Tragic Losses, Engaging Model Parliament, Soapbox On Thursday

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

It is with a heavy heart that I write my first blog posting of the year, with the tragic loss of four Laurentian students who left us far too soon still weighing heavily. On January 3rd a car accident on Highway 17 claimed the lives of Hillary Afelskie, Keegan Melville and Zabrina Rekowski. On the same day, Jessica Chamberland who was a Barrie student was killed in a car accident on Highway 69.

On Saturday January 7th, over 60 Laurentian students and staff made the trip to Renfrew to attend the funeral of Keegan and a celebration of Zabrina’s life. I joined them for the occasion, offering sincere condolences to the families on behalf of our University community.

At Keegan’s service, Renfrew Collegiate Institute’s large and impressive jazz band played. Keegan’s high school music teacher and band leader was devastated – she wanted Keegan to be her successor. At Zabrina’s celebration of life, I also had the opportunity to spend time with another Laurentian student, Emily Olmstead, the only survivor of the Highway 17 accident. Her strength is very impressive.

I joined many students and colleagues at Jessica’s funeral at Holy Redeemer Church in Minnow Lake on January 10th. A graduate of Collège Notre-Dame, she and her family was known to many faculty and staff members on campus. She was planning to come back to Sudbury in September for her second year of undergraduate studies.

Hillary’s funeral was held on January 13th in Renfrew. Again, a bus of Laurentian students, faculty and staff made the trip to provide support to the family. Carol McAulay, Vice-President, Administration, also represented the University.

We will have a special celebration of life at the Sudbury campus on February 3rd at

2 pm in the Fraser Auditorium to remember and pay tribute to each of them, followed by a reception in Alumni Hall.

I can’t express enough my pride in our students and staff from residences and Student Affairs for their responsiveness following these tragic deaths. I know that the three impacted families from Renfrew were overwhelmed by the love and support expressed by so many members of our University community.

Laurentian Student Took Over Parliament Hill

On January 6th, I attended the 20th annual model parliament in Ottawa.  Laurentian is one of only two universities privileged to hold a model parliament in the House of Commons each year. A total of 125 students from Sudbury and Barrie spent the day discussing, debating and negotiating important issues.  Our Chancellor, Aline Chrétien, served as Governor General and read the Speech from the Throne in the Senate chamber. We also had over 40 alumni who participated in the Alumni Model Parliament taking place at the same time at Senate. This experience was very gratifying for me as I watched students ask questions, challenge issues and passionately discuss local and global topics. I would like to thank those who graciously gave their time to make this a rich and memorable experience for the students particularly; former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps, Sudbury M.P. Glenn Thibeault, and Senator Marie-P. (Charette) Poulin. I would like to congratulate those who organized this year’s program as well as those who have contributed to its success over the past twenty years. I’m looking forward to next edition on the Hill! Many students have mentioned to me how the Model Parliament was one of their best moments of their university experience at Laurentian.

Founding Director Appointment

On January 16th, we announced the appointment of the first director of the Laurentian School of Architecture.  Dr. Terrance Galvin joins the Laurentian University team after a lengthy global search.  I am thrilled to have him onboard as we enter this critically important phase of the project moving from concept to reality.  Terrance brings a wealth of experience having served as Director of the Dalhousie School of Architecture in Halifax where he also taught architectural history, theory and design. Terrance received the prestigious Teaching Excellence Award given by the Student Union at Dalhousie.  You will certainly be seeing and hearing a lot from him in months to come.   Please join me in welcoming him to his new role.

Living in Healthy Communities – Ethics and Global Health

On January 19th, the first Lecture of the Dr. Dan Andreae Distinguished Presidential Lecture Series on Living in Healthy Communities took place at the Fraser Auditorium.  Dr. James Orbinski was our first guest speaker and he shared his thoughts on Ethics and Global Health. He is the former international president of Médecins sans frontières Doctors Without Borders and Dignitas International. Dr. Orbinski is a globally recognized humanitarian practitioner and advocate, as well as a leading scholar and scientist in global health. This new annual lecture series, along with an annual $2,500 scholarship for a Laurentian student, is made possible thanks to the very generous gift o $100,000 by Dr. Dan Andreae.


Live-in For Literacy

Laurentian students at both the Sudbury and Barrie campuses have been camping out in the libraries since January 20th and will do so until January 26th to raise funds for Live-in For Literacy.  The goal this year is to raise $27,000 among the nine universities participating across Canada.  Funds raised through this event will go towards building school libraries and educations facilities in developing countries. Good luck to the teams!  We will see you in the Library! 


Voyageurs On The Way Up!

Congratulations to our men’s basketball for their fifth consecutive win on Saturday, 77-65, vs Ryerson. Unfortunately, the Lady Vees had a heart-breaking loss in overtime. Both games were very intense and I was pleased so many students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters show their enthusiasm for Laurentian!  Let’s fill the Ben Avery for the last two home games of the regular season: Friday, February 17th against RMC, the next day against Queen’s (6 pm for Lady Vees, 8 pm for Voyageurs).


Reminder: Laurentian Soapbox on Thursday

This Thursday, January 26th, at 3 pm in Alumni Hall, we will launch the monthly “Laurentian Soapbox” on the Sudbury campus. Each edition will be followed up by a reception with cash bar, enabling students, faculty and staff to interact in an informal setting.

In our recent employee engagement survey, faculty and staff identified the need for more regular opportunities to: socialize; enable more direct communication between senior administrators, faculty and staff; be kept abreast of new developments and long-term planning; and recognize the accomplishments of teams, individual faculty and staff. The Soapbox will be one of many ways to follow up on these needs. Each Soapbox will feature a number of short updates or presentations from various members of the Leadership Group, faculty or staff.  There will also be an opportunity for a Question and Answer period on any topic facing our University community.

In short, these sessions are designed to broaden the ways in which we communicate across the University and I encourage everyone to attend.  Should you wish to see a specific topic discussed at the Soapbox this week or in future editions, please contact my assistant, Silvie Allard, at or (705) 675-1151, extension 3432.    I look forward to seeing you there on Thursday at 3pm!

I welcome comments and questions on the topics discussed in my blog postings, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is:

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Merci/Thank you/Miigwech