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Honorary Degrees

Honorary degrees recognize individuals who have accomplished extraordinary achievements and remarkable service. These individuals have demonstrated a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge in one or more field; provided outstanding service to the greater society through non-academic achievements and/or public service; or made noteworthy contributions in areas relevant to the mission of the university and/or local community.

Awarded for outstanding achievement in social science in the broadest sense, or significant community contributions at the local, national or international levels.

Honorary Degree Recipient

Mr. Desmond Cole

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

Mr. Desmond ColeIn recognition of his leadership as one of Canada’s strongest voices in raising awareness about anti-Black racism, his work as an advocate, activist, and journalist, and his significant connections to communities across Durham Region, the university proudly confers upon Mr. Desmond Cole the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. 

As a champion of inclusion and diversity, Mr. Cole has provided outstanding public service to youth and Black Canadians by raising awareness about racism across the country. He is a prominent Canadian journalist, broadcaster, and author of The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, a national bestseller that won the 2020 Toronto Book Award, and was nominated for the 2021 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. 

His book offered an outstanding intellectual contribution on the issue of racism in Canada, documenting interventions that policymakers and activists can study to help move the national conversation on anti-Black racism toward tangible actions. The impact of his scholarship could become integral content for future courses discussing racism and policing. He has given hundreds of keynote addresses, lectures and public talks on anti-Black racism, policing, journalism, politics and culture.

He was a vocal justice advocate in the highly publicized 2016 Oshawa-based Dafonte Miller case and the subsequent criminal trial of arresting officers. He was sought by local and national media for perspective on a real-time example of racism in Canada during a period of heightened global awareness about the mistreatment of Black men by police.

Mr. Cole has worked for years to address issues of racism, one of the most complex cultural issues affecting society. He was part of a coalition that fought successfully for the removal of police in the Toronto District School Board, when police presence in schools was a controversial policy negatively affecting students.

Born in Red Deer, Alberta, he grew up in Oshawa, Ontario and graduated as valedictorian from secondary school in Whitby, Ontario. He taught French in Durham Region for two years, before moving to Toronto, Ontario to work with at-risk youth.