Lorna R. Marsden (CM, O.Ont, OM(FGR), LLD(hons), PhD) was born in Sidney, British Columbia in 1942. Marsden received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and a PhD in Sociology from Princeton University in 1972. She joined the University of Toronto in 1972 as a professor Sociology, and was later Associate Dean of the Graduate School and the Vice-Provost (Arts and Sciences), also at the University of Toronto. While at the University of Toronto, she also joined the Liberal Party of Canada and acted as national policy chair in 1975 and vice-president in 1980. She was appointed to the Canadian Senate (Toronto-Taddle Creek) by Pierre Trudeau in 1984, and continued to teach part-time until 1992 when she became the president and Vice-Chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University. In 1997, she was appointed President and Vice-Chancellor of York University and held the position until 2007 when she was given the title of president emerita. While President at York, Marsden founded the Culture and Communications program and led a major building campaign. Marsden has also served as director and sat on boards for voluntary associations as well as organizations like Manulife Financial, the Laidlaw Foundation, Gore Mutual, Westcoast Energy Inc., and the Institute for Work and Health. As of 2018, she is chair of the Board of Directors of the Gardiner Museum in Toronto.
Marsden attended the founding meeting of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women in 1972, and served as the President of NAC from 1975-1977. She was an active participant in the Ontario Committee on the Status of Women from 1971, the founder and director of the Child, Youth, & Family Policy Research Centre from 1987 to 1992, and a council member of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Marsden has published and spoken widely on the topics women’s work and the struggle for equality in Canada, social change and policy, and university administration, including the 2018 book co-written with Beth Atchenson entitled “White Gloves Off: The Work of the Ontario Committee on the Status of Women.
Marsden is the recipient of several honours. She was named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 by the Women’s Executive Network from 2003 to 2006, and received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in 2003. She became a member of the Order of Canada in 2006 and the Order of Ontario in 2009, and received the Order of merit (First Class) of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2007. She has also received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, the Canada 125th Anniversary Medal, and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal. In 2017 she received the Senate Medal for Canada 150. Marsden holds honorary doctorates from the University of New Brunswick, University of Winnipeg, Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the University of Victoria.