Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
October 10, 2003
Summerlee installed as president, shares vision for future
Alastair Summerlee challenged students, faculty, alumni and others to use their knowledge and experience to better the world and shared his ideas for the future of education during his installation today as the University of Guelph’s seventh president and vice-chancellor.
“This university is a unique and marvellous place, the most vibrant and noble of institutions,” Summerlee said. “I am truly privileged to have the opportunity to serve as the vice-chancellor of one of Canada’s foremost universities.”
In an inspiring installation address that included quotes from Nelson Mandela, Walt Whitman and Thomas Edison, Summerlee told the hundreds of people gathered in War Memorial Hall that universities and colleges have a vital role to play in the heath and welfare of society and in the care of the world. “Sadly, many social factors have unleashed a period of extreme uncertainty and extraordinary change,” he said, adding that numerous moral and social debates are sure to follow world events of the past few years.
U of G and other Canadian universities have an important role to play in facing the considerable tensions and difficult decisions of the future, including ensuring students leave university with the knowledge and the open-mindedness they need to “push the outer limits of human thought” while being considerate of the world around them, he said.
Summerlee said three directions will help set the tone and guide development during his tenure: accessibility, distinction and innovation. “I will be a tireless advocate of accessible and affordable public education,” he said, adding he will work to ensure that “every intellectually-capable student who can benefit from a University of Guelph degree will be able to do so.”
He added that universities must work to regain their distinction as the moral, social and intellectual centres of society by promoting liberal education and encouraging community awareness of social issues. Summerlee also pledged to continue to push U of G’s "innovation agenda within every aspect of the University, including teaching, research, both pure and applied, and in service within and outside the university community and city.”
“I acknowledge that these are lofty ideals that will take a great deal of work and at times it will not be glamourous,” he said, later quoting Thomas Edison who said that opportunity often comes dressed in overalls and disguised as work.
Summerlee’s installation was attended by, among others, Chancellor Lincoln Alexander; U of G faculty, students, alumni, board members and staff; and dignitaries including Elizabeth Witmer, deputy premier and Minister of Education. “This is a very proud day in the distinguished history of this university,” Witmer said. “The future of our province and the future of this country depends on how students are educated. To be responsible for students is not only an extreme trust, it’s also an exciting challenge.”
Also in attendance were current presidents and vice-presidents of more than 20 Canadian universities and colleges, and former U of G presidents Mordechai Rozanski, Burt Matthews, Brian Segal and Bill Winegard. Summerlee acknowledged his predecessors, saying they provided him with “the strongest of foundations” from which to build. “Today is a celebration as much of their achievements as it is a celebration of my installation,” he said.
Summerlee was selected as president in January 2003 following an international search. It was the first time in U of G’s history that an internal candidate was named president. He assumed his new role July 15. A professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences since 1988, Summerlee served as associate dean of the Ontario Veterinary College in 1992; dean of graduate studies in 1995; associate vice-president (academic) in 1999; and provost and vice-president (academic) in 2000.
Throughout his career, Summerlee has been known as a pioneer of alternative teaching methods and continued teaching while holding administrative positions. In June, he was awarded a prestigious 3M Teaching Fellowship for outstanding leadership in teaching, education and academic program development. He is the only U of G professor to earn the honour while serving as an administrator and is the first president-elect in Canada to be named a 3M Fellow. He also received a Distinguished Professorial Teaching Award from the U of G Faculty Association in 1991.
He holds a B.Sc., B.V.Sc. and PhD from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and is a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He and his spouse, Catherine, have two daughters, Madeleine and Lydia, and a son, Maxwell, and make their home near the University.
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824- 4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.