As Western’s new Chancellor, esteemed philanthropist and decorated volunteer Kelly Meighen plans to draw on her long-standing interest in the health and well–being of young people and her experience serving and leading the boards of non-profit organizations.
Meighen shared her aspirations during remarks following her installation as Western’s 24th Chancellor in a special ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 11.
She said she was “absolutely delighted” to accept the role, serving as the honorary and symbolic head of the university, presiding at convocation ceremonies to admit candidates to degrees, diplomas and certificates. As Chancellor, Meighen will also serve as an ex officio voting member of the Board of Governors, university Senate and certain committees of both governing bodies.
“The Office of the Chancellor is a very important one,” said Western President Alan Shepard. “Our Chancellor serves as a spokesperson for the values and aspirations of the university and as a model of community leadership for our students, faculty, staff and alumni. The Western community is deeply honoured to welcome Kelly to this role.”
As president of the Meighen Family Foundation, Meighen has had a profound impact on youth mental health, the arts, city-building and not-for-profit governance in Canada, bringing extensive experience to the position.
She also holds a strong sentimental attachment to Western.
Growing up in London, Ont., Meighen, BA’71, LLD’13, attended Western, following in the footsteps of her parents. Here, her mother Elizabeth Dempsey, BA’41, met Meighen’s father, Richard Dillon, BA’48, LLD’79, who later served as the first dean of engineering.
“As a child and teenager, I was aware my parents’ time at Western was a defining one for both of them,” Meighen said. “They had two years of undergraduate studies when the war interrupted their lives – their fun and their first days of independence – before they both went off to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. Ultimately, and happily, they returned and graduated, both as gold medallists.”
Meighen credits her parents for embodying her sense of community service. This commitment has led her to serve as chair of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) board of trustees, the CAMH Foundation, McGill University’s Academic Advising and Mentoring Advisory Board and the Stratford Festival. She has also held board positions with Evergreen, Jack.org, Upper Canada College, the Wellesley Hospital, and The Royal Conservatory of Music.
In preparing for her new role as Western’s Chancellor, “I have been thinking about what opportunities this role provides me at this particular moment in our history – not just Western’s but within our society,” Meighen said. “Where should I focus my attention to most benefit the university community?”
“Incoming students are a large focus for any university and Western makes substantial efforts to support them and give them a good start. With your help, perhaps I can assist in enhancing their experience in some small way.”
For all young people “heading out into the world,” Meighen offers this advice:
“I think remembering the importance of human relationships is what endures and is what we can count on. They give our lives ballast and meaning. Real, human connections will be at the centre of our success.”
In addition to the support of her parents, Meighen acknowledged the support, comfort and wisdom she has received from her elders throughout her life.
“The generation or two who are ahead of me – they’ve lived through difficult and very turbulent events that may have looked hopeless to them at the time. But they gained wisdom and resilience and most importantly, the perspective of a longer timeline. Those individuals along the way for me, have been reassuring, encouraging and inspiring,” she said.
“Maintaining and building solid relationships and welcoming the opportunity to spend time with older people, are two things that might be useful for me to remind students when I have the opportunity. We have much to learn from each other if we listen. And I assure you, as your Chancellor, I will be listening.”
Meighen, who received the Philanthropist of the Year award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2008, welcomes the idea of engaging with donors and external stakeholders.
“I look forward to getting involved in the university’s next (fundraising) campaign and working with (the university community) to secure the financial support Western needs to realize the ambitious goal of the strategic plan,” she said. “For this, I will draw upon my many years of serving and leading the boards of non-profit organizations, where I’ve worked with some very good fundraising teams on many capital campaigns.”
Meighen’s past service to Western includes her roles as a board member, chair of the development and fundraising committee and as vice-president of Western’s Alumni Association. She was the 2010 recipient of the Dr. Ivan Smith Award, Western Alumni’s highest tribute, presented to an outstanding individual in recognition of their sustained and significant contributions to the Alumni Association, Western and society.
Meighen concluded her installation remarks by thanking her family and President Shepard for his strong leadership and forward-thinking plans.
“I am honoured and delighted to embrace this role and look forward to serving as your Chancellor with as much passion and optimism as all of you who care so much about Western University.”