Western’s Ivey Business School has received a new $3.5-million gift benefiting the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, a character-based leadership development program launched in 2010.
The gift, from Ian Ihnatowycz, his wife, Marta Witer, and the Ihnatowycz Family Foundation, builds on the Ihnatowycz family’s original gift to establish the Institute and will allow it to extend its teaching, research and outreach on the awareness, assessment and development of leader character.
Along with a $2.5-million matching contribution from Western University, part of the funding will create the Ihnatowycz Family Foundation Chair in Leadership, which is jointly appointed with Western Engineering, to bring the programming to engineering students.
The announcement was made at the 2021 Leader Character Conference, where leaders from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors gained a greater understanding of the impact of leader character, particularly in the transition to a post-pandemic world.
“We’re living in a particularly disruptive environment, and it requires strength of character among leaders to lead in this new dynamic,” said Ihnatowycz, MBA’82, LLD’13. “The world needs good leaders – character-based leaders – and what’s really exciting is that we can impact future generations of leaders and improve the communities and societies we live in, and hopefully, the world.”
Sparked by crisis
Ihnatowycz said he founded the leadership institute at Ivey after witnessing deficiencies in leader character during the 2008 financial crisis. The institute aims to examine the importance of character alongside competence in leadership, and how it is developed.
“In that first 10 years of the institute, we discovered and elaborated on what those characteristics of leadership are, why they are important, and – most importantly – that they can be taught. People are not necessarily born with it. Some have more talent than others perhaps, but leader character can be taught and nurtured,” he said. “I’m most proud of the fact that this knowledge is there and has become part of the fabric of the institute and of the Ivey Business School, building its reputation as the leadership school. Hopefully, it expands to other faculties and Western will become the university that is based on leadership.”
Leader development beyond Ivey
Ihnatowycz’s long-standing relationship with Ivey, including a total investment of more than $7 million in leadership programs, has helped the school become a global leader in research, teaching and outreach on leader character, according to Ivey dean Sharon Hodgson. She said the next step is to explore the development of adaptive and resilient leaders, who can weather unprecedented disruption. Through the new joint chair position, Hodgson said she hopes the gift will expand the programming across campus.
“The chair is an important addition to the institute to accelerate cross-campus sharing with the Faculty of Engineering, with a longer-term objective of inspiring additional faculty and donor involvement in, and support for, leadership programming across campus,” she said. “We sincerely appreciate Ian Ihnatowycz’s unwavering vision for and belief in the work of the institute, and we are excited about its future.”
Creating a legacy
Gerard Seijts, executive director, Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, said the support of the Ihnatowycz family continues to create a legacy of enormous value.
“They have enabled us to deepen our contribution to Ivey’s student curriculum and extended our outreach to those within the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Our students, colleagues and clients’ lives are enriched by the opportunities Ian and Marta help to create. We are all sincerely grateful,” he said.
Yudi Yang, an HBA ’22 candidate, experienced firsthand how character shapes the way people engage with the world. Yang participated in the institute’s five-day Leadership Under Fire course last summer that aimed to deepen understanding of the various dimensions of leadership character when under emotional, physical and mental stress. During the announcement, she shared what the course meant to her.
“This unique experience was critical in helping me to re-evaluate and hone my character, and has truly impacted my life in terms of what I notice, what I reinforce, who I engage in conversation, what I value, what I choose to act on, and how I make decisions,” she said. “Without the support of the Ihnatowycz family, none of this would be possible. Thank you for making an investment in our future and the future of the world.”