Sunshine floods through a series of skylights hidden in an oddly shaped ceiling.

The Honourable David Peterson, Portrait Unveiling


Note: Photos from the event and a news article are available here:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Council Chamber in historic Simcoe Hall and to a
wonderful celebration of our Chancellor Emeritus The Honourable David Peterson.

Let me begin by extending warm greetings on behalf of the entire University community to The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Her Honour Ruth Onley. It is a real pleasure to welcome you back to your alma mater Your Honour.

Singling out special guests to acknowledge from among this group is a major challenge when everyone is a special guest – and anyway, I expect most people have dinner plans tonight…

However, it is long-standing tradition to mention members of the University’s firmament. We are joined tonight by: Our esteemed Chancellor the Honourable Michael Wilson and Chancellor Emeritus the Honourable Hal Jackman; Past Chairs of the Governing Council Dr. Wendy Cecil, Dr. Robert McGavin, Dr. Marnie Paikin, Dr. Joan Randall, Dr. Tom Simpson, and Mr. Richard Nunn; Current Chair of the Governing Council Ms Judy Goldring; President Emeritus Robert Prichard and Ms Ann Wilson and President Emeritus David Naylor and Dr. Ilse Treurnicht. I am also delighted to welcome Ms Sheila Connell and Ms Gay Evans; Governors past and present Heads of our Federated Universities, Principals, Deans, and Vice-Presidents.

This brings me to our guests of honour this afternoon, the Honourable David R. Peterson and Shelley Peterson. It is a privilege to welcome you back, Chancellor Emeritus. I am also delighted to welcome David’s brother the Honourable Jim Peterson and Jim’s partner Heather, Shelley’s sisters the Honourable Deb Matthews, Carole Matthews, and Virginia Lato (and partner Don). And it is lovely to see David and Shelley’s son Ben Peterson and his partner Emilee Irwin.

Welcome everyone.

This is really an extraordinary gathering this afternoon – almost a who’s who of the University of Toronto family. It is a fitting reflection of the great respect and affection we hold for our guests of honour.

Speaking of fitting reflections… In a few minutes we will unveil David Peterson’s portrait. This is an event that both celebrates David’s lasting contributions to his alma mater and adds to this collection of women and men who have given countless hours to the cause of higher education and advanced research.

The artist, Mr. Tony Scherman, has done an absolutely striking job, as you will see. The portrait is fantastically layered and nuanced. It is a remarkable piece of work.

Of course, Mr. Scherman had a fantastically layered and nuanced subject. Another remarkable piece of work, you might say… I don’t think that came off quite the way I meant it!

More seriously, David Peterson was and remains an extraordinary champion for the University of Toronto community. He is a man of superb grace and charm. His bright intellect is matched only by his dedication and loyalty to this community.

One story, I think, captures all of these qualities. Back when I was Dean of Arts and Science – in another lifetime, it seems – I had the occasional pleasure of traveling with then Chancellor Peterson on University road shows. One time we were in Jerusalem, accompanied by Shelley who, I must say, effortlessly elevated all of the events she attended. This was my first trip to Israel – I believe it was David’s first trip as well – and we were in the middle of a lovely alumni reception. There were many distinguished guests and VIPs present, including the Ambassador to Israel.

Well, somehow it emerged that the Ambassador was a York graduate. Quick as lightning, and in front of the whole group, Chancellor Peterson conferred upon the Ambassador an Honorary Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Toronto. Not an Honorary Doctorate, you understand, an Honorary Bachelor’s Degree.

Only David Peterson could accomplish this without international incident – charming the Ambassador and simultaneously carrying the flag high for the University of Toronto and our alumni.

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario brings greetings

President Emeritus David Naylor gives remarks

Chancellor Emeritus David Peterson addresses the gathering

One of the most remarkable things I heard David Peterson say – and as we have heard this afternoon, he has said a number of remarkable things – was at one of his farewell events.

The greatest compliment the University ever paid him, David said, was appointing Michael Wilson to succeed him.

Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest compliment paid to the University is the dedication of our extraordinary volunteers – at every level and in every conceivable role – exemplified first and foremost by our Chancellor.

The University of Toronto is extremely fortunate to have champions like David Peterson and Michael Wilson, individuals who have made major contributions to Canada, representing our academic community at home and abroad.

On behalf of that entire community, I extend our heartfelt thanks.

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