Philanthropists Arthur and Sonia Labatt receive honorary University of Toronto doctorates

Thursday, June 23, 2011 10:05:00 AM

Arthur Labatt  Sonia Labatt 
(Photos from

By Rodney White

On June 13, 2011, Honorary Doctor of Law degrees were conferred on Arthur Labatt and Dr. Sonia Labatt, distinguished philanthropists and volunteers. They are well known for the contribution they have made to public life in Canada and internationally. They have made a particular contribution to the University of Toronto.

Dr. Sonia Labatt graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in Nutritional Sciences, returning a few years later to complete an M.A. and Ph.D. in Geography, specializing in the emerging field of environmental economics. She is a member of the Dean's Advisory Board of the Faculty of Arts and Science and has served as an Adjunct Professor of the University of Toronto's Centre for Environment since 2009.  Arthur Labatt, co-founder and former president of Trimark Financial, is a past chancellor of the University of Western Ontario.

At the Centre for Environment, Dr. Labatt developed and taught a graduate course from 1996 to 1999 which grew out of her thesis on Corporate Perspectives in the Environment. This led to another graduate course on Environmental Finance and Sustainable Investing.  An online certificate is also now offered in Carbon finance, a branch of environmental finance, as part of the Centre for Environment's Professional Development Program. Dr. Labatt is also a founding member of the Centre's Environmental Finance Advisory Committee which runs Executive Development workshops across Canada. She has co-authored two books with Professor Emeritus Rodney White in the field - Environmental Finance: A Guide to Environmental Risk Assessment and Financial Products (Wiley 2002) and Carbon Finance: The Financial Implications of Climate Change (Wiley 2007).

In 1998, Arthur and Sonia Labatt made a generous donation to establish Graduate Fellowships at the Centre for Environment.  Since then, more than 80 students have benefited from that donation, and others will continue to do so. These Fellowships have provided critical support for the completion of graduate degrees.  The Centre has been fortunate to benefit from their commitment to health and the environment.

Arthur and Sonia Labatt have also provided founding support for the Family School of Nursing at the University of Western Ontario, to the Family Heart Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children, further support for brain tumour research at Sick Children's' Hospital and St. Michael's Hospital, as well as numerous other contributions across the spectrum of public health.

They have also made personal, as well as financial, contributions to causes as diverse as the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), and the World Wildlife Fund, where Sonia chairs the WWF-Canada Arctic Advisory Committee.

At the University of Toronto, in addition to their support to the Centre for Environment, they have also supported St. Michael's College, the Rotman School of Management, and the Faculty of Arts and Science - the latter for fields ranging from Canadian literature to environmental studies.

To view Arthur and Sonia Labatt`s speeches (approximately 7 minutes each) made at the U of T convocation ceremony on June 13, 2011, please visit:
Sonia Labatt:
Arthur Labatt:

Rodney White is Professor Emeritus in Geography and Academic Advisor, Professional Development at the Centre for Environment.