Despite its challenges, our world is one of unparalleled promise and opportunity, Thomas D’Aquino, lawyer, entrepreneur and educator, told graduates at the Friday morning session of Western’s 304th Convocation.
D’Aquino spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences, Ivey Business School and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.) upon D’Aquino in recognition of his distinguished as a leading global business ambassador.
“As you celebrate, you face a world marked by a worrying degree of disorder, frightening new disease, and too often, unspeakable violence. The way ahead is obscure, tangled in complexity and fraught with danger,” he said.
But the world ahead, in spite of the above, is a new world empowered by technology and fueled by the creative mind, unfettered by conventional thinking, D’Acquino added.
This will help graduates navigate the rough waters ahead.
Originally from British Columbia, he studied at the University of British Columbia, Queen’s University and the University of London. D’Aquino holds BA, JD and LLM degrees, in addition to two honorary degrees.
D’Aquino is widely lauded for his leadership of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and his leadership in this role contributed to the development of fiscal, taxation, trade, energy, environmental, competitiveness and corporate governance policies in Canada.
When he retired from this post in 2009, member companies accounted for more than $850 billion in annual revenues, $4.5 trillion in assets and a combined Canadian stock market value of $675 billion.
“Canadians are fortunate to have no insurmountable obstacles to dreams and aspirations,” D’Aquino said. “The door to opportunity is as wide as it ever gets. For most of the world, that is unfathomable.”
Throughout his career, D’Aquino has served as a special assistant to the Prime Minister of Canada, as an international management consultant, as special counsel and senior counsel to two of Canada’s largest law firms, and as a faculty member lecturing on international business transactions, trade, and the regulation of multinational enterprise.
He is currently the chairman and chief executive of Intercounsel Ltd., a company he founded in the 1970s and he sits on various boards and committees, including CGI Group Inc. and Coril Holdings Ltd. D’Aquino chairs the National Gallery of Canada Foundation and is a member of the Advisory Council of the Lawrence National Centre at the Ivey Business School.
In his citation, Ivey dean Robert Kennedy praised D’Aquino for the formative influence he has had on Canada’s business landscape.
“Tom is acknowledged as one of the private sector architects of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement. He is active in policy circles throughout the world and has been referred to as ‘Canada’s most effective global business ambassador,’” Kennedy said.
“Canadian historian Jack Granatstein lists Mr. D’Aquino as one of the 100 most influential Canadians of the 20th century. Canadian author Peter Newman describes Mr. D’Aquino as ‘the most powerful influence on public policy formation in Canadian history,’” he continued.
“Throughout his more than 30 year career, Tom has been a close observer of and commentator on leadership. Few Canadians are as well positioned to speak on the meaning and practice of leadership.”
D’Aquino added ambition alone won’t ensure success. Vision is needed to see beyond the horizon of opportunity.
“Long-term success demands steadfast focus, hard work and resilience. Leaders treat others with respect, fairness and courtesy. Without integrity, all the rest is for naught,” he said.
Also during the ceremony Health Sciences professor Jackie Sadi received the Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching.