Honorary degree citation - Allan E. Gotlieb
By: Peter Stoett, December 2005
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Allan Gotlieb, lawyer, academic, diplomat, businessman, arts volunteer and public servant. The name Gotlieb has its origins in Old German and Greek, meaning either one who loves God, or son of God. Allan Gotlieb, who is known for his humility despite his great achievements, would be the last person to claim such filiation. But he has lived his life according to the highest principles of selfless devotion to the common good.
A man of superior intellect and achievement, he has spent most of his life working in occupations whose rewards were more of the mind and the heart than of the pocketbook. We, the people of Canada, have largely been the beneficiaries of this devotion.
As a young man, Allan Gotlieb studied in California, at Harvard, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review, at Oxford and at the University of Toronto. He has also taught in a number of institutions of higher learning, as William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor at Harvard and Claude Bissell Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto. He was a visiting fellow of All Souls College and a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford.
Although he currently chairs the Donner Canada Foundation, Sotheby's Canada and the Canadian arm of the Trilateral Commission (he is also North American Vice-Chair) Allan Gotlieb is perhaps best known for his years as Canada's ambassador to Washington from 1981 to 1989. In those years, he and his wife Sondra made the Canadian Embassy the place to be in Washington- a remarkable accomplishment. The most senior members of the US government and media, as well as the international diplomatic community, lobbied for invitations and to be seen at the Gotlieb's dinners and social events-renowned for the quality of the food and wine, but especially, for the wit and intelligence of the conversation. This gave Canada a rare and valuable opportunity to position itself and its issues in the world's most powerful capital.
Before his Washington years, Allan Gotlieb was a federal public servant at the highest levels, serving as Deputy Minister in three departments: External Affairs, Communications, and Employment and Immigration. He also served as Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, one of a long series of commitments in this area. He continues to advise Ontario's Minister of Culture, and to serve on the boards of charities and trusts such as the Ontario Arts Council Foundation, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario Heritage Foundation. If he is generous with his time, he is also generous with his art: in 1994, he and his wife Sondra donated their entire collection of 160 James Tissot prints and mezzotints to the Art Gallery of Ontario, for the benefit of the general public.
He has served on the boards of directors and international advisory boards of many large corporations, including Alcan and the Bank of Montreal, and he continues to work as a senior advisor in the Toronto office of Stikeman Elliott LLP.
Allan Gotlieb has earned the respect and affection of a wide circle of friends and colleagues for his wise advice and his dry wit-honed through years of playing straight man to one of Canada's funniest women. Among the many people he has quietly mentored over the years is his wife Sondra, whose literary output has been prodigious, much of it in the clever satirical genre. He is also himself a prolific author with a broad range: from the very serious Canada Treaty-Making, Disarmament and International Law, Human Rights, Federal and Minorities and Impact of Technology on International Law, to the amusing I'll Be With You in a Minute, Mr. Ambassador.
At the end of his diplomatic career, the Gotliebs moved to Toronto, where a new friend once said: "I wish I had known him all my life."
He holds Outstanding Achievement Award of the Government of Canada, and he is a Companion of the Order of Canada, our country's highest civil honour.
Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Allan Gotlieb, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.