The Summer … and Fall to Remember

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

While I remain active on social media, it’s been a while since I wrote blog post. One of the reasons is that it has been a very hectic few months (in a great way) at Laurentian.

One of our Deans told me in September “that was the summer to remember!”. He was right, and I may add that it was a Fall to remember too!

Since June 29th alone, we have announced close to $200 million in new private gifts, peer-reviewed research awards and government infrastructure grants:

  • $10 million from Rob and Cheryl McEwen for the McEwen School of Architecture;
  • $10 million from the Harquail Family toward the Harquail School of Earth Sciences;
  • $49 million from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund for the Metal Earth initiative in Earth Sciences;
  • $55 million in matching investments from 22 partners for Metal Earth including $5 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC);
  • $3.5 million in new funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) recognizing the research excellence of our faculty;
  • $21.1 million from the federal government, $5 million from the NOHFC, $1.3 million from the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, $3 million from Mrs. Lily Fielding and $1 million from the Perdue Family toward a $60.7 million capital program to be completed by 2018 including the new 60,000 sq ft Cliff Fielding Research, Innovation and Engineering Building;
  • $5 million from Bruce Power toward health research and an electric car charging station at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

We hosted the federal cabinet retreat in August – the first postsecondary institution to do so. Over 130 guests spent three days on campus, not only Cabinet ministers, but also all their Deputy Ministers and Chiefs of Staff, as well as officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, the Canadian Ambassador to Washington, and several others.

The Metal Earth award was made possible by decades of research excellence at the Harquail School of Earth Sciences. We are already #1 in Canada in NSERC funding in economic geology and considered among the world’s top three universities in mineral exploration research. We will now become the undisputed global leaders in this field. Earning the confidence of the Harquail Family is a proud accomplishment. A global search is underway for a new Research Chair in Exploration Targeting and three additional faculty positions in Exploration Geophysics, Precambrian Geology and Earth Systems Modelling.

It should be noted that only 16 universities received funding since the inception in 2015 of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) program which aims to bring specific Canadian universities from #1 in Canada to #1 in the world in specific disciplines which can procure a long-term economic advantage to Canada. Out of the $1.25 billion awarded so far, only 12 of Canada’s 15 medical-doctoral universities received funding, and only four of the remaining 82 Canadian universities received funding, including Laurentian. The next round of CFREF awards is only expected to be launched in 2021-2022.

In my new role as Vice Chair of Universities Canada, and incoming Chair for 2017-2019, I have heard from colleagues across the country who are impressed by our summer and fall activities. A few have told me “Laurentian is in a new league now”. I go out of my way to explain that each of these individual announcements were the result of two to five years of work by many, many people on campus.

Meanwhile, the final phase of the McEwen School of Architecture opened its doors, as did the Executive Learning Centre, the University Club, the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research Lab, labs in the Ben Avery Building, myLaurentian Hub in the RD Parker Building and the student lounge area in the Alphonse Raymond Building. We are nearing the completion of the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre and of the welcoming area between the RD Parker Building and Great Hall.

Laurentian was once again ranked among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, up one rank over last year and up eight ranks over 2009. Our ranking on Research Infosource in terms of sponsored research income is up three ranks. Colleagues continue to receive national distinctions. For example, Professor Gregory Scofield from the English Department received the 2016 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Price at the Writers’ Trust Awards. Dr. Joel Belliveau from the History Department was awarded the Founders’ Prize by the Canadian History of Education Association for the best French-language book in the realm of the history of education.

Our purpose is to offer an outstanding university experience, in English and French with a comprehensive approach to Indigenous education, that prepares students as agents of change by stimulating them to ask new questions, to challenge what we know, and so empower them to create innovation solutions for future and global issues.

The future always presents a number of challenges to any public sector institution. Despite these challenges, I am excited about the opportunity ahead of us to define our future directions beyond the current 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, and hope you are too.

Finally, my wife Barbara and I invite everyone to our annual festive gathering at 179 John Street on Sunday, December 11th from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. It’s always a great opportunity for students and colleagues to mingle in a relaxed atmosphere with Governors, alumni and community members. A babysitting service will be available, as well as a shuttle service from the York Street city parking lot. Please RSVP at your convenience by calling (705) 673-6577 or by email Kindly advise if you have special requirements. Please bring indoor footwear. Look forward to seeing you there! 

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at, or can join the 12,000 people who follow me on FacebookTwitter or Linkedin.

Merci, Thank you, Miigwech.

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