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Building on the legacy of 175

Daniel Woolf, Queen's University Principal

The banners are down, the festivities are concluded, and it is now time to take stock of the celebration that was our 175th anniversary.

From its inception, we planned the anniversary to reflect on our many past accomplishments, while celebrating our present and building towards the future. The anniversary commemorated the high heights, forced us to reflect on the more difficult moments, and ultimately led to some meaningful change in our university community.

Whether you consider the revitalization of cherished campus spaces like Richardson Stadium, the celebration of many accomplished alumni (from business leaders, to leading academics, to rock stars), the Guinness World Record winning giant Q, or the history that was revisited through our 175th moments – as just a few examples – it is clear to even the casual observer that our anniversary achieved these goals, and beyond.

These events certainly encapsulated the spirit of the 175th – and the spirit truly shone through in the way all members of our community embraced the anniversary. David Walker, Director and Chair of the 175 Committee, commented that all of the 140 groups his team met with across campus wanted to take part. Our pride, our energy, and our community spirit was on full display throughout the anniversary. Thank you all for your enthusiastic response to this important milestone in our history.

Like any good celebration, this, too, must at some point come to an end. And so, as we mark the start of another academic year, we bid farewell to Queen’s 175th anniversary and turn our attention to the future – bringing with us our memories, pride, and renewed optimism about the future of Queen’s.

There are many great things about our university, including our fantastic students, remarkable faculty, and dedicated staff. What continues to make Queen’s unique is our focus on both an extraordinary experience for undergraduate and graduate students – inside and outside the classroom – coupled with our identity as a research intensive institution – as a national and international leader.

I have always thought our best days lie ahead of us. If we look 25 years ahead to our 200th anniversary, I believe the Queen’s of 2041 will be an institution that still takes its traditions seriously and values them, but recognizes that traditions change and evolve. As I said in my 2012 essay The Third Juncture, we are an institution in a period of change – technological change, demographic change, and changes in the needs and expectations of our student body. All that has been achieved in the past 175 years has equipped us for today, and yet we cannot necessarily carry on as we always have and expect the same level of success in the future.

Our challenge, then, is to strengthen those aspects essential to the Queen’s of the past and present – our reputation for quality, our history of producing outstanding graduates at all levels, our enduring student and alumni spirit of initiative – while seizing the opportunity to reinvent ourselves yet again.

In the years ahead, I would like to see Queen’s advance its reputation for being on the cutting edge, for risk taking, for innovation in pedagogy, and for internationally renowned research. We have already started to embrace a leadership position in these areas, and it is distinctive factors such as these which will allow us to continue attracting the best and brightest students in the country – and, increasingly, from around the world.

With the 175th behind us, we have a clear picture of where we have come from and what we must do. It’s time to look to the future, and the future of Queen’s is bright.