Marsden bids York farewell as Shoukri takes over

To sustained applause, Lorna R. Marsden said farewell to the York community last week, even as she introduced incoming President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri as “an amazing person.”

In a well-attended gathering open to all in the Scott Library’s second-floor atrium on Thursday, Marsden said it had been a “huge privilege” to spend the last 10 years leading York, and stressed that “nothing happens from just one person.” Everything that had been achieved, she said, “was done by the work of all of you.”

Right: Lorna R. Marsden speaks to a capacity crowd at a farewell ceremony held in the Scott Library

Then, in an impromptu moment, she called to the stage Shoukri, whose tenure was to officially begin three days later, on July 1. “You are going to have a wonderful time with Dr. Shoukri,” she said. “He is an amazing person.” The new president, she added, “really understands what York stands for.”

The gathering, attended by a broad representation of York staff, faculty and students, gave Marsden a long round of applause before she could begin speaking, and another when she finished.

Outgoing Senate Chair Ross Rudolph, who hosted the event, said this was the third time recently he had spoken in tribute to Marsden. For a video, he was asked for a one-word characterization. “I responded that if [former president] Harry Arthurs was a frustrated architect, President Marsden has proved herself a master builder.” In Senate, he said, he emphasized the way she advanced University Academic Plan priorities.

Left: Marsden (left) with incoming York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

At the Scott farewell, he said, he wanted to highlight another side of Marsden – her constant support for York and its people, as shown by the President’s Staff Recognition Awards. “At this year’s award dinner, the recipient of the Voice of York award concluded by thanking the president for being the real, eloquent, and forceful voice of York, a point of stunning graciousness and insight,” said Rudolph. “We are used to thinking of the president from an internal perspective, whereas, of course, one of her most foremost roles has been as indefatigable advocate and champion of York to the outside world.”

Marsden was also presented with a certificate of appreciation by York Regional Police chief Armand La Barge, a York alumnus (BA ’92) who said he was speaking on behalf of the force and “the 950,000 residents of York Region.” Marsden, he said, had been an inspiration to him throughout her 10 years at the helm. In his formal letter, he told her: “You have contributed greatly to York University’s important position in our nation and for that, we are grateful and proud.”

Above: York Regional Police chief Armand La Barge (left) with Marsden

As Rudolph indicated, the Scott Library gathering was the last in a series of farewell events for Marsden. At Glendon on Monday, she, along with Shoukri, was honoured as part of a Hail & Farewell dinner for incoming and outgoing holders of key University posts (see More News).

Marshall Cohen, Chair of the York University Board of Governors, delivered the farewell to Marsden. “I’ve had the opportunity on a number of occasions over the past few weeks to speak of her remarkable contributions to York over the past 10 years of your transformative leadership,” said Cohen. “However, it is Lorna’s conviction, her capacity and her raw courage that I most admire and made her the person to lead York University. She taught us to celebrate York and be proud of York.”

Cohen announced the establishment of the Enhancement Fund for York University Libraries to support the York Libraries and library projects. Donations may be made in Marsden’s honour and have already reached $360,000, he said.

He then read an official letter from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty congratulating Marsden on her numerous accomplishments. Wrote McGuinty: “I commend you for your energy, expertise and dedication on behalf of all students. You will remain an inspiration to all Ontario.”

Turning to incoming York’s incoming president and vice-chancellor, Cohen officially hailed Shoukri. “It is very lucky in life to be twice blessed. Once with Lorna, and twice blessed with Mamdouh. He understands who we are and where we need to go,” said Cohen. “And he wants to take us there faster than any of us had expected. We welcome you to the York family.”

Fittingly, at a meeting at Glendon earlier in the day, the Board of Governors approved the renaming of the Honour Court & Welcome Centre, located at the entrance of the Keele campus, to the Lorna R. Marsden Honour Court & Welcome Centre.

And what’s next for Marsden? It’s not quite “life after York” since the former president, a sociologist by training, will maintain an office at Glendon. She told YFile: “I will be weeding – weeding the garden, weeding papers and books, and weeding ideas for the future . . . and then getting back to research.”