Committee chair reflects on 175th

Committee chair reflects on 175th

By Phil Gaudreau

August 21, 2017


As Queen’s University’s 175th anniversary celebrations come to a close, the Gazette sat down with David Walker, Director and Chair, 175th. Dr. Walker (Meds'71) is also the Stauffer-Dunning Chair and executive director, School of Policy Studies.

David Walker, Chair of the 175th

GAZETTE: What will you take away from your time as chair of Queen’s 175th anniversary?

DAVID WALKER: Engagement was the key principle for our efforts, and so we met with 140 groups, units, and schools across campus. Our job was to encourage them to do something for the 175th, or take something they were already doing and add a 175th component. The response was truly remarkable. Everyone wanted to take part, and there was great enthusiasm and excitement around the anniversary. The involvement of people from across Queen’s, their pride, and their willingness to participate was inspiring. As a result, the 175th really shone a light on what goes on at Queen’s in a year. There is always something going on that is fascinating and wonderful at this university.

I also really enjoyed meeting so many different people from across the university who I would not normally interact with. Through our work I met the team behind Islamic History Month, the Jamaican Canadian diaspora, the staff at the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, employees at the Agnes and Isabel, faculty within the philosophy and engineering departments, and Matthew Barrett, Grounds Manager within Physical Plant Services, to name a few. It was a wonderful experience to meet enthusiastic people who would tell us about what they do. It was also very useful for our students to be able to get to know their academy in a way they wouldn’t otherwise. Students Rico Garcia and Mike Blair were mature beyond their years, did so much work, and expressed so much support for Queen’s.

GAZETTE: Did you have a favourite memory or moment from the 175th?

DAVID WALKER: The big Q was a definite highlight. It was really impressive, and I have never seen so many students so committed – and the close working relationship with student leaders made a significant difference. I did not think we would be able to get even 2,500 students organized and doing exactly as we told them to do, but it was really well organized thanks to University Relations. The representative from Guinness said, even if we did not win the award, that we should get one regardless for our level of organization! I also want to thank everyone – employees, students, and alumni – for participating.

The landscaping and beautification of campus was another highlight. Between the tricolour flowers, the tulips, and the commemorative banners, the campus looked so beautiful.

I would also mention the support of the Perth Friends of Queen’s, as we unveiled the plaques commemorating William Morris and the anniversary of both Queen’s and the Town of Perth. It was a very special moment, and the first initiative that arose – they actually approached us.

There are many others worth mentioning. I could not attend everything because the level of activity was quite remarkable – attending everything would have been a full-time job.

GAZETTE: Any challenges you overcame or moments that you were especially proud of?

DAVID WALKER: The 175 Moments, which Duncan McDowell and Mike Blair worked on, was an exciting and yet delicate initiative. We tried to be thoughtful to ensure the moments selected were marked by diversity of generations, theme, geography, ideas, and gender. We knew those moments would, by their nature, include moments that were difficult that we learned from – and we would need to cast them appropriately. They are part of what made Queen’s and what led us to now.

GAZETTE: As we look ahead to two centuries of Queen’s, what is the legacy of Queen’s 175th?

DAVID WALKER: As our university evolves over the next quarter century, I think we will find the 175th crystallized our thinking about a number of issues and seminal moments. It was an important moment to pause, think, and look forward about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

GAZETTE: What happens next?

DAVID WALKER: Mike Blair is writing a report that will be archived and will explain how we went about it, and what happened. We will also be conducting an impact assessment – looking at whether we achieved our objectives, or to what extent. And, of course, we can start thinking about the 200th anniversary – though they will need to find someone else to chair that one.

The Queen’s 175th report will be available on the Principal’s website later this year.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.