Chancellors' Circle of Benefactors wordmark
CCB Medal

Joannah Lawson and Brian Lawson


Joannah (MIR 1989)
Brian (BA 1982 TRIN)

A passion for nutrition and children’s health led Joannah and Brian Lawson to found a cornerstone institution at the University of Toronto, a home for groundbreaking research that improves the lives of kids and their families.

As a senior managing partner and chief financial officer of Brookfield Asset Management Inc., Brian D. Lawson (BA 1982 TRIN) has played a central role in charting the company’s course through uncertain economic times. Under his leadership, Brookfield has experienced steady growth and diversified its multi-billion-dollar portfolio of renewable energy, real estate, and infrastructure projects while stressing the values of teamwork and communication. He was named CFO of the Year in 2013.

Joannah Lawson (MIR 1989) transitioned from corporate change management to become a certified nutritionist. Her company, Appetite for Change, focuses on nutritional change at organizational and community levels. She is also active in the area of child nutrition, both as a volunteer and as a donor. She serves as chair of the Upper School Nutrition Committee (2012) and Association Council (September 2016) at Upper Canada College, on the Board of Trustees of Trinity College (2016), in the Campaign Cabinet at U of T’s Faculty of Medicine (2015), and as chair and member of the Worship and Music Committee, Rosedale United Church (March 2017). She is the recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Innovation from Nortel Networks, a U of T Open Masters Fellowship, the Imperial Oil Higher Education Award and the Eva Henry Prize for Senior Math & Science.

The Lawsons have made children’s health their principal cause. The couple donated a total of $10 million to help found the Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition within U of T’s Faculty of Medicine. The Lawson Centre is a leading voice in research and education in child and maternal health, spearheading essential studies on how the human microbiome affects growth and development and advancing technologies that help families manage diet and chronic disease.

In 2016, the Lawsons made a $1-million gift to the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition (Stop M2K), an initiative co-sponsored by the Childhood Obesity Foundation and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. With their help, the campaign sponsored a national cross-platform marketing push to combat unfair food and beverage marketing practices targeting children.

The Lawson’s mission is to reduce the burden of diet-related chronic disease and mental illness through nutritious food derived from a healthy food system. The Lawson Centre has provided the fight against chronic disease with a much-needed nexus of knowledge, research and policy development. Through the Lawsons’ generous gift, U of T is helping today’s children become healthier adults nourished by a more sustainable food system.