In The Educated Imagination Northrop Frye wrote, “The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in.” Universities are committed to this envisioning.
I have been at UM for 12 years, witnessing the significance of its vision for this city, province, nation and world. I appreciate having been part of the leadership team here with dedicated colleagues. I share your pride in UM, its place in the world and its potential, and am honoured to have had this experience.
I met wonderful people, heard about lives shaped by UM, saw the generosity of alumni and friends giving to our Front and Centre campaign to shape more opportunities, witnessed contributions of faculty to life in this province, this nation and around the world. From our community’s international efforts to the dedication of faculty in classrooms and laboratories and their encouragement of students to continue the pattern of pursuit, combined with enthusiastic and creative leadership of our outstanding professional staff members, I have been motivated to make my own contribution.
Through the brilliant collision of dreams and passions that are true to this place and its people, UM makes a unique impact on the planet. In my role I have traveled to northern communities and witnessed firsthand the early warning discoveries of our climate change researchers, and to Africa and further still to India to share in the appreciation of the work of our global public health
programs. I have met alumni who care about their communities, local and global, putting the expertise they gained here to social and economic good. They have been lauded with prestigious honours, including the Nobel Prize, and earned the respect of the people they serve, whether on inner- city streets or in executive boardrooms.
And, perhaps most aligned with our core purpose, I have been inspired by the amazing, committed, driven students I have interacted with, in meetings and on committees and at events and simply by happenstance somewhere on our beautiful Bannatyne and Fort Garry campuses. These students, no matter where their original homes, demonstrate that special Made-in-Manitoba form of leadership: at once visionary and responsible. As our province celebrates its 150th anniversary, as our world faces the challenges of the future, we can rest assured that we will be in good hands for generations to come.
That is the gift of a university like ours.
It has been a privilege to work with you. UM’s success depends on each contribution. I know you will continue to make yours, and I wish you well. I leave this role with gratitude for the people I met and the work I witnessed.
Convocation is almost upon us, these celebrations that emphasize accomplishment and potential. We anticipate possibility mingled with tradition (academic robes) that situates us in a larger shared experience. These will be my last convocations as President. I will be anticipating—along with our students—whatever comes next. My wife Gursh and I are excited to discover what that will be!
I met Northrop Frye as a naive undergraduate science student. Our conversation was unsatisfying for both of us: I could not then conceive of human experience from his grand perspective. Nonetheless, that was a formative event. I have in the intervening decades learned about the value of educated imagination, and worked with many others to bridge the gap between the society we have and the society we want. Even with the grit and reality of that pursuit, I would not ask for anything more satisfying. I thank the entire UM community for the privilege of my years spent with you and learning from you.