As I write this column for the last time, my colleagues and I are deeply engaged with the exhilarating task of allocating our share of the new Canada Research Chairs program. This wonderful new federal initiative has created 2,000 research chairs, half for senior colleagues and half for new members of the professoriate. The chairs have been distributed among Canada’s universities based on demonstrated accomplishments in research. The University of Toronto has been allocated 251 chairs, almost 100 more than any other Canadian university, reflecting our national leadership in research. The challenge we now face is to choose the most promising fields across our full range of disciplines in which we want to be world leaders.
The addition of the Canada Research Chairs program represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen the university’s place among the finest public research universities in the world. And it comes at a propitious moment. For after a very difficult period in the first half of the 1990s, numerous developments nationally and provincially suggest we are on the cusp of one of the most exciting and productive periods in the university’s history. Indeed, our prospects may have never been better.
At the federal level, the Canada Research Chairs are accompanied by a number of other new programs including the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Recent provincial developments are also very encouraging. Over the past three years, the Government of Ontario has created an array of significant new programs to support innovation and research, among them the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund, the Ontario Innovation Trust and the Research Performance Fund. These provincial initiatives complement current federal programs and challenge Ottawa to continue to increase its investment in critically important areas.
The interplay of federal and provincial programs is creative federalism at its best, and our universities and students will benefit substantially. Almost all of these programs allocate funds based on excellence of performance, not entitlement, size or enrolment, and as a result, the outstanding quality of our faculty leads to a very positive performance for U of T.
We have also been blessed with remarkable private support from our graduates and friends. To date the Campaign has received commitments exceeding $600 million and our work is not yet done. Our alumni have demonstrated an unprecedented level of commitment, and we are very thankful for all of your support.
Our new president, Dr. Robert (Bob) Birgeneau, takes office on July 1, 2000. He returns to his Alma Mater with an exceptionally distinguished record in both physics and academic administration, and he is superbly prepared to lead U of T in taking full advantage of the very encouraging circumstances we now face. He inherits a remarkable team of senior leaders who are deeply committed to the university. And he will lead a faculty that ranks with the finest concentrations of academic and intellectual talent anywhere in the world.
I hope you will extend to President Birgeneau the same wonderful encouragement and support you have given me for the past decade. I feel profoundly privileged to have been permitted to serve our university as president. I leave office and return to the faculty with deep gratitude to all of you and great optimism about our future prospects. Thank you all.