March 31, 2022 | Campaign
Meet the leaders who will help us Defy Gravity: Q&A with Brian Lawson
Our campaign co-chairs will lead a coalition of volunteers devoted to inspiring the highest level of support for advancing U of T’s excellence and aspirations.
Read interviews with Brian Lawson’s fellow co-chairs: Claire Kennedy, John Cassaday, and Som Seif.
Brian D. Lawson (BA 1982 TRIN), Campaign Co-Chair
Brian Lawson serves as Chair of the University of Toronto’s Governing Council. Together with his wife, Joannah, he helped establish the Lawson Centre for Sustainability and the Integrated Sustainability Initiative at Trinity College. They also helped establish the Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition at U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine. He currently serves as Vice-Chair of Brookfield Asset Management.
As a longtime volunteer for the University of Toronto, what inspired you to get involved?
When I was first approached to get involved with U of T, I was amazed by the breadth of opportunity there was —and continues to be—to help almost any cause or interest. The opportunity to partner with U of T and make an impact was very exciting. U of T’s student access guarantee—that no student has to forgo the opportunity to study for financial reasons—is particularly appealing.
Why do you think the world needs U of T right now?
There are two major reasons that really resonate with me. First, U of T has the ability to bring cutting-edge research and deep independent knowledge to bear on the many complex issues in the world, and second, the University’s commitment to inclusive access to a world-class education will have an impact on current and future generations of scholars, many of whom come from the GTA. This is a very powerful commitment to equity and inclusiveness both here at home and more broadly across Canada and beyond.
Of the campaign’s many exciting priorities and initiatives, which is most personally meaningful to you?
I’m very interested in the priorities that are focused on human and environmental health. My wife Joannah and I are particularly focused on reducing the burden of nutrition-related chronic disease and mental illness and promoting the role of a sustainable and healthy food system in an environmentally responsible world through better agricultural practices. We’re inspired by U of T’s unique ability to undertake cutting-edge research, deploy the results in the field, and lead strong advocacy. Our hope is that this activity will lead to improved lives for families in Canada and globally. I’m also very interested in helping U of T build on its commitment to inclusive excellence—fostering a campus community of diverse scholars to generate solutions to many of the world’s most important challenges.
My wife Joannah and I are particularly interested in reducing the burden of nutrition-related chronic disease and mental illness and promoting the role of a sustainable and healthy food system in an environmentally responsible world.
As an alum, how has engaging with U of T positively impacted your life?
Like other alumni, I’m inspired by the impact U of T has had on me and I like hearing stories from fellow alumni with similar experiences. The commitment, energy, and talent of our students, faculty, and staff is so very impressive. That’s why as a graduate, and a donor, I am pleased to be able to give back–both philanthropically and with my time. Continuing to be part of U of T and partner with my alma mater gives me a chance to have an impact on future generations along with the issues that matter most to me.
Continuing to be part of U of T and partner with my alma mater gives me a chance to have an impact on future generations along with the issues that matter most to me.
What is your favourite memory of U of T?
It’s hard to pick just one. I made new friends, many for life. I loved spending time in the many great study nooks. I was part of three consecutive OUAA rugby championships. I think most of all, I have great memories of being exposed to so much knowledge and just sitting around talking about an endless array of topics with fellow classmates with a diverse range of perspectives.
What is your favourite spot on campus?
Definitely the Trinity Quad and the route down Philosopher’s Walk past Hart House to King’s College Circle. The campus is a spiritual oasis in the heart of downtown and it’s easy to forget that you can just tuck into Philosopher’s Walk and be in another world. It’s peaceful and inspiring.
Learn more about Defy Gravity: The Campaign for the University of Toronto and how you can get involved as a volunteer.