In recognition of her sterling leadership in education, social services and health care in the public and private sector, York University will confer an honorary doctorate on former provincial cabinet minister, Mary Anne Chambers, at its spring convocation next month.
President & vice-chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri said the university’s Senate also recognizes Chambers’ service to humankind through her work in increasing access to opportunity for marginalized people, which has had a profound impact on communities throughout Ontario and abroad.
A year after retiring as a Scotiabank senior vice-president, Chambers entered politics and served for nearly two years as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. In that role, she announced the largest multi-year investment in post-secondary education in four decades and introduced major improvements to student assistance policies and funding. Significant changes were also made to the Private Career Colleges Act to provide enhanced protection for students and increased support was made available to encourage apprenticeships in the skilled trades.
“Her dedication to providing post-secondary education to all serves as a model worthy of emulation by our graduates,” said Shoukri.
Chambers also served as Minister of Children and Youth Services before quitting politics six years ago. In that capacity, she increased the availability of child care spaces, improved access to subsidies and overhauled the province’s child protection system.
Though not a York graduate, Chambers took some business-related courses in the continuing education program in the late 1970s. Her youngest son, Stefan, and his wife, Minka, graduated from the university’s atmospheric science and kinesiology programs, respectively.
Chambers’ major contribution to York University was as chair of the York Centre for Education & Community advisory council from 2009-2012. Led by Dr. Carl James, the centre is designed to support teaching and learning that is appropriate to students’ diverse needs, considerate of their cultural experiences and supportive of their aspirations.
She said she’s honoured to be recognized by the university and is looking forward to addressing the Faculty of Education graduates.
“It will be an opportunity to thank these young men and women for their interest in educating children and youth,” said Chambers, a former Canadian Club of Toronto president, Rouge Valley Health System governing council vice-chair, Air Cadet League of Canada governor, Tropicana Community Service Organization board member, United Way of Greater Toronto trustee and director of the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid Corporation.
Poised to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh before falling in love and marrying her husband Chris 43 years ago, Jamaican-born Chambers came to Canada instead with her family in 1976.
The president of the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada, Chambers sponsors two basic schools in Jamaica and annual scholarships administered by the John Brooks Foundation, the Jamaican Canadian Association and the Church of the Nativity in Scarborough.
In 2010, the University of Toronto, from which she graduated with a commerce degree in 1988, bestowed an honorary doctorate on Chambers, who pursued her degree part-time over seven years while working full-time and raising two sons.
The York University convocation ceremony takes place on June 14 at 10:30 a.m.