Philanthropist and long-standing supporter of health, education and the arts, University of Western Ontario honorary degree recipient Joseph Rotman encouraged graduates to “find where you can develop your own path and not just follow.”
Rotman credits his experiences and education at Western (BA ’57) for planting the seeds for his future success.
“My experience as a Western undergrad enlightened, enriched and guided my entire life,” he says.
Rotman spoke to graduates from the faculties of Arts and Humanities, Information and Media Studies, Don Wright Faculty of Music and the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the June 8 morning session of Western’s 293rd Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws upon Rotman in recognition of his many philanthropic gifts, at Western and beyond, and for his dedicated involvement with community organizations, health care institutions and universities.
Giving back to the department from which he learned so much as an undergraduate student Rotman’s most recent gift will create a new Institute of Science and Values in the Department of Philosophy.
“Science empowers us, the humanities teach us to use that power wisely,” he says. “Hopefully the institute we have started will play a small role in that process.”
In July 2008, he was appointed to a five-year term as Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Crown Corporation that for over half a century has been the principal conduit of federal support for Canada’s professional artists and arts organizations. He previously served as Chair of the Board of the Art Gallery of Ontario (1993-96), and a Board Member (1991-2000), as well as a Member of the Board of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (1996-98).
An Officer of the Order of Canada, Rotman is Chairman of Roy-L Capital Corporation, a private family investment company. He launched his business career in 1962 and has been involved in establishing a number of private and public companies active in oil trading, petroleum distribution, oil and gas exploration, merchant banking, real estate and venture capital.
He earned his M.Comm from the University of Toronto in 1960. During 1960-61 he studied at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in the Ph.D. program. Rotman was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame as a Companion in May 2009.
In her citation, Kathleen Okruhlik, of the Faculty Arts and Humanities, spoke of Rotman’s entrepreneurial success.
“Mr. Rotman has demonstrated a keen interest not only in science and health care but also a continuing interest in the arts,” says Okruhlik, noting his wide-ranging interests in science, arts, and the betterment of society made him a natural match for one of Western’s newest initiatives – a focus on science and values.
“This is a conversation that is starting to take place, and nowhere will it be conducted at a higher level than at The University of Western Ontario,” she says. “We have on our faculty some of the world’s leading scholars in philosophy of science and in value theory. These scholars now have a champion. Their work is being supported through the Joseph L. Rotman Institute for Science and Values in the Department of Philosophy, but with a world-wide reach.”
In his speech, Rotman expressed three wishes for the graduates: remain lifelong students; become active humans; and have fun.
He advised students to reflect on the education and experiences at Western and use this to guide their decisions and choices in the future.
“Take on challenges that absolutely seem impossible. The worse that can happen to you is you might learn,” he says.
As part of the ceremony, presentation of the Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching was made to John Leonard (English) and the Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching to Henri Boyi (French), Kim Solga (English), and Kim Verwaayen (Women’s Studies and Feminist Research).
The status of Librarian Emerita was conferred upon Wendy Kennedy, Associate University Librarian.
The university will be streaming Spring Convocation 2009 live online. Ceremonies take place each day this week at Alumni Hall at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.