Pearson, Hilary

Degree conferred: Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.)

Orator: Fritz, Jane

ENCAENIA, MAY 29, 2013
to be Doctor of Letters

Hilary Pearson has a pedigree in public service that would be tough to be matched by anyone else in Canada. Her grandfather, Lester B. Pearson, was our prime minister and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her father, the late Geoffrey Pearson, was a highly respected Canadian diplomat, providing Hilary with the peripatetic upbringing of a foreign service kid, which exposed her to many other parts of the world from an early age. Her mother, Landon Pearson, is a retired Canadian Senator who has a significant record as a children's rights advocate, and her mother-in-law, the late Laura Sabia, was a social activist and pre-eminent leader of Canada's women's movement. So it should have been no surprise that after moving from 12 years of increasing responsibility within the federal public service to the private sector for several years, Hilary Pearson was enticed to the not-for-profit sector in 2001. This time it was service to the public with a twist, taking on the leadership role of the fledgling Philanthropic Foundations Canada. And it is for the ensuing contribution she has made in elevating the voice and effectiveness of private philanthropy in Canada that we honour Hilary Pearson today.

Created as a non-profit membership association in 1999, and a registered charity since 2002, under Hilary's leadership Philanthropic Foundations Canada has grown to include 110 private foundations across Canada, including well-known family foundations such as the Margaret and Wallace McCain Foundation, J. Armand Bombardier Foundation, and the Sobey Foundation. With collective member assets of more than $7 billion, these foundations have the capacity to have an enormous impact on the social fabric of Canada, providing grants in fields such as social services, education, health, international assistance, arts and culture, and the environment. By building this network of private foundations, the majority of which have few or no staff of their own, they are able to access research, learn from each other, and collaborate in ways that make their distribution of funds increasingly effective to society.

Philanthropic Foundations Canada also provides a collective voice on legislative and regulatory issues that impact philanthropy and the not-for-profit sector. In this role, Hilary has made her mark in advocating for changes in legislation directed at private foundations. In 2006, she was successful in seeking changes to the tax code for charitable giving so that the same tax incentives apply for donating shares to private foundations as to public foundations. What does that mean? Well, the generous gift Warren Buffett made to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - most of his fortune in publicly traded shares - would not have happened in Canada under the previous tax regulations for donations. An item in this year's federal budget that provides a stretch credit for new and increased charitable giving was an item in Hilary Pearson's 2010 submission to Parliament.

Hilary Pearson has spent the last decade building a national network for Canada's philanthropic foundations, a national initiative in social investment. Her dedication and her success make UNB proud to admit her today to the degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa.

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