understanding of science. 

Her combined scientific and societal achievements have been recognized in her election as a Fellow of the Royal Society and her investiture as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.