Honorary Degrees

N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may be available at the University Archives.


Hon. Williard Estey, September, 1984 (Photograph Collection, A-7937)
Name: The Honorable Willard Zebedee Estey, LL.B., LL.M.
Convocation date: September 28, 1984
Special Convocation: 75th Anniversary Special Convocation
Discipline / contribution: jurisprudence
Citation / biographical information:
Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate, I present to you The Honourable Willard Z. Estey.
Willard Estey has enjoyed a brilliant career as a lawyer and jurist; his reputation far exceeding the boundaries of Canada.
Mr. Justice Estey was born and raised in Saskatoon. In 1942, he graduated from the College of Law of this university and was called to the Bar the following year. After serving during the War in both the R.C.A.F. and the Army (achieving the rank of major in the latter), he obtained a Master of Laws degree from Harvard University in administrative law, a subject he taught briefly at the law school in Saskatoon before proceeding to Toronto to practise law. In his professional work, he was known as an outstanding barrister who knew well when to litigate and when to attempt an out-of-court settlement.
After almost three decades of law practice in Ontario, Bud Estey was appointed to a succession of high judicial offices, each of which he filled with great distinction, searching constantly for the means to make the delivery of judicial services more expeditious and less expensive. He served as a member of the Ontario Court of Appeal from 1973, as Chief Justice of the High Court from 1975, and as Chief Justice of Ontario from 1976, being elevated in 1977 to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The reforms to the administration of justice advocated by Mr. Justice Estey, many of which have come to fruition, are legion. They include pre-trial procedures to expedite the legal process, and the televising of expert testimony in trials prior to the empanelling of juries to avoid cost, delay and inconvenience. He has also advocated specialization by lawyers, the advent of which he regards as inevitable. In this area too, he has tirelessly advocated a reform that is ahead of its time, but his advocacy has stimulated his confreres to look critically to the improvement of their profession.
Most latterly, he has advocated the creation of a division of the Supreme Court of Canada to deal specifically with matters of private law.
In his judgments, the hallmarks of which are lucidity and polished literary form, he may be regarded as a jurist who is not dogmatically an adherent of either the provincial autonomist or centralist wings of the Court, but someone who seeks the most effective balance in every case. In the many watershed decisions in which he has been involved on the Supreme Court of Canada, Willard Estey has shown himself to be sensitive to libertarian issues, and also of the need for an effective balance of powers between Ottawa and the provinces. He has shown himself to be a conceptualist of a high order, whose judgments will have a lasting impact on Canadian law.
In addition to his judicial career, Justice Estey can note among his acts of public service his inquiry on behalf of the federal Crown into allegations of mismanagement in Air Canada, and his persistent advocacy of amateur hockey as evidenced by his presidency of the national organization devoted to that purpose.
The Honourable Willard Estey is one of Canada's most outstanding citizens and a truly distinguished jurist.
Mr. Chancellor, I present to you Willard Estey and ask that you will confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Degree presented by: Dan Ish, Dean of Law

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