The Honourable Mayann E. Francis, ONS
Doctor of Letters, honoris causa
Today, Cape Breton University confers the degree Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on a woman who has spent her career challenging systemic racial and gender barriers in both the public and private sector and who is an icon for many throughout Canada, the Honourable Dr. Mayann Francis.
Dr. Mayann Francis grew up in Sydney, Whitney Pier, Nova Scotia, which, at the time, was considered a multicultural, working-class community. Dr. Francis grew up knowing only acceptance within this community, and it was not until after she left Whitney Pier that she quickly realized that the world around her was far less tolerant than the community from where she was raised.
Dr. Francis graduated from St. Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University. In addition, she has a Certificate in Equal Opportunity Studies from Cornell University, a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from Long Island University and a Certificate in Theological Studies from the Atlantic School of Theology.
Dr. Francis served as Lieutenant Governor for the province of Nova Scotia from 2006-2012. She was the first African Nova Scotian and the second woman to be appointed as the vice-regal representative. As Lieutenant Governor, she attended more than 3,000 activities and engagements. She served a four-year commission as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of 3 Intelligence Company in the Canadian Forces. Her accomplishments while Lieutenant Governor include welcoming Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Nova Scotia and Government House in 2010, supporting the arts, celebrating young people, opening Government House for guest lectures and conferring a posthumous Free Pardon on Nova Scotia entrepreneur and civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond. She was the first vice-regal representative to grant the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, Free Pardon in the history of Canada.
Dr. Mayann Francis served from 2015-2020 as the first Distinguished Public Service Fellow in the Faculty of Management, School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University.
In December 2020, she was appointed as the Dean’s Warden for The Cathedral Church of All Saints, Halifax, NS.
She is the recipient of honourary degrees from Mount St. Vincent University, St. Mary’s University, York University in Ontario, Dalhousie University, Atlantic School of Theology, Acadia University and an Honorary Diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC).
Dr. Francis has an award in her name at the NSCC that provides financial assistance to students, and the library at NSCC Marconi campus in Sydney, Nova Scotia, was renamed The Honorable Mayann Francis Library.
The Atlantic School of Theology recognized Dr. Francis by naming the Faith in Action Award, created by Dr. Francis, The Honourable Mayann Francis Faith in Action Award. The Award recognizes unsung heroes who work tirelessly to make our communities a better place to live.
Her numerous awards include a Harry Jerome Award for Professional Excellence, an award from the Multicultural Education Council of Nova Scotia, and medals for both the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees. She was the recipient of a Luminary Award from the University of the West Indies. She was also awarded the World Peace Tartan from the Celtic Cultural Society of Nova Scotia.
Her past leadership roles include Chair of the Board of Governors for the Atlantic School of Theology, Director and CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman for the province of Nova Scotia, Assistant Deputy Minister in Ontario and Employment Equity Officer for Dalhousie University.
Dr. Francis has served on numerous boards and committees for non-profit organizations including the United Way, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Imagine Canada and the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy.
Nimbus Publishing published her first children’s book, Mayann’s Train Ride, in October 2015, which was translated into French in 2018. Her memoir, Mayann Francis, An Honourable Life, was released in June 2019, and was listed in The Hill Times’ (Canada’s Politics and Government newspaper) list of 100 best non-fiction books in 2019. The Hill Times is Canada’s Politics and Government Newspaper. Her memoir was also short listed for The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award in June, 2020. Dr. Francis is working on her second children’s book scheduled for publication in 2021.