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Deep-Sea Explorer Jill Heinerth to Receive First Honorary Doctorate

Aug. 31, 2023


Acclaimed for her courage and voracious curiosity as she pursues discoveries in the most arduous water landscapes in the world, Jill Heinerth is receiving her first honorary doctorate, from Victoria University in the University of Toronto. She will be honoured for her role as a deep-sea diver, explorer, scientist, author, teacher, photographer, filmmaker, documentarian and environmental advocate with a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causaChancellor Nick Saul, renowned food and social justice activist, will confer the degree on Oct. 11, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre on Victoria University’s campus, as part of Charter Day celebrations, marking the anniversary of the University’s founding in 1836.  

More people have been to the moon than to places that Jill Heinerth has explored deep inside our watery planet. A world-class technical diver and filmmaker, Jill’s extraordinary path from under Antarctic icebergs to tropical blue holes is proof that real life is far more exciting than fiction.” —James Cameron, Academy Award-winning director. 

As one of the world’s most respected explorers, cave divers, polar explorers and scientists, Jill Heinerth has discovered and surveyed some of the most remote water-filled cave systems on the planet, illuminating and advancing our understanding of the planet’s inner workings. Her contributions to public education about the environment and climate change through her books (bestseller and critically acclaimed Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver), television and radio series (CBC, BBC, NPR, A&E, PBS), podcasts, photography and art exhibits, and public speaking engagements inspire awe and have earned her many prestigious awards including being named the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s first Explorer-in-Residence in 2016. She is the inaugural recipient of the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration, was awarded the Canadian Polar Medal and has been named to the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. 

On the farthest fringe of adventure is a world unseen, a place with the merest hint of light, short breaths of air, abundant danger and one extraordinary woman, Jill Heinerth.—Sports Illustrated Women

Ms. Heinerth has been a speaker in Vic One, Victoria College’s acclaimed first-year program, her stories leaving attendees in awe. By speaking honestly about risk and fear, she related her personal experiences to the daily lives of Victoria College students and their long-range aspirations, inspiring them to be their calmest, most curious and most disciplined selves.  

“At Victoria University, we are committed to helping our students explore big ideas and landscapes so that they can envision their roles in shaping our world in meaningful ways. Jill Heinerth exemplifies someone who, through deep exploration and determination, is helping us all understand our relationship with our wonderous planet, and we are so pleased to celebrate her remarkable achievements,” said Dr. Rhonda N. McEwen, president and vice-chancellor of Victoria University in the University of Toronto.    

To learn more about Jill Heinerth, visit her website.  

About Victoria University in The University of Toronto

Victoria University, federated with The University of Toronto, was founded in 1836 and is one of the oldest universities in Canada. As a recognized leader in undergraduate education in the arts and sciences and in graduate education in theology, Victoria University creates an environment where students discover how to match their distinctive talents to some of the world’s most pressing issues. It is home to two outstanding colleges. Victoria College—with its small class sizes, its distinctive first-year programs and its exceptional students—is recognized as one of the most rewarding places in Canada to pursue an undergraduate education. Emmanuel College prepares students from many faiths and backgrounds for leadership roles in religious contexts. The iconic campus is located on the east side of Queen’s Park, south of Bloor Street, in Toronto.

Media Contact:
Sally Szuster, Director, Communications
Victoria University in the University of Toronto

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