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Bench Strength

New interim president brings "impeccable credentials"

The Honourable Frank Iacobucci, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has been named the interim president of U of T, following the departure in September of Robert Birgeneau for the University of California at Berkeley.

Iacobucci will be a familiar face to anyone who spent time on campus in the 1970s and early 1980s. Before he was named to Canada’s top court, Iacobucci was dean of U of T’s Faculty of Law and held two vice-presidential posts: internal affairs (1975-78) and provost (1983-85).

Rose Patten, chair of the university’s Governing Council, says Iacobucci’s accomplished career as an academic administrator and scholar and his “unwavering passion for U of T will result in outstanding leadership. His impeccable credentials, well-demonstrated abilities, and his all-round excellence mirror everything U of T stands for,” says Patten.

Reached at his office in Ottawa in August, Iacobucci says he owes an enormous personal and professional debt to U of T, and feels honoured to serve an institution that he describes as the “flagship” for post-secondary education in Canada. “I could not have gone to Ottawa and done what I’ve done here were it not for the experience U of T gave me,” he said. “To be asked to serve in this capacity is overwhelming.”

One of the new president’s first tasks will be setting out the university’s position for the Rae commission, the review of Ontario’s post-secondary education system being conducted by former premier Bob Rae (BA 1969 University College, LLB 1977). “This is very important and will be an obvious priority for me,” says Iacobucci. The commission is expected to issue a draft discussion paper in September, followed by a final report late in the year.

In the meantime, Iacobucci, 67, who’s known in legal and business circles for his warm and down-to-earth manner, says he will be working closely with the university’s senior executive team and divisional leaders to get up to speed on major issues.

He’s reluctant to discuss specific plans so soon after his appointment, but says his presidency will be guided by the same “fundamental values” that have guided the university so well over the last 177 years: “academic integrity, academic responsibility and the pursuit of academic excellence.”

“I know there are many challenges facing us. But with the values and traditions that inform this great place and the talents of faculty, staff, alumni and others, we will not only successfully meet those challenges but do so with the distinction that has marked our history and development.”

Presidential searches typically take between a year and 18 months, but Patten expects the search committee to make a recommendation to council by the end of the academic year. “In attracting a top prospect, we will be well served by our reputation, and the depth and breadth of the talent here,” says Patten.

The interim appointment will continue until June 30, 2005, or until Governing Council names a new president.

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