Western’s next president dynamic leader

The new president of The University of Western Ontario is a dynamic and gifted academic leader committed to taking Western to the next level in terms of internationally recognized excellence in research and education.

Amit Chakma will begin serving a five-year term as Western’s president on July 1, 2009, succeeding Paul Davenport who will complete 15 years of service on June 30, 2009.

The announcement was made today by Michele Noble, Chair of Western’s Board of Governors and Chair of the Presidential Selection Committee following approval by the Board.

Chakma is currently Vice-President, Academic & Provost, and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo.

“Our board believes that Dr. Chakma’s experience, passion and vision make him the perfect choice to lead Western at this time in our history,” said Noble. “He has a clear understanding of the contribution Western makes to post secondary education and Western’s impact locally as well as nationally and internationally.”

The selection committee was comprised of representatives from faculty, students and the community. The international search for a new president began in January.

Chakma, who is 49 years old, began working at the University of Waterloo in 2001. Prior to that, he served as Dean of Engineering and then Vice-President (Research) at the University of Regina. Before Regina he was a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Calgary.

In his role at Waterloo, Chakma acted as chief operating officer, responsible for developing the annual budget of the university, skills that will be valuable as he leads Western through the months and years ahead that will present economic challenges for all universities.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to build on what is clearly a strong foundation at Western,” said Chakma.

“This is an opportune time for Western, and I am truly looking forward to meeting with members of the Western community, the London community and beyond to create even more success.”

Chakma is a graduate of the Algerian Petroleum Institute (Dip. Ing., 1982) and the University of British Columbia (Master of Applied Science, 1984 and PhD, chemical engineering, 1987).

His research focus is on natural gas engineering and petroleum waste management and he is widely known for his work on gas treating solvents and membrane separation. He also has an interest in atmospheric pollution with a special focus on finding short term solutions to CO2 induced global warming.

In 1998 Chakma was recognized with Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award. Currently he chairs the board of Health Force Ontario Marketing and Recruitment Agency and also serves on the Board of Directors of Canada’s Technology Triangle, St. Mary’s Hospital and Waterloo North Hydro.

“Amit Chakma is both a distinguished chemical engineer and a strong university leader known for his vision, energy, and collegial style,” said Western President Paul Davenport.

“I congratulate the Presidential Search Committee on a brilliant choice which will strengthen Western’s national and international reputation. I join all our faculty and staff in welcoming Amit into the Western family.”

Western has had 10 presidencies, although only nine men have held the position of president and vice-chancellor. From 1919 to 1927, three deans (medicine, public health and arts) administered the university.