This month my term as chair of the board of governors of Laurentian University is up. It has been an extraordinary experience.
Nothing and everything prepares you for this adventure.
The university is a community of extraordinary people who are dedicated to helping young people learn and prepare themselves for this complex world.
This mission is supplemented with a mandate to conduct research that helps us better understand the world we live in.
At Laurentian, it is further defined by our tri-cultural mandate that reflects our English, French and Indigenous heritage. We are a bilingual university.
It is impossible to overestimate the impact this institution has on Sudbury and northeastern Ontario.
The reason is the ripple effect of our work with tens of thousands of graduates who are living out their lives in the towns and cities of the North.
They take with them the confidence and knowledge and networks and pride and skills we’ve help provide to them, and put them to work.
A university is the gift that keeps on giving for 30, 60 or 70 years with a million points of contact every day. The priceless result is not easily measured. It’s like breathing the air around us…not that important until you take it away.
Like virtually every other aspect of our civil society – religion, government, media, the economy, health care – we are rushing to adapt to the speed of change without losing our soul en route.
A few years ago on behalf of the board I wrote the following:
“We live in an imperfect world. Our brilliance and innovation are often surpassed by our inability to put things in perspective.
We invent products and technologies and seem determined to deploy them without critical thinking of their true effect.
This is true for almost every facet of life, from what we eat to the energy we consume or the media we devour.
Higher learning is an opportunity to have the time and enthusiasm to see how things work, to look at what might be better, and to solve problems we might not have time to consider later in life. It is a time to gain confidence in who we are and what we believe in, and to meet people we will know for the rest of our life.
Laurentian University is a community chiseled out of the hard rock and lakes that surround us. We are doing our part to prepare our students for commercial success, but also to contribute to a civil society which needs our attention and reverence.
The Laurentian board of governors, volunteers all, are committed to helping this institution excel and prosper in the communities we serve.”
When we are feeling chuffed, this is our story.
We’ve raised nearly $70 million in private investment to enhance and empower our operations, invested more than $150 million in campus renewal: from new residences to the Vale Living with Lakes Centre, from a new school of architecture downtown to our new Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre, from new technology enabled classrooms to a new cardiovascular and metabolic research lab.
We’ve improved our ranking on the Maclean’s list from 18 out of 21, to 11 out of 19.
We’ve grown our student body in spite of a challenging downturn in the number of graduating high school students in Northern Ontario, increased research funding, welcomed Aline Chretien and Steve Paikin as our first chancellors, launched the Goodman school of Mines, doubled our Indigenous faculty from 12 to 24, increased our grade entry from 79 per cent to 82 per cent, brought back our Voyageur hockey teams, balanced our budgets, and won numerous national and international awards.
When we are feeling less chuffed, we worry about our kids and the world they are inheriting, and our ability to prepare them for some of the madness they face from climate change, technology run amok and the human condition which, in general, is getting curiouser and curiouser, to quote that famous philosopher Curious George.
Every day it has been a joy to work with a board that is passionate and articulate, a president and senior management group that is second to none, and an academic community and staff contingent who love their work and their students and sacrifice every day to make their experience meaningful and useful.
It is an environment where the only goal is to do good, and it doesn’t get better than that.