Laurier history: honourary degrees

(Graphic by Adele Palmquist)
(Graphic by Adele Palmquist)

Did You Know?

Did you know that there are many prominent figures in Canadian history who have received an honorary degree from Wilfrid Laurier University? Well, in case you didn’t, here’s a list of a few of the people who have:

Paul Desmarais Sr. received his LLD (Doctors of Law) degree from Laurier in May of 1979. He was a Canadian financier in Montreal. He was the fourth wealthiest person in Canada with an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion US until his death. He was the CEO of the Power Corporation of Canada (PCC), a company that dealt with massive fields of media, pulp and paper and financial services.

Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien, commonly known as Jean Chrétien was the 20th Prime Minister of Canada and held that position for just over 10 years before he resigned. He received an honorary LLD (Doctors of Law) degree from Laurier in May of 1981. He was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1963. He served in various cabinet posts. He served as deputy prime minister, and became the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. It was in 1993 he became prime minister.

David Chilton is a Canadian author, investor and television personality. He graduated from Laurier with a degree in Economics, but also went on to receive an honorary DLitt (Doctor of Letters) degree in June 2006. In 1989 he self-published his book The Wealthy Barber. It sold over three million copies and even now publishes a line of low fat cookbooks. In 2012, CBC Television announced that Chilton would become the newest “Dragon” on the network’s hit series Dragons’ Den.

John Diefenbaker was the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, serving for just under six years. He was the only Progressive Conservative party leader between 1930 and 1979. After some brief service in World War I, Diefenbaker became a lawyer, and in 1940 was elected to the House of Commons. Diefenbaker was the first in Canada history to appoint a female minister in his Cabinet, as well as the first to appoint an aboriginal member of the Senate. In November of 1968 he received an honourary LLD (Doctors of Law) degree from Laurier.

Timothy Findley was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He pursued a career in the arts, studying dance and acting. He had a huge success as an actor before turning to writing. He was part of the original Stratford Festival company in the 1950s and even appeared in the first production of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. Findley received his DLitt (Doctor of Letters) in June of 2001.

Russell Johnson was an American television and film actor who was best known for his role as “The Professor” on the CBS television sitcom Gilligan’s Island. After high school he joined the United States Army Air Forces in the middle of World War II. He started out as an aviation cadet and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He later appeared in three films after becoming friends with Audie Murphy, and his career took off from there. Johnson received his LLD (Doctors of Law) from Laurier in June of 2003.

Pamela Wallin is a Canadian former television journalist and diplomat. At the start of 2009, she was appointed to the Canadian Senate as a Conservative, until May of 2013 when she decided to leave the caucus. In November of 2013 the Senate voted to suspend Wallin without pay for two years during the infamous senate scandal. Wallin has received 13 honorary degrees in total, with one being her DLitt (Doctors of Letters) from Laurier in June of 1999.


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