Rotman: Join with alma mater to solve problems

Joseph Rotman hopes graduates turn to their alma mater to help change the world.

“Your generation is being called upon to solve difficult challenges that are occurring in business, government and society,” said Rotman, a renowned Canadian businessman and philanthropist, who was officially installed as Western’s 21st chancellor last week at the university’s 300th convocation.

“I believe that the Western mission and mandate, as one of Canada’s great academic institutions, will help us bring about a new and better era for our society, first by having developed you as leaders, as well as through its research efforts. As your alma mater, I propose that Western could be, and should be, the vehicle through which you possibly help, and hopefully address, the changes that are needed.”

Born in Toronto, Rotman earned a BA from Western in 1957 and an M.Comm from the University of Toronto in 1960. Afterwards, he studied at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in the Ph.D. program and was awarded an honorary LLD from Western in 2009. Western’s Rotman Institute of Philosophy, based within the Department of Philosophy, is named in his honour.

He addressed graduates from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Engineering and Richard Ivey School of Business at the ceremony, Thursday afternoon.

“As your chancellor, I will do my best for the university and for the community of higher education,” Rotman said. He added the university, its culture, staff and faculty nurture daily the present and future success of students.

“You may have an obligation and a responsibility to preserve and protect this institution in order to allow it to thrive. Many, if not most, of the world’s problems will be solved by research, thinking, analysis and policy development at universities. Your involvement creates the virtuous cycle, whether it comes from your using Western or your feelings of responsibility to Western,” he told the graduates.

Rotman encouraged grads to keep their ties to Western, support groups and faculties on campus that reflect their personal interests, advocate for a Western education and value it in the workplace. He also asked them to think of their alma mater as a partner in life and business.

“My message is to help benefit the institution which has provided you with a platform from which to build your life. You will therefore be helping to improve the world for generations to come, which provides a lasting foundation for this relationship you’re your alma mater,” Rotman said.

Rotman is Chair 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 was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995 and inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame as a Companion in May 2009.

In July 2008, Rotman was appointed to a five-year term as Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Crown Corporation that for more than half a century has been the principal conduit of federal support for Canada’s professional artists and arts organizations.

Demonstrating his immense passion for the sciences, Rotman also serves as Chair of the Ontario Brain Institute and Chair of Grand Challenges Canada, a unique and independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of people in developing countries through innovation.

Throughout his career, Rotman has applied his business experience to the advancement of Canadian life sciences research and the development of Canada’s innovation and commercialization capacity by providing financial support and entrepreneurial guidance to the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

He is also recognized as a co-founder of MaRS (Medical and Related Sciences Discovery District) and has served tirelessly in various leadership roles with Aggregate Therapeutics Inc., Canadian Institute of Health Research, Canada Gairdner International Awards, Innovations Foundation University of Toronto, Ontario BIOCouncil, Ontario Genomics Institute, StemCell Network and The Ontario Brain Initiative. A co-founder of the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, Rotman 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 board member of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (1996-98).