Professor Alan Shepard has been appointed to a second term as president of Western University – a unanimous decision by the University’s Board of Governors. Shepard will lead the University until June 30, 2029.
Board of Governors Chair Keith Gibbons said Shepard’s reappointment positions Western exceptionally well for the future.
“Alan’s leadership style reflects the best of the Western community. He is well known for connecting on a personal level with students, faculty, staff and alumni through open and engaging communication. His deep knowledge about and belief in higher education, his vision, his energy, and his passion to achieve excellence will continue to be invaluable assets for the university,” said Gibbons.
Shepard’s reappointment follows extensive consultation undertaken by a presidential review committee of the Board of Governors comprised of students, faculty, staff and alumni. Over several months, the committee received comments from across the university community, with stakeholders overwhelmingly supporting a second term for Shepard.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the review committee for their work over the past few months and for the ongoing support of the Western community,” said President Shepard. “I am inspired every day by the tremendous talent and dedication of our faculty, staff, alumni and, most especially, our students. I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish together over the next seven years.”
On July 1, 2019, Shepard became Western’s 11th president and vice-chancellor.
During his first term, Shepard led a comprehensive, consultative process resulting in Western’s new strategic plan, Towards Western at 150, launched in June 2021.
Guided by this plan, and the subsequent research strategic plan, Western has built new momentum in its research mission, attracting record research funding. The university’s ambitious research agenda commits to tackling the grand challenges of our time by building capacity for world-changing, interdisciplinary research. To help further that goal, Western appointed its first-ever associate vice-president for innovation and strategic partnerships in early 2022.
“The world is more connected today than at any time in history,” said Shepard. “Locally and globally, we share many of the same challenges—sustainability, climate change, systemic racism, socioeconomic inequality, threats to democracy, to name a few—that require us to not only mobilize the world-class expertise of individual researchers at Western but also to engage in collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to research that will generate positive benefits for people here in London, Canada, and across the globe.”
The university has made bold commitments to address sustainability and climate action, helping place Western first in Canada and third in the world in a global ranking of universities working toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Western has also joined the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3) and the University Network for Investor Engagement; became a signatory on Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities; and committed to achieve a sustainable investment portfolio and a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.
Western has also strengthened its commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization, creating new leadership roles in EDI and Indigenous Initiatives, and making milestone investments including $4 million to support the recruitment of Black and Indigenous faculty and funding for more than 75 new scholarships to support Black and Indigenous students.
Shepard has been a clear voice on behalf of the university on societal issues such as gender-based and sexual violence (GBSV). Steps the university has taken since 2021 to address GBSV include changes to Orientation Week activities; appointing a special advisor to address campus culture and safety; and requiring all incoming students to complete GBSV prevention and awareness training before arriving on campus.
Enhancing Western’s connections with the local community has also been a priority for the university under Shepard’s leadership, including the purchase of 450 Talbot Street in downtown London. The space is expected to open in late 2023, with 13 community-focused programs and events ranging from Indigenous art exhibits to free legal aid to medical outreach and mental health counselling for children.
Since Shepard’s arrival, Western’s fundraising efforts have garnered more than $250 million in new gifts, among them a $10-million bequest from the late Bill Hodgins, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities’ largest gift ever; $9.2 million from Jeff and Shelley Parr to launch a centre dedicated to student mental health and well-being; as well as $10 million from financier Ron Schmeichel and $5.5 million from the Pierre L. Morrissette Family Foundation in support of entrepreneurship initiatives.
“Western has many champions whose generosity and vision really propel us forward as an institution,” said Shepard. “Our donors enable us to provide a world-class educational experience to students of all backgrounds and income levels, create state-of-the-art programs and enhanced learning opportunities across the disciplines, and equip our faculty and researchers to take on the critical/urgent issues of our time.”
Western has also been a national leader in its overall pandemic response, working closely with its own experts in the areas of infectious disease, epidemiology, and family medicine. The university was among the first in the country to require mask-wearing in 2020, when infectious disease experts determined it was an effective way to slow transmission. In 2021, Western was the first Canadian university to require vaccination for students in residence and among the first requiring vaccination for all students and employees, resulting in a 99 per cent vaccination rate on campus. These safety measures helped keep students in the classroom and supported critical research endeavours that continue to address all aspects of COVID-19.
Shepard acknowledged the hard work and dedication of the campus community throughout the challenges of the pandemic.
“It was so impressive to see our campus community pull together right from day one, not only to support the university’s mission, but most importantly, to support each other. The pandemic brought with it unprecedented challenges, and Western responded, and continues to respond, in a truly unprecedented way,” said Shepard.
Beyond his leadership role at Western, Shepard is chair of the Council of Ontario Universities; past vice-chair of the executive committee of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities; a member of the Business + Higher Education Roundtable; and is on the boards of the London Economic Development Corporation, CANet, and the Stratford Festival of Canada.
Reflecting on Shepard’s first term, Gibbons said, “Alan is the right person to guide Western as it continues towards global recognition for excellence in teaching, research, and impact – which is felt not only here in London, but across Canada and around the world.”