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Honorary degree citation - Hilary M. Weston

By: Michèle Paulin, November 2008

Mr. Chancellor, I present to you the Hon. Hilary M. Weston, philanthropist, business leader, lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1997 to patron and supporter of numerous social and cultural organizations.

We honour Hilary Weston today as an example of personal dedication and service to others, and a strong role model for our students.

Born in Ireland, Mrs. Weston was the eldest of five children. Following the death of her father when she was only 17, Mrs. Weston worked to help support her family and soon became a top fashion model.

It was also these special personal qualities that provided the base for her marriage to Galen Weston in 1966 and to her family life with their two extraordinary children, Alannah and Galen.

Mrs. Weston forged a career in business in the fashion industry. As Deputy Chair of the Board of Holt Renfrew for ten years, she promoted Canadian designers and merchandise, and helped to revitalize a business that has been a Canadian tradition since 1837.

It was this mixture of challenge and determination that molded the special personal qualities that Mrs. Weston would display for the rest of her life. It brought out the leadership skills and compassion that she would demonstrate in business, public service, and philanthropy.

Through her work with Holt Renfrew, The Hilary M. Weston Foundation and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, she also supported research into a host of not-for-profit organizations. At the same time she explored her interest in-homes and gardens by co-authoring two books, titled In a Canadian Garden and At Home in Canada.

On January 24, 1997, Mrs. Weston was installed as Ontario's 26th lieutenant-governor, only the second woman to hold this position in the province. As the Queen's representative in Ontario, she focused much of her time on celebrating the achievements of people across the province, especially those of volunteers, women and young people.

To underscore her commitment, Mrs. Weston established The Hilary M. Weston Foundation for Youth, which sponsored First Connection, a career development initiative launched in May 1998. The program placed 88 Grade 12 students from all regions of Ontario as summer management internships with some of Ontario's most successful businesses, allowing them to gain knowledge, experience and contacts.

Since leaving public office, Mrs. Weston chaired the Renaissance ROM Campaign, which raised over $250 million for the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian cultural history. Mrs. Weston continues to serve as an active patron of organizations dealing with social issues and sits on the boards of several businesses and government agencies.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is a privilege and an honour to present to you the Hon. Hilary M. Weston, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.




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