In conversation with the new chair of the Board of Trustees
September 11, 2020
Earlier this summer, Mary Wilson Trider began her four-year term as the new chairperson of Queen’s University’s Board of Trustees, following her appointment in late 2019. In assuming the role, she becomes the first-ever University Council representative on the board to have been selected for this important position.
Wilson Trider, an experienced healthcare sector executive and Queen’s alumna, became a member of University Council in 2007 and was later elected by that body to sit as one of its six representatives on the Board of Trustees. Before becoming Board chair, she served as Vice-Chair, and chaired the board’s Audit and Risk Committee, and was also a member of its Capital Assets and Finance Committee.
The Queen’s Gazette connected with Wilson Trider recently to discuss her appointment, her history at Queen’s, confronting COVID-19, and her vision for the university’s future.
- Congratulations on your appointment as Chair of the Board of Trustees. How does it feel to take on such an important position at your alma mater?
It is a tremendous honour to have been asked by my fellow Trustees to be their Chair. I am grateful for their trust and their support.
- You joined the University Council in 2007 and represented the body on the Board of Trustees since 2013. Now, in 2020, how do you feel Queen’s has changed/evolved during that period?
Although I had been back to campus for Homecoming weekends over the years, I hadn’t really appreciated how much Queen’s had grown until I came back as a University Councillor in 2007.
Since that time Queen’s has continued to grow. Our student body, faculty, and staff have grown in number and diversity. We have benefitted enormously from the generosity of donors, such as Isabel Bader and the late Alfred Bader and Bader Philanthropies, as well as the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization (SEAMO), Bruce Mitchell, and Stephen Smith, whose investments in buildings and programs have had tremendous impact on the educational experience we can offer our students both inside and outside the classroom.
It is also worth noting that when I joined University Council, Queen’s had significant financial issues. Thanks to the leadership of former Principal Daniel Woolf and his team, the financial situation has vastly improved so that we can now turn our attention to building for the future.
- You chaired and sat on some important board committees during that time as well. Are there any accomplishments, made by either the committees or the board at large, that you’re most proud to have been involved with?
That is a really hard question – there is so much to be proud of! As Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee, I am proud of the work that we did to modernize the Non-Academic Misconduct System and of the Sexual Violence Policy that we approved in 2016. Both of these continue to evolve during changing times, which ensures they reflect Queen’s campus and our current society. More recently, I am also very proud of the work that the Climate Change Action Task Force undertook, which resulted in the Board’s adoption of three important recommendations related to measurement, allocation, and reporting of investments that impact climate change while balancing our fiduciary obligations to the university. The Energy Transition Subcommittee of the Investment Committee has already undertaken some excellent work to operationalize these recommendations.
And, of course, the Board approved the appointment of Principal Patrick Deane, who was recommended to us by a joint advisory committee of senators and trustees. I think all of the Queen’s community is looking forward to hearing where he will take us over the coming years.
- When your appointment was announced you shared that you were looking forward to working with Principal Deane and your board colleagues to shape the university’s next chapter. What do you think that next chapter could or should look like? What are your aspirations for the university and the Board moving forward?
The Board is awaiting a report from Principal Deane on what he heard during the conversations he held over the past year with members of the Queen’s community and with the university’s important partners. This will be the springboard for our discussions with him about the university’s strategic direction. The Board and the university’s senior leadership team have many important decisions to make that have long term implications for Queen’s, whether they be about how to best advance equity, diversity, inclusivity, and indigeneity; how we continue to confront COVID-19; or our efforts to progress sustainability; among many others. Without a vision of what we are trying to achieve, we run the risk of not fulfilling Queen’s potential. To quote Yogi Berra: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there”.
- You are the President and CEO of Almonte General Hospital and Carleton Place & District Memorial Hospital, so COVID-19 prevention and management must be top-of-mind issues for your teams. How do you feel large institutions, like the hospitals or the university, are positioned to tackle the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic?
Large institutions, such as universities and hospitals, have two important roles during a crisis like this. The first is to ensure that they take the necessary actions to be able to continue to deliver on their core missions, whether that be teaching, learning, and research or the delivery of healthcare, or both.
The second is to use the unique resources at their disposal to help their communities and society more broadly cope with and survive the pandemic. I have been very proud of the work done by so many members of our Queen’s community to help Kingston, Ontario, and Canada through this difficult time. Dr. Chris Simpson’s leadership in guiding Ontario hospitals’ response to the pandemic, the work of Dr. Art McDonald and his team on a new ventilator design, and the student-run Student Community Support Program (SCSP), which delivers groceries and provides social contact for vulnerable populations in Kingston, are just a few examples of the impact Queen’s can have on our communities.
- We’re heading into a unique fall term, as most teaching and learning will take place remotely. Do you have any thoughts or words of support you’d care to share with faculty, staff, and students as the campus community approaches the semester in this new way?
Led by Principal Deane, the VP team and Deans, our faculty and staff have worked very hard since March to create the best teaching and learning environment they can for students under the circumstances, and to adapt the university’s operational processes to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, so my first words are of thanks to all of them for their extraordinary efforts.
We are in a very unusual time that requires all of us to be patient, flexible, creative, and resilient in the face of changing circumstances. It is certainly going to be a different fall term, but the elements of our university that we are proud of have not changed. Queen’s has a long tradition of leadership in Canada, and this is another opportunity for us to rise to a new challenge. I know we have what it takes to meet it.
Lastly, please remember that COVID-19 has not been eradicated yet. Wash your hands, practice physical distancing and wear a mask when you can, get a COVID-19 test if you think you have been exposed, and follow the directives of our public health leaders. Keep yourselves and those around you safe.
I wish everyone a successful, rewarding, and healthy fall term.