Michael J. Fox given honorary degree from UBC for career in acting, advocacy

Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised more than $120 mil for Parkinson’s research

Michael J. Fox, the Canadian-born actor who has used his success in film and television to advocate for Parkinson’s disease patients, received an honorary degree Thursday from the University of British Columbia.He said he’s been fortunate to take on many roles in life — actor, husband, father and Parkinson’s advocate. “In every aspect, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work for real impact on the world and in the lives of those around me, and to be a partner in the critical search for answers,” he said. “I wish you no greater satisfaction in life than to feel the same way today as you graduate and for many years to come.”

The 46-year-old, who was born in Edmonton and grew up in Burnaby, B.C., shot to fame in the ’80s and ’90s starring in popular movies such as “Back to the Future” and “The Secret of My Success,” along with TV shows like “Family Ties” and “Spin City.”

But Fox took on a new role after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 — a diagnosis he didn’t reveal publicly until seven years later. He set up the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2000, raising millions of dollars for Parkinson’s research, and he has been a vocal advocate for stem cell research and other policies affecting people with the disease. “Remember that you have opportunity every day, every moment to invent the future you want,” Fox told graduates after receiving his honorary degree.

The university’s vice-president academic, David Farrar, branded Fox as a hometown hero. “Whatever the acting role Michael J. Fox has played, to many of us in this room, he will always be the kid from Burnaby who went to Hollywood and made it big,” Farrar told the graduation ceremony.

“More recently, Mr. Fox has taken on the role of his life,” Farrar added, referring to the actor’s advocacy work. “Like many of the roles he has chosen to play as an actor, he has truly risen to the challenge.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has already raised more than $120 million. He became a U.S. citizen in 2000.

-with a report from CP