In a ceremony that drew on almost two centuries of tradition, renowned urban scholar Meric Gertler was installed as the University of Toronto’s 16th president on November 7. Students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the community gathered in Convocation Hall for the time-honoured ritual. After Gertler swore the oath of office, students helped the new president into his official robes: blue silk damask trimmed with 31 silver ornaments handcrafted in India.
Stepping to the podium, Gertler told the crowd that U of T must leverage its location in a globally important city, deepen and focus its international partnerships and enrich its undergraduate teaching and learning. (Read a condensed version of Gertler’s speech)
“Our university is a critical piece of social infrastructure,” said Gertler. He emphasized the significance of the relationship between the university and the urban region and hailed U of T’s hands-on partnerships with community development organizations in Toronto, Scarborough and Mississauga.
Gertler also focused on the importance of strengthening international partnerships with other great universities in other major world cities, including São Paulo, Paris, New York and Beijing. “It makes sense for us to deepen and develop these relationships to foster not just student mobility and faculty exchanges, but also joint research projects, joint conferences, joint teaching and, yes, perhaps joint degrees,” he said.
The new president made a point of naming and celebrating several alumni and students at the ceremony for whom the university offered a life-changing opportunity. Expanding on his strategy for re-examining and perhaps even reinventing undergraduate education, Gertler explained that this reinvention may include increasing support for the growing interest in entrepreneurial activity among students and providing more opportunities to study in professional programs.
Gertler concluded his address with a call for increased funding for the university. “There is no escaping the hard truth that we’ll need more support from our government partners, at all levels, if we are to succeed,” he said. The new president also saluted “the sheer dedication, creativity and commitment of U of T’s faculty and staff,” and the “ingenuity, energy and passion of our wonderful students.”
Gertler’s appointment is the result of an international search to find a successor to Dr. David Naylor that began in June 2012. Gertler has been on the U of T faculty since 1983 and served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science – U of T’s largest and most diverse academic division – from December 2008 until May 2013.
Chancellor Michael Wilson invited several speakers to welcome the new president, representing university partners, faculty, students and alumni: the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David C. Onley; Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation for Ontario; Mary Jo Haddad, president and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children and representing the Toronto Academic Health Science Network hospitals; Adrian De Leon, student member of the Governing Council; Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr; Suzanne Fortier, principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University; Lenna Bradburn, president of the University of Toronto Alumni Association; Louis Charpentier, secretary of the Governing Council; and President Emeritus Robert Prichard.
Watch Meric Gertler’s complete installation address: