Labatts encourage grads to enjoy the journey

Today’s graduates face a bright future, one hopeful with continuous opportunities to learn and contribute to an ever-evolving world, said philanthropists Arthur and Sonia Labatt.

The Labatts both spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Brescia University College, Huron University College and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the Thursday, Oct. 25 morning session of Western’s 300th Convocation.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD) upon the Labatts in recognition of their philanthropic endeavors in education, health and research.

In my own academic experience, spanning over 55 years, I’ve learned the importance of continuing to learn, Sonia Labatt said.

“Like many things in life, this (academic) journey has not followed a very direct route. If you follow the non-linear road, remember not to take yourself too seriously and just roll with the punches,” she noted. She said each turn presents a challenge that will prove an opportunity to advance the graduates’ potential.

Sonia Labatt, an associate faculty member in the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Environment, has volunteered extensively over the years, including serving directorships at the National Ballet of Canada, the Wellesley Hospital Foundation and the Art Gallery of Ontario. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Arthur Labatt, a former Western Chancellor who co-founded what is now known as AIM TriMark Investments, one of Canada’s largest and most successful mutual fund companies, has also been a dedicated volunteer, having served as a director for various institutions and boards, among them the SickKids Foundation, the Parkinson Foundation of Canada and the African Medical and Research Foundation. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996.

Together, the Labatts have demonstrated a commitment to giving and bettering the world by supporting causes and charitable organizations from Africa to the Far East to here in Canada. The Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the Labatt Family Heart Centre wouldn’t exist without their philanthropy.

The Labatts have been generous toward Western as well, particularly with their gifts to the Faculty of Health Sciences that allowed the creation of the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Health Sciences Building and their advancement of the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing.

“These are not easy times. Change is happening at lightning speed (and) society needs you to bring us through one of the most challenging times in human history,” Arthur Labatt told the graduates. He noted new technological developments, the growth of developing countries and a rapidly aging population in the Western world will need today’s graduates.

“You are leaders in this field (health care) and a key ingredient in the future.”

In his citation, Faculty of Health Sciences Dean Jim Weese said the Labatts have contributed greatly to the success of Western students and are “difference-makers of the highest order.”

“It is because of people like Arthur and Sonia that we continue to be able to offer our students the finest education possible. They allow us to be innovative in how we deliver a transformational learning experience that extends beyond the walls of the academy,” Weese said.

“(They) have proven to be leaders throughout their lives – Sonia in higher education and Arthur in the world of business – but their greatest leadership comes from their ability to envision what is possible and their willingness to support those things about which they are passionate.”

Arthur Labatt told graduates they must continue on the path of social responsibility Western has instilled in them.

“Be persistent. Don’t be afraid of failure. Remember that the most successful people have had disappointments and have bounced back. Success doesn’t come in a straight line. Finally, enjoy life. It’s a gift and I’m confident the best is yet to come.”