When Paul Davenport took office in 1994, Western’s undergraduate entering grades had fallen below the provincial average, the university was struggling with deep provincial funding cuts, and faculty and staff levels were dropping.
As he leaves office 15 years later, the university has among the highest entering grades in the country, ranks among the nation’s top universities and has undergone major academic restructuring and reinvestment.
Many members of the community attribute those accomplishments to the leadership shown by Davenport. Here are some of their comments:
“Western’s history will forever record Paul Davenport’s time as president as the ‘Davenport Era.’ This will be so, not only because he has been one of the longest serving presidents of a university in Canada, but more importantly, because of what he achieved through his leadership. Paul, during these many years of service, frequently expressed to me his gratitude for having been given the job as president of this great university. It is we who should be eternally grateful that the right choice was made and Paul accepted the invitation to lead the institution. He has lifted Western by his leadership: lifting its prestige, its growth, its scholastic and research achievements, its credibility among students, faculty and the community at large. He has enhanced the reputation of Western across Canada and internationally. He has been an indefatigable worker and effective ambassador for Western. Paul and Josette will be sorely missed but their legacy will survive. It is hoped that this is not goodbye but au revoir.”
**Claude Pensa, Board of Governors chair when Davenport was appointed in 1993
“I think we can understand best the secret of Paul’s effectiveness by resorting to a sports metaphor that Paul was fond of using. He used this notion to describe the truly great, well-rounded member of faculty who – simultaneously – excelled at research, was a great classroom teacher, and played the part of an effective and popular academic leader – he referred to these individuals as posing a ‘triple threat.’ Paul, in his 15 years as Western’s president displayed this same rare capacity to fulfill all aspects of this complex role with enthusiasm, energy and breathtaking effectiveness. He did it all. He was simply the best.”
**Greg Moran, former Vice-President Academic and Provost
“I have enjoyed the working relationship I have had with Paul over his tenure. I believe he has brought the university more solidly into the London community and by doing so has established a framework for economic development of our region. In particular, Paul has championed improved co-operation between Fanshawe College and Western for the benefit of students. Today we have joint degree/diploma programs operating in a number of fields giving students combined university and college experience in a shortened time frame. None of these arrangements were in place prior to his assuming the President’s position at Western. He has been publicly supportive of the vital role colleges play in society and understood how co-operation between our two sectors benefits all. I will miss this working relationship.”
**Howard Rundle, President, Fanshawe College
“I have known Paul Davenport since I came to London 12 years ago. He has played a strong role in the London and southwestern Ontario region as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the London Economic Development Corporation. He brought an economists perspective to things, but he always spoke in a language that was clear and easy to understand. University is sometimes seen as a big Ivory Tower, but Paul had a way of bringing that down and reaching out to people and to the community.”
**Gerry Macartney, CEO and General Manager, London Chamber of Commerce:
“One would not think that the president of Western and the Chief of Police would have many common interests, but we did, and we worked closely on many quality of life issues. From on campus safety to the United Way, Dr. Davenport always was concerned about helping others. I did get Paul to do a police ride-along on a busy Friday night. I think he will admit that policing was likely a career he would not choose.”
**Murray Faulkner, Chief, London Police Services
“I remember the first year he came to Western we were sitting in a box at the SkyDome watching Western win an overtime thriller against Saskatchewan. He was excited and it couldn’t have been timed better. Paul has attended many Mustang events, not just football, and he has been an avid supporter of our athletic and campus recreation programs. His philosophy has always been to offer the best student experience in the country and that also applied beyond the classroom.”
**Darwin Semotiuk, former Intercollegiate Athletics Director and head football Mustangs coach
“Before Paul Davenport became president, all catering at Gibbons Lodge was outsourced to off-campus caterers. When I first met President Davenport, he said that he was hoping to get campus catering back at Gibbons Lodge. He gave us the opportunity to cater the first dinner held at Gibbons Lodge. We did a dinner along a French theme. I guess we wowed them enough since we have done every single function at Gibbons Lodge since then. President Davenport also chose us over all the caterers in London to do the reception for his son Eric’s wedding. We were quite proud of that.
“In 1999, we were about to open the renovated restaurant in Somerville House. It was the same year that Lindsey Davenport (no relation) won the tennis championship and we planned to call it Davenport’s after the tennis star. The president was on holiday in France at the time and someone had emailed him about the plans for the restaurant. He emailed me back instructing me not to call it that name while he was in office because it might be considered more negative than positive for the restaurant. We were in a very tight spot. The restaurant was due to open in three weeks so we held a staff meeting to come up with a new name – the staff voted to call it Michael’s.
“Paul Davenport has been the best supporter of Great Hall Catering we could ever have asked for.”
