Arthur (Hon LLD 2011)
Sonia (BA 1960 UC, MA 1990, PhD 1995, Hon LLD 2011)
The Labatt family’s gift to create the Labatt Family Network for Research on the Biology of Depression is helping turn the tide on this debilitating illness.
Motivated by a profound commitment to help change the trajectory of depression research, Sonia (1937-2022) and Arthur Labatt, together with their children Sheila, Jacquie and John, stepped forward in 2018 to help create the Labatt Family Network at the University of Toronto. The initiative aims to advance our understanding of the biology of depression and foster the next generation of research talent, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for those suffering from depression.
The World Health Organization identifies depression as the leading cause of disability on the planet, and it is an illness with no single cause. Symptoms vary from person to person as depressive disorders come in different forms, and the efficacy of treatments is different for each sufferer. Understanding the biological underpinnings of depression is widely seen as the next great frontier for research in the field.
The Labatt family’s gift is building a network of talent and funding multiple research trajectories so investigators can work together to build a better biological model of depression.
The donation supports two Labatt Family Network Chairs, one in partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and the other in association with the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). It also funds a professorship, a city-wide research program and numerous fellowships. These elements are designed to support the best minds in depression research, help attract brilliant students, residents and young scientists to the field, and spark collaboration across Toronto’s biomedical ecosystem.
As one of Canada’s most generous philanthropic families, the Labatt family has supported a broad range of institutions and causes over many generations. Notable beneficiaries include the Labatt Family Heart Centre and the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at SickKids, the Labatt Family Centre of Excellence in Brain Injury and Trauma Research at St. Michael’s Hospital, the Labatt Family School of Nursing at Western University, the World Wildlife Fund and CAMH’s revitalized Queen Street facility. In addition to the Labatt Family Network, the family has supported many initiatives at the University of Toronto, including the Labatt Family Innovation Fund in Brain Health and the Sonia and Arthur Labatt Fellowships in the Not-For-Profit Sector.
The Labatt family also has a long record of volunteerism. Sonia Labatt served as a member of the University of Toronto’s Boundless campaign executive, a cabinet member for the campaign for the Faculty of Arts & Science, and a member of the Arts and Science Dean’s Advisory Board. Arthur Labatt served as Chancellor of Western University and has held various volunteer roles across Ontario’s health, education and arts sectors. Both Arthur and Sonia volunteered to serve as Honorary Chairs of the Defy Gravity campaign, and Jacquie Labatt is a long-term volunteer and advisor at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, particularly with the Department of Psychiatry.
The gift to create the Labatt Family Network is truly visionary. Researchers don’t know where the next great discovery will come from, but by investing in ideas and approaches that show promise, and nurturing the talent of tomorrow, the Labatt family has taken an enlightened approach to the future of depression research. And that is cause for hope for millions of people around the world.