Envisaging a Better World

Technion awards an Honorary Doctorate to David Johnston, the 28th Governor General of Canada

The Technion has awarded an Honorary Doctorate to His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, the 28th Governor General of Canada. Johnston, as the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Canada, is considered a ceremonial head of state, similar to the role fulfilled by the President of the State of Israel. The first governor general of Canada to lead a State visit to Israel, Johnston came to Technion heading a large delegation which included, among others, members of parliament, academics and business people, as well as the Israeli ambassador to Canada, Rafi Barak, and the incoming Canadian ambassador to Israel, Deborah Lyons.

The degree was awarded to Johnston “in recognition of your contribution to the advancement of academic research and education in Canada; and in tribute to your longstanding public activities including the realm of the economy, society and the environment in Canada. With gratitude for your promotion of academic relations between Canadian universities and universities around the world and especially for your steadfast support towards establishing academic cooperation between Israel and Canada; and with gratitude for your warm and supportive relationship with the Jewish community in Canada and with the State of Israel.”

“I’m very proud of the innovation links that exist between Canada and Israel.”

“I thank you for this distinguished degree and accept it not only on my behalf but on behalf of all Canadians,” said Johnston. “I’m very proud of the innovation links that exist between Canada and Israel. It was a privilege to have been part of this relationship during my time at the University of Waterloo and earlier at McGill University, and I have great memories of our collaboration. The late Shimon Peres once told me that Israeli innovation stems from three reasons: constraints, waves of immigration and dissatisfaction. This spirit of innovation is expressed in the invention of Israeli agriculture, Israeli water technology and, of course, the Israeli hi-tech industry.”

“Thank you for being our partner in changing our world.”

Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie praised Johnston for his motto, “To envisage a better world”  and said that the Governor General is indeed advancing the world by fostering higher education. “One of our greatest singers, Arik Einstein, sang a song titled ‘You and I will Change the World,’ and that is what you are doing through your public activity. Thank you for being our partner in changing our world.”

Prior to the degree ceremony, Governor Johnston and his delegation took part in a special panel, moderated by Sarah Katzir, Head of the Unit for the Advancement of Students at Technion. During the panel, four students presented the broad diversity in the Technion student community and the ways in which Technion helps the various student populations. The four are Dorin Gez from Tiberias, a student in the Atidim program at the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management; Halo Salem, who immigrated from Ethiopia at age 6 and began studying last year at the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management; Yehuda Saviner, an ultra-Orthodox Jew and fourth-year medical student at Technion; and Yazan Safadi, an undergraduate student at the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering who intends to continue studying there for his master’s degree. Safadi, an Arab from Nazareth who attended the prestigious Hebrew Reali School in Haifa, said that “many of the Arab students come from small villages and from poor families, some of them never spoke Hebrew, and most of them come with a low level of high school education. Technion does a lot to advance these students and has already managed to significantly reduce the dropout rate among them.”

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish student Yehuda Saviner, 26, a father of three from Bnei Brak, said: “I learned only Talmud, Bible and Jewish law and thought I’d become a rabbinical judge. From an early age, I dreamed of becoming a doctor. Since I knew only basic level arithmetic, and with lots of encouragement from my rabbi, I began to attend the ultra-Orthodox pre-academic preparatory program at tTechnion, graduated with a grade of 99, and began my medical studies.”  

“I believe the future belongs to those who embrace diversity and build cultures of innovation with global reach. ” said Governor Johnston. “Of course, diversity is viewed as a strength at Technion. This is a microcosm of diversity, and it’s also the epicenter of Israel’s ‘start-up nation’ mentality. There is a strong intersection of diversity and innovation here, which no doubt helps to explain your global success.”

Mr. Johnston, a native of Ontario (1941), earned a BA in Government and International Relations (Harvard, 1963) and another BA in Law (Cambridge University). As an outstanding hockey player, he was a two-time member of the United States National Men’s Hockey Team and was inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame.

Governor General Johnston has had an impressive academic career, culminating in the position of fifth President of the University of Waterloo. In 2010, he ended his term in office as President and was appointed Canada’s 28th Governor General. In March 2015, he assented to the Prime Minister’s request to extend his term by two more years, ending in September 2017. His motto, Contemplare Meliora (“Strive for a Better World”), refers to his belief in the power of all Canadians to imagine and create a smarter and more responsible nation and contribute to the creation of a fairer world.

Click here for the complete speech of David Johnston, the 28th Governor General of Canada

Watch the ceremony here:

Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie awarding David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, an honorary doctorate from the Technion

(left to right) Bahai community representative Joshua Lincoln, Ahmadiyya community representative Muad Odeh, Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie, Governor General of Canada David Johnston, Archbishop George Bakoni of the Catholic community, and David Metzger from the Haifa Religious Council.


Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie (right) with David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, and his wife Sharon.