**Michael Coleby, Executive Chef, Great Hall Catering and Michael’s Restaurant
“I have had a good relationship with Paul Davenport and in my opinion he was the right man for the times as far as Western is concerned. He has remained congenial and approachable and respectful towards those around him even during difficult times. I am impressed by the long hours he keeps and the incredible number of functions and events he has managed to attend. He has shown a genuine interest in the well being of staff, students and faculty and the university as a whole.
“He has supported initiatives to preserve and document the history of the university. During the making of the video, “Beyond The Dream”, celebrating Western’s 125th, he willingly gave all the time necessary to film and complete the opening introductory remarks even though he was on a tight time line to participate in other duties. He was not an experienced television performer but readily took direction from the crew while at the same time incorporating several of his own ideas. During the premiere of the video in Conron Hall he acted as host and introduced the video to a large number of special guests. I have very much enjoyed working for and with him over these past 15 years.”
**Alan Noon, Media Specialist, Faculty of Science
“As I reflect back and think about Dr. Davenport and his tenure at Western, what strikes me the most is his warmth, sincerity, his ability to relate to people, and his passion for Western. I’ve had the pleasure of walking him around campus twice each year for student recruitment events since the mid-90s. Although he spoke to audiences of several hundred at a time, he was able to make a connection with each prospective student and parent through his sense of humour, story-telling ability and his belief in Western. He always took some time to speak individually to many faculty, staff and students who volunteered their time for these events engaging them with questions about how they came to be at Western and what their experiences at Western were. He then would share what he heard (both good and bad) with others all over campus to make Western a better place and to help create the Best Student Experience.
“We’ve come along way from the mid-90’s due in large part to Dr. Davenport’s vision of what Western could be. He’s worked tirelessly through many long days and years to leave a legacy that will be felt long after he’s gone. He truly was a visionary for us and we will miss him.”
**Lori Gribbon, Director, Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions, Office of the Registrar
“I think Paul Davenport was an outstanding leader for Western. He leaves a strong legacy of accomplishment. Paul was a person who told it like it was and he dealt with the news media that way. He had excellent media skills and spoke openly both in good times and bad. I think the media respected him for that. He is a man of great integrity.”
**David Estok, Editor-in-Chief, The Hamilton Spectator and former AVP Community Relations and Public Affairs at Western
“Paul is a prince. He is a president’s president. He has been a great leader on the national and provincial scene and an articulate spokesman for the cause of higher education in this country. He led Western through a very distinctive period. Western is one of the universities in Canada that has advanced the most, primarily because of Paul’s leadership.”
**Dr. David Johnston, President, University of Waterloo
“My strongest impression of Paul was formed when I first arrived on the University of Alberta campus. People were still talking about President Paul Davenport with immense fondness and admiration even though he had been gone 10 years.
“Paul’s presidency at The University of Western Ontario has all the hallmarks of outstanding leadership. Western has also witnessed his ‘magic touch.’ In leading two of Canada’s finest universities, he has shown us all how to reach for excellence and lead in good times and bad. Over the course of two decades as University President, Paul defined the art of compelling advocacy. His tireless efforts, based always on facts and doing the right thing for Canada, has led to a golden age for R&D investments in this country.”
**Dr. Indira V. Samarasekera, President, University of Alberta
“Paul has made a tremendous contribution to town and gown relations. From very early on when he became President and I became Mayor, we moved very quickly to open the lines of communication and make sure the university was part of the community. The university played a key role in the revitalization of the downtown by relocation of its Centre of Part-Time and Continuing Education. We also addressed student issues and the neighborhood.
“Paul has been a member of the LEDC for many years. It is important for the university to understand its role in how it can help the city from an economic perspective. Paul has played a crucial role in the economic development of this city. I have enjoyed working with him over the years and he has been an excellent leader for our community.”
**Anne Marie DeCicco-Best, Mayor, City of London
“Paul was one of the leaders of the university presidents, not only in Ontario, but in Canada. He was an excellent leader with the enthusiasm and vision to contribute to improving our education system and convincing the Ontario and federal governments to provide additional funding for higher education. He has a very good sense what works most effectively with government. Paul exhibited quiet but very determined diplomacy to achieve his goals. The case for strong funding for graduate education was a huge issue for Paul and he was very determined and persuasive in his arguments. The Premier (Dalton McGuinty) has a very high regard for Paul Davenport.”
**Chris Bentley, Attorney General of Ontario and London West MPP
“I’ve seen first-hand the remarkable difference Paul Davenport has made, not only in our London community, but across the world. Whether it was volunteering for London charities, supporting student or faculty causes, or his legendary bike trips with his students through France, Paul was always there, giving so generously of his time, to lend a helping hand, give a word of encouragement or open up another door of opportunity for meaningful learning experiences. His infectious enthusiasm and strong leadership has inspired so many others to step up to the plate and do their part to make our world a better place.”
**Deb Matthews, London North MPP
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