- A Message From Our Board Chair -
On behalf of Western’s Board of Governors, I am pleased to introduce Dr. Alan Shepard as this great institution’s 11th President, effective July 1, 2019.
When introducing someone of this caliber, one can lean toward simply listing his attributes or highlighting actions. Here, I wish to do both – as who this man is stands every bit as important as what he has accomplished.
It is no secret that universities face challenges from all corners – economic, societal, technological, even political. But in those challenges are exciting opportunities for our further growth and evolution. Our search focused on finding a leader up to those challenges.
In Alan, we have discovered a clear-eyed, innovative, forward-looking thinker with a belief in collaborative leadership and open communications. Fair. Passionate. Empathetic. He brings an impressive level of humility and humanity to the job. He is authentic as a leader, as an educator and as a person.
He understands the needs of the student – the whole student – are first and foremost to what we are as a university. He stresses learning does not stop at our gates and, likewise, neither should the impact of our ideas and discoveries. We were taken by his passion for wanting universities to be seen as a force of good where excellence in research, teaching and service are deeply embedded in the culture. He believes the best universities are ones sewn tightly within the fabric of both their local and global communities.
At every stop in his career, he has been a creator – not a caretaker.
Alan is part of an up-and-coming generation of postsecondary leaders determined to make the university a vehicle for driving society forward.
American-born, Alan was the first of his family to attend university when he enrolled in St. Olaf College in Minnesota. At the end of first year he realised the university environment was the life he wanted. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa as an undergraduate, he earned a PhD in English from the University of Virginia.
Alan comes to us from Concordia University in Montreal, where he has served as President and Vice-Chancellor since 2012 working to position its national and international reputation as a dynamic, next-generation university. There, he has had a significant record of innovation and achievement. He has been effective in championing innovation proposals such as a Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) award, new graduate programs and substantial increases in Tri-Council and sponsored research funding, as well as financial aid for students.
Leading Concordia through a period of change, Alan rebuilt relationships within the university, the local community and with external stakeholders. He sees fundraising as a powerful tool to support an institution’s mission and control its own destiny outside the fluctuations of government funding. His success in fundraising, among many things, has enabled more enhanced recruitment of full-time faculty, as well as the creation of new undergraduate and graduate programs. Alan has also been instrumental in creating a student success centre, a number of entrepreneurially focused incubators, university-to-industry partnerships, and other efforts to broaden the scope of undergraduate and graduate learning opportunities.
Prior to Concordia, Alan served as Provost and Vice-President (Academic) at Ryerson University. There, he intensified the institution’s research and teaching capacity, while furthering investments in entrepreneurship and innovation with a particular focus on student-led initiatives. Alan led the development of the Digital Media Zone (DMZ), a business incubator in downtown Toronto targeting early-stage technology startups. Since its launch in April 2010, the DMZ has incubated and accelerated student- and alumni-led companies, with substantial economic impact.
Throughout his career, Alan has also held leadership roles at the University of Guelph, TCU in Texas, and the University of Virginia. His research has been supported by the University of Toronto and the Folger Library in Washington.
He is the author of numerous scholarly projects that have focused on the culture of early modern England, early modern literature and science, modern theatre, the future of innovation and the future of universities. His current and past board service includes Universities Canada, Stratford Festival of Canada and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce. He is currently chair of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN).
Alan and his partner Stephen Powell are the parents of two young adults. They are avid hikers and travellers, and they look forward to joining the Western community.
Before concluding, allow me to take a moment to thank the hundreds of Western community members from across campus, and around the world, who contributed wise counsel and encouragement during this nearly yearlong process. A special thanks to my fellow committee members who have lived this search nearly every day since January. This rigorous process demanded a lot of time and attention from a group of people already juggling their own demands of career and family. I thank you all for your commitment and cheer.
Lastly, I want to thank Dr. Amit Chakma for his outstanding leadership and service. His successor will build a future for this university on the incredible foundation of success he leaves behind. We will relive many of those successes in the months ahead as Amit concludes his final year.
Over the course of the next several months, Alan will be on campus a number of times to meet the broader Western community. For today, however, join me in congratulating and welcoming Alan Shepard as Western’s next president.
Chair, Western’s Board of Governors
Chair, Presidential Selection Committee