At Ryerson University’s Fall 2013 Convocation, Mitchell Cohen, president of The Daniels Corporation, was honoured with a Doctor of Laws degree. He was one of three distinguished individuals recognized for making outstanding contributions to their fields. The presentation took place as part of the Faculty of Community Services convocation ceremony, Friday, October 18, 2013.
At the event, Cohen delivered a speech to Ryerson graduates and others in the audience, where he reminisced about his own university graduation in the 1960s. “I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. What I did know was that, along with all of us who had come of age in the sixties, I had an obligation, a responsibility in fact, to make the world a better place.” And Cohen has done just that.
By 1973, he had earned a Masters degree in Social Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and was also writing songs and playing guitar in a makeshift studio in his apartment. He answered a help-wanted ad in the Montreal Gazette and was hired as a community development worker for the YMCA. This position led to helping a group of tenants create a better life through the creation of a non-profit housing co-operative, and launched a lifelong passion for Cohen.
“Fast forward 40 years, and along with all of my partners at Daniels, I am still doing community development work, supporting a group of tenants who are creating a better life for themselves and their families through the Regent Park revitalization,” Cohen said.
Cohen paid tribute to Ryerson’s role in the award-winning revitalization. The Daniels Centre of Learning is led by the Centre for Community Learning and Development in collaboration with Ryerson, the University of Toronto, and George Brown College. At the Centre, residents access information, free training programs, and post-secondary education opportunities. “It is such an honour to receive this degree from a school that not only educates in the classroom, but in the broader community as a true city-builder,” Cohen said. He also credited John Daniels and all members of the Daniels team for being “committed to social justice, using the power of our platform to lead, to create, and to build both a local and global community in which every one of us has food on the table and a secure, affordable place to call home.”
In terms of accolades, it has been a good year for Cohen. Earlier this year in St. James Palace, London, Cohen joined a delegation of 12 Canadian CEO’s and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales to discuss plans to advance the cause of socially responsible business in Canada. Cohen also received one of the 2013 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals presented to select Canadians for their significant contributions and achievements.