Editor’s note: Western Board of Governors Chair Paul Jenkins, BA’71, celebrated the tenure of Amit Chakma, Western’s 10th President and Vice-Chancellor, in the following open letter to the community on May 16. Chakma ends his tenure on June 28.
Earlier today, the Western and broader London community gathered to honour President Amit Chakma at an on-campus barbecue. Dr. Chakma has been a passionate and visionary leader, setting Western on an ambitious, exciting course from the day he arrived as Western’s 10th President and Vice-Chancellor in July 2009.
In 2009, less than 3 per cent of the University’s incoming undergraduate class came from outside Canada, and a similarly small percentage came from provinces other than Ontario.
Today, 15 per cent of Western’s first-year students arrive on campus from more than 120 countries, and 1-in-10 hail from Canadian locales outside Ontario. All told, 5,200 international undergraduates and graduates choose to study here now.
At the same time, we have witnessed an ever-increasing number of domestic students choosing to enrich their education by enrolling at Western and by participating in some of the 170 study-abroad programs Western now offers through institutional partnerships in 40 countries.
The evidence is clear that Western has been transformed during the past decade, and not just in terms of its student body. Our University’s national and international teaching and research profile has never been higher. There is no doubt that Western is on course to becoming a truly global university.
If you ask Amit himself, he will quickly deflect any credit for the institution’s achievements and attribute Western’s success during his tenure to the hard work of faculty, staff, students and alumni. But the facts bear out that his leadership has been both significant and influential.
Beyond his leadership role at Western, Amit has served as Chair of the Council of the Association of Commonwealth Universities as well as a member of the Science, Technology & Innovation Council of Canada. He also served as Chair of the World University Service of Canada and was the inaugural Chair of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities.
In 2011, he was asked by federal ministers Jim Flaherty, Ed Fast and Ted Menzies to Chair an Expert Advisory Panel to study the challenges and opportunities facing Canada in the realm of international education, which ultimately led to the development of Canada’s successful international education strategy.
In 2014, he became the first Canadian university president to receive the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. 2014 also saw Amit unveil a new strategic plan that challenged Western to elevate its ‘Canada’s best student experience at a research intensive university’ brand to the next level by staking our claim on the world stage.
In 2016, he played an instrumental role in securing a $66-million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund – Western’s largest-ever research grant – strengthening the University’s position among the world’s top centres for neuroscience. Yet Amit would be the first to say that more still needs to be done to take research in all its aspects to even greater heights.
And in October 2018, Amit joined hundreds of alumni, faculty, staff, students, friends and volunteers in Conron Hall to celebrate the fact that more than $805 million had been raised during the course of his presidency through the Be Extraordinary campaign. Leveraging the generosity of more than 49,000 donors, the Campaign generated $118 million for student awards, more than $102 million for campus infrastructure, and Western’s endowment has grown from $265 million in 2009 to more than $785 million.
It has been an honour for me to have served with Dr. Chakma.
On behalf of the Board of Governors, past and present, I want to express my sincerest thanks and congratulations to Amit, along with the senior team he assembled around him, for all he has done to challenge us to raise our expectations and aim higher. His presidency will be remembered as the era when Western re-imagined itself as a global university poised to achieve excellence on the world stage. My best wishes to the Chakma family.
Paul Jenkins, BA’71
Chair, Board of Governors