Rose M. Patten, O.C., LL.D.
“This venerable and vital institution”:
The Global Leadership and Impact of the U of T Community
Address to Convocation on the Occasion of her Installation as the
34th Chancellor of the University of Toronto
Convocation Hall, Toronto
Monday, November 5, 2018
President Gertler, Ms Kennedy and members of the Governing Council; distinguished members of the platform party; faculty, staff, and alumni; graduands, family, and friends:
Let me begin by saying – officially as Chancellor, on behalf of the entire University of Toronto: Congratulations to the Class of 2018!
You have worked hard and learned much. You deserve to be immensely proud of your accomplishments, and to savour every moment of this day. We share in your excitement, as you look ahead to the next chapters in your lives. And we are delighted to count you (shortly) among the brilliant alumni of this great University.
Before I continue, I must express my gratitude – to my predecessors as Chancellor, who have left very big shoes to fill, including the Honourable Michael Wilson and the Honourable Hal Jackman, who are here today; to all those who have just spoken so graciously on my Installation; and to the College of Electors, for choosing me to serve as the 34th Chancellor of the University of Toronto.
I have been extensively engaged in the life of this venerable and vital institution for over 25 years. To serve as its ceremonial head, advocate, and ambassador is a profound honour – and truly a dream for me. And so, I say to you all, a deeply heartfelt Thank-you.
The University of Toronto is at the epicentre of Canada’s national resources. It is a key global contributor to learning and discovery, and a major source of outstanding talent in every field. For the next few minutes, I would like to reflect on U of T’s great leadership and relevance in all that it does. And I will share a few thoughts on how we can understand and embrace leadership, for the good of the organizations and communities to which we belong.
We live in disruptive times, full of uncertainty and even confusion. But the world today is also brimming with creativity and enormous potential. In that sense, U of T’s deep and broad relevance and outlook are energizing, and tremendously exciting. This institution is both a driver of innovation, in the broadest sense, and a defender of the human values on which true, sustainable progress depends.
U of T is not only Canada’s leading university. We consistently rank among the world’s best universities – both public and private – for the employability of our graduates. And we are one of only three universities in the world ranked in the top 30 across 11 key fields. From pioneering work in the once-marginal field of neural networks, to the development of autonomous vehicles; from the discovery of stem cells, to new hope that we can literally mend a broken heart; from our long history of multi-disciplinary strength, to a critical mass of experts on building sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive cities – in all these fields and many more, U of T faculty, staff, students, and alumni are opening vast new horizons of possibility.
Moreover, we are exploring not just the “what” and the “how”, but also the “why”, in response to the great questions of this and every age. U of T people are generating key insights on who we are, and how we can connect and collaborate, to build sustainable societies and a better world.
Such insights are related to another crucial source of our strength – our values as an academic community, and how they guide the way we do things. Collectively, these many broad strengths underpin this institution’s exemplary status and enables the outstanding education you have just earned.
As Chancellor, I am looking forward to seeing the impact of this outstanding education and shared values, through our worldwide community of alumni – some 580,000 people across more than 190 countries. They provide the most compelling evidence of U of T’s role as a global source of talent, and a massive force for positive social innovation.
Today, in just a few moments, you will join this illustrious community, with your own unique strengths, honed by your U of T education. You have huge potential to be among the most impactful leaders of your generation. And you are pursuing your dreams at a time when leadership has never been more important.
When great leadership is present, we always see critical thinking and technological innovation. Today in addition we clearly see a much stronger emphasis on human skills and values and social innovation. These are the leaders who are highly effective, and are distinguished by continuing excellence in all their undertakings. They are intentional about how they lead.
Speaking for a moment about my own learnings as a leader, I can say that I was intentional, in choosing two parallel paths – my career in financial services, while stretching myself through significant volunteer leadership commitments. No doubt, this intentional choice contributed to my development and led to success – and it made the journey richly rewarding.
Along this dual path, and continuing today I learned some very powerful lessons about leadership, and the core abilities and values of great leaders. And so, I would like to conclude my remarks with a few key points from those learnings.
Embracing change and ambiguity, and seeing these things as opportunities to reshape situations for the better. This will require being curious, open-minded, and adaptable.
Helping others to succeed, and seeing their success as integral to your own. Being considerate and collaborative are necessary ingredients.
Lastly and above all: being mindful of the values that matter to you, and monitoring your impact, in addition to your wins. Having (positive) impact is what great leaders strive for as a final measure of success. This will require continuous attention on refining your self-awareness, and a constant check of your empathy barometer.
From what I have seen and heard, I believe you are well prepared and motivated to provide this kind of leadership. I know you will be ‘the class to watch’, and I hope we will connect again, as you move forward on your journey.
I am grateful that I could share this day with you. And once again, congratulations on your graduation (in a few moments) from the University of Toronto.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.