Thursday, May 25, 2023

M. Trebilcock and JHU president Ron Daniels

Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins University / Will Kirk

University Professor Emeritus Michael J. Trebilcock, an internationally distinguished legal scholar and economist at the University of Toronto, has received an honorary degree from Johns Hopkins University. He was one of eight trailblazing leaders recognized by Johns Hopkins for "making a lasting impact on society and the world."

Trebilcock graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 1962 and completed his Master in Law at the University of Adelaide in 1965. He joined U of T's Faculty of Law in 1972 and by 1991 he was appointed to the rank of University Professor, recognizing “unusual scholarly achievement and pre-eminence in a particular field of knowledge.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke via livestream from Kyiv as the ceremony’s commencement speaker. Zelenskyy was then named an honorary degree recipient by Johns Hopkins University president, Ron Daniels (LLB 1986), an alumnus and former dean of U of T’s Faculty of Law. Tak Mak, a medical biophysicist at U of T's Temerty Faculty of Medicine, also received an honorary degree.

Trebilcock is widely credited with founding U of T’s esteemed law and economics program, establishing it as a global leader in interdisciplinary exploration. In 2021, family, friends and U of T alumni donated more than $1.9 million to name the Michael J. Trebilcock Law and Economics Program and the solarium in Falconer Hall in his honour.

"It was an exciting time when I joined the Faculty in 1972 during Martin Friedland’s deanship. We were about to launch a number of interdisciplinary initiatives, including the law and economics program, with financial support realized from the U of T’s sale of Connaught Laboratories," recalls Trebilcock.

"The interaction between law and economics is important because most major policy decisions involve benefits and costs of different kinds. Thinking intelligently about the trade-offs is important; law and economics helps get a grip on what the cost and benefits are."

A prolific scholar, Trebilcock is the author of nearly 150 articles, more than 60 book chapters, and 44 books, including The Common Law of Restraint of Trade and The Limits of Freedom of Contract and Dealing with Losers: The Political Economy of Policy Transitions and his most recent book, Public Inquiries: A Scholar’s Engagements with the Policy-Making Process (University of Toronto Press, 2002). He has co-authored The Regulation of International Trade; Exploring the Domain of Accident Law: Taking the Facts Seriously; The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy; Economic Shocks: Defining a Role for Government; The Law and Economics of Canadian Competition Policy; and Rule of Law Reform and Development: Charting the Fragile Path of Progress.

His supervised master’s and doctoral graduates are today distinguished academics and experts in leading law firms, globally.

"I immensely enjoy supervising and mentoring young students. I often learn a great deal myself interacting with highly intelligent and accomplished young scholars and end up collaborating with them on joint scholarly projects,” says Trebilcock who continues to teach, mentor and write.

Trebilcock’s many awards and honours include election to Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) in 1987 and designation to Honorary Foreign Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) in 1999. In 2007, he was the recipient of the Ontario Attorney General’s Mundell Medal for his contributions to great legal writing. He was awarded the Canada Council Molson Prize in the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Ontario Premier’s Discovery Award for the Social Sciences.

He has previously received an Honorary Doctorate in Laws from McGill University and the Law Society of Ontario (LSO).

“You would expect me to emphasize the importance of cost/benefit analysis, but I do want to emphasize the element of serendipity,” said Trebilock in his video message to Johns Hopkins graduates.

“Be alert, open-minded and don't be trapped by linear thinking.”

Trebilcock's honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters was conferred by president Daniels during the Johns Hopkins University's commencement on May 25 at Homewood Field in Baltimore, MA.