Presidential installation a family affair

It was an emotional moment for Amit Chakma as he stood before an audience of University of Western Ontario graduates and his family on Oct. 23 to become officially installed as university president.

President Amit Chakam also had the honour of presenting his predecessor, Paul Davenport, with President Emeritus status at Western.

The installation occurred during Western’s 294th convocation ceremony. Chakma’s mother, two brothers and their families, as well as his wife, Meena, and sons, Justin and Hiroshi attended the event.

Although his father died before Chakma completed his PhD, choking back tears, Chakma described how his father supported him and would share in the pride of his achievement.

“The story of my family is one of many examples of the strength of the human spirit. It is in many ways the story of so many – past and present – who have come to Canada with dreams, ambitions and a determination to build better futures,” he says, noting as a young boy from a tribe in the hills of South Eastern Bangladesh, neither he, nor his parents, dreamed of such an appointment.

“I assume Western’s presidency with boundless hope and unbridled optimism.”

Chakma spoke of his commitment to fulfilling former Western President Ed Hall’s aspiration to make the university among the best in the world. Sticking to the timeline set out by Hall in the 1950s, Chakma envisions Western “joining the ranks of the great universities in the world by 2050.

“It will be a challenge and it will not be easy. But it can be done.”

As Western’s 10th president, Chakma realizes the gravity of his responsibilities and many of the challenges – both immediate and forthcoming – that will impact his period in office. But he encourages the university community to face these challenges head on.

“At Western, let us set our aim high and have the courage to fall short.

“It is time now for Western to educate ‘global citizens’ and our future leaders … It will take our sheer determination, hard work and the relentless pursuit of excellence as a collective.”

In her introductory speech, Michele Noble, chair of Western’s Board of Governors, says it was a unanimous choice of the Presidential Selection Committee to appoint Chakma as president.

“Amit believes in achievement through community and partnerships, and finding opportunity in adversity. We in the Western community are truly fortunate to have him as our leader,” she says.

As part of the ceremony, Chakma recited the Declaration of Office.

He received greetings from visiting representatives of other Canadian universities and colleges, from municipal, provincial and federal governments, Western employee groups, Western’s Alumni Association, undergraduate and graduate students’ representatives, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Council of Ontario Universities.

Close to 2,000 graduates received degrees during the two-day convocation ceremonies.

In recognition of contributions to the community and their respective fields, Western awarded honorary degrees to Dr. Cecil Rorabeck and Uri Mayer.

Rorabeck, a Western graduate (MD ’68)) and professor emeritus, received an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa (D.Sc.), in recognition of the worldwide impact he has made as an expert on knee and hip surgery and his dedication to community service.

Mayer, one of Canada’s most respected conductors, received a Doctor of Music, honoris causa (D.Mus.), in recognition of his leadership role with three major Canadian orchestras, including being principal conductor of Orchestra London, where his musical vision enhanced the reputation of the orchestra across the country.

Also during convocation, the status of Librarian Emerita was conferred upon Mary Jameson and Enid McFadden.