York alumna Kathleen Taylor was officially installed as the University’s first woman chancellor during a May 10 ceremony held on York’s Keele Campus.
“I have always been attracted to organizations that know they are part of something bigger than themselves; that dedicate their time, talent and treasure to advancing the ambitions of the individuals and communities they serve,” Taylor told the assembled audience, which included government and post-secondary officials, alumni and friends, and staff, faculty and students. “York is one such organization. Every person here is a changemaker, working toward a more just, sustainable and innovative world.”
A graduate of the JD/MBA program offered by Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business, Taylor became the first woman to Chair the board of one of Canada’s big five banks when she took the helm of the Royal Bank’s governing body a decade ago. She also served as the first president and CEO of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts chain following its iconic founder and was the first woman to lead a major branded international hotel company.
“Kathleen is well-positioned to lead in this prestigious capacity, to galvanize our community to realize its vision to providing students with access to a quality education at a research-intensive institution committed to the public good,” said Rhonda Lenton, York University president and vice-chancellor. “I am excited to see her continue to right the future in her new role, where she will be a champion for higher education.”
The event commenced with Knowledge Keeper Amy Desjarlais, Waabaakaakakzhe zhaashkeezhgokwe (White Raven Woman with Turquoise Eyes) Ojibway/Potowotomi from Wasauksing First Nation, performing an honour song.
Bringing greetings from staff at the ceremony was Stefanie Lamonaca Caputo, a student success and academic advisor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, while Lauren Sergio, professor in the Faculty of Health, spoke on behalf of York faculty.
Also delivering remarks were Board of Governors Chair Paul Tsaparis, Senate Chair Poonam Puri, Associate Vice-President Indigenous Initiatives Susan Dion and Chancellor Emeritus Gregory Sorbara, whose more than eight-year term as chancellor concluded in December.
Issa Abdi Jamaa, who recently completed his studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, brought greetings to the new chancellor on behalf of York students.
“Kathleen, as chancellor, you will also meet thousands of students as they end their studies and walk the stage to receive their degrees at convocation,” said Jamaa. “For graduating students, shaking the chancellor’s hand to mark the transition to the next chapter of our lives is an experience we all strive for. Personally, I will be a part of the first cohort of students to cross the stage in about a month from now, I am excited to share this experience with you, Kathleen.”
Taylor’s first public act as chancellor will be conferring degrees on thousands of new graduates, including Jamaa, at Spring Convocation, June 9 to 23. She will also serve as a member of both Board and Senate, bringing her vast experience and knowledge to both of the University’s governing bodies.
“Our collective success relies on our common mission, inspired by the power of collaboration between and across faculty, staff, students, alumni, government and of course our friends in the broader community,” said Taylor. “That means standing side-by-side, seeing eye-to-eye, being truthful and transparent, building on commonalities while respecting differences, and placing each and every one of our stakeholders at the centre of our success.”
Taylor also spoke about her hopes for the future and her time as chancellor.
“I believe in the transformative power of a York education and York University’s resolve for constant renewal,” she said. “And I know by working alongside you and our broader community, we will forge a better future for our great institution, and for all of those we are here to serve.”