U of G’s Longest-Serving Chancellor Honoured by Provincial Day Jan. 21

January 20, 2014 - Campus Bulletin

A new provincial day Jan. 21 honours the University of Guelph’s longest-serving chancellor, the late Lincoln Alexander.

“This pays tribute to an amazingly giving man who devoted his life to making a difference and to being an advocate for education,” said U of G President Alastair Summerlee.

“Lincoln Alexander Day will allow all of us to pay tribute to the values of perhaps the most admired and respected public figure in Ontario.”

Although not an official provincial holiday, Lincoln Alexander Day allows teachers and students to study his life, contributions and challenges.

U of G will kick off its 50th anniversary celebrations that day in honour of Alexander. The launch will be at 1:30 p.m. in the courtyard of the University Centre.

A documentary about Alexander, Linc in Time, will be shown Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Rozanski Hall, Room 105. It's part of the "Docurama" documentary series sponsored by the MacLaughlin Library and Central Students Association.

Alexander died in Oct. 2012 at the age of 90.

He was appointed U of G chancellor in 1991 and served an unprecedented five terms. In 2007, at the end of his final term, he was named “chancellor emeritus” to recognize his years of dedication.

Alexander’s life is often described as one of exemplary firsts. Among them, he was the first person in his family to attend university; Canada’s first black MP; the first black chair of the Workers’ Compensation Board; and the first visible minority appointed as Ontario’s lieutenant-governor.

He was born in Toronto Jan. 21, 1922, and grew up in Toronto and New York City. At age 20, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political economics from McMaster University in 1949. He attended Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 1953. He was first elected MP for Hamilton West in 1968.

An advocate of education, he wrote a 2006 memoir, Go to School, You’re a Little Black Boy.

Several Ontario schools, buildings and a highway have been named after him. Three U of G awards carry his name: the Lincoln Alexander Outstanding Leadership Award, the Lincoln Alexander Medal of Distinguished Service and the Lincoln Alexander Chancellor’s Scholarship. On campus, a refurbished teaching and research building called Lincoln Alexander Hall honours his commitment to the University.

“’Linc’ was one of Canada’s most groundbreaking and influential leaders,” Summerlee said. “He led our University with grace and dignity for more than 15 years, and remained a great supporter and friend. He was an inspiration and a role model, and one of a kind.”

A bill establishing the day was approved last fall and was sponsored by Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott, who said he came up with the idea after attending an event at U of G.

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