Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor

[Principal and Vice Chancellor]
[Principal and Vice Chancellor]

Vancouver Alumni Event

Principal Woolf addresses Vancouver-based alumni and friends of Queen's.


Good evening, alumni and friends of Queen’s.

Thank you, Allan, for your warm words of welcome, and thanks to the Alumni Branch here in Vancouver for hosting us this evening.

It is a pleasure to be here.

Since arriving in Vancouver, I have had the opportunity to meet with many of you and I am struck by the diversity of this group.

Tonight we have representation from both our undergraduate and graduate programs, and alumni from many of our faculties, yet we all share one common bond – our strong ties to Queen’s University.

Although I am here this evening in my capacity as the 20th principal of Queen’s University, I am always particularly excited about these events because I am a Queen’s alumnus myself, and my enthusiasm for the university is as strong as it was when I was a student many years ago.

I am also keen to hear first-hand how your connection to Queen’s is helping to further your career and ambitions and to better understand how the university can support the global alumni network.

We all know there are many things that make Queen’s a special place – the outstanding professors, exceptional students, world-renowned research, and spirited traditions – each hallmarks of the Queen’s experience.

This evening, I am excited to share with you what we are doing to ensure our university remains one of Canada’s leading institutions of knowledge, innovation, and social purpose.

Shortly before I began my second term as Principal in July 2014, we developed a Strategic Framework for the university that would carry Queen’s through to 2019.

This framework was based on four strategic drivers that ultimately serve to advance Queen’s as a university that uniquely combines quality and intensity of research with excellence in education.

This past November our first annual update was released and I’m proud to report that we are progressing well against our goals.

Our first priority is to strengthen the student learning experience.

Earlier this month we announced a collaboration with St. Lawrence College on new biotechnology program that will allow our students to obtain both a diploma and a degree in just five years.

And just last week, our School of Medicine announced that it will be leading the rest of the country in transitioning its residency programs to a competency-based education model years ahead of schedule.

These are just two examples of how our faculties and schools have been working tirelessly to provide our students with experiential educational opportunities and innovative programming.

I believe that alumni can also play a big role here, by providing our current students with opportunities beyond the classroom.

As alumni, you belong to a strong and valuable network, and I encourage you to consider whether you have the ability to create new learning or work experiences for our current students.

Our second priority at Queen’s is to improve our research prominence.

Those of you who are still involved in research know that the environment for research funding is only becoming more competitive with each passing year.

That said, we’ve still experienced success in this area.

Our Faculty of Health Sciences secured a record $90-million in research funding this year, with major grants going to fund cardiovascular and cancer research.

We were also proud to see five of our faculty members elected as fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, nominated by their peers as some of the best researchers in their respective fields.

Of course, one of the most exciting announcements of the year was Dr. Arthur McDonald’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in Physics, bestowed upon him for proving that neutrinos have mass.

Throughout each of the Nobel celebrations, Dr. McDonald emphasized the collaborative aspect of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, where he carried out his research alongside colleagues from Queen’s and other Canadian universities, as well as researchers from around the world.

This brings me to our third strategic priority at Queen’s – raising our international profile.

Dr. McDonald’s discovery is the perfect example of how breaking down barriers to international partnerships can result in leading-edge research.

I am deeply committed to expanding our international engagement at Queen’s, not just with respect to research, but on the educational front as well.

As borders and barriers continue to dissolve, international learning experiences are essential in order for our students to gain globally relevant skills that prepare them for life after graduation.

Attracting top international students and enabling more international exchange opportunities will enrich the educational experience for everyone.

In order to accomplish this, we must capitalize on opportunities to translate our exemplary national reputation into a strong international reputation.

To guide our endeavours in this area, we have developed a Comprehensive International Plan and we have also launched a recruitment program out of our office in Shanghai, which is now in full swing.

And over the next week, I will be in New Zealand to attend another alumni event and build on our partnership with the Matariki Network of Universities.

The Matariki Network includes seven founding universities from across the world. Together we build upon our collective strengths to develop international excellence in research and education and to promote social responsibility locally and globally.

Finally, our fourth strategic priority is ensuring financial sustainability in order to support future teaching and research.

We must diversify our revenue streams and contain our costs as government funding for post-secondary institutions continues to fall.

Again, we have been fortunate.

On October 1, we witnessed an extraordinary act of philanthropy.

Alumnus, Stephen Smith, BSc’72, made a historic gift of 50-million-dollars to our school of business.

This gift will enable us to attract top students and faculty members from around the world, allowing us to transform business education and further our leadership position, nationally and internationally.

Stephen’s generosity has been recognised with the naming of the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

Stephen’s historic gift was a crowning moment for our Initiative Campaign – our most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history.

Now in the final year of the campaign, I am thrilled to report that we have now surpassed our initial goal of $500-million and have raised nearly $620-million in support of the university’s top priorities.

The momentum of the ongoing Initiative Campaign is a result of the incredible support of our alumni, volunteers, and generous benefactors.

I thank each of you who have generously supported Queen’s University throughout our campaign so far.

Now, while I’m in Vancouver I must take a moment to recognize a few of our Queen’s family members who are making waves in this city.

The first is Karen Flavelle, the CEO of Purdy’s Chocolatier and a proud BCom ’79 graduate, and a proud parent of a current Queen’s engineering student.

Karen was just named among Canada’s top 100 most powerful businesswomen for the second year in a row by the Women’s Executive Network.

She was also recently given the 2015 Kathleen Beaumont Hill award by the Vancouver alumni branch for her outstanding service, passionate advocacy, dedicated support, and contributions to the betterment of Queen’s University and Canada.

Congratulations, Karen!

The second person I would like to point out is Queen’s researcher and Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair, Dr. Heather Stuart.

Now if you love Twitter as much as I do, you may have noticed that yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day.

In addition to spearheading this fundraising initiative, Bell Let’s Talk has partnered with Queen’s to produce the Breaking the Silence event each year.

This year’s event will be hosted by Dr. Stuart right here in Vancouver later this spring and it will once again be aimed at raising awareness about mental health and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

We are proud of Dr. Stuart and her work in this important area and I hope that you will consider joining the conversation at this fascinating discussion.

Now I could go on all night about our incredible alumni, the exciting year we’ve had at Queen’s, and how we refuse to rest on our achievements, but I’ll end here with a thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight

I look forward to hearing more about your connection to, and memories of, Queen’s.

It is always a great pleasure to meet and converse with fellow alumni and I hope you will continue to stay engaged by lending your expertise to help strengthen the global Queen’s network.

Thank you.