By Mike Foster
University of Ottawa staff and students gathered last week to thank outgoing president Allan Rock for his commitment to the institution and his legacy of scholarship with social purpose.
Allan Rock’s eight-year tenure as president and vice-chancellor comes to an end on June 30. Hundreds of uOttawa staff gathered in the new, arabesque tent at University Square on May 9 to celebrate the University’s accomplishments under his leadership and share some special memories.
Mona Nemer, vice-president, research, said that Rock had shown his commitment to research by pushing forward the Advanced Research Complex, a facility dedicated to photonics and Earth sciences, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, as well as a range of international initiatives.
Nadia Abu-Zahra, associate professor in the School of International Development and Global Studies, recalled her first meeting with Allan Rock, in 2014. He wanted to know what the University could do to help refugees.
“Allan Rock felt very strongly that universities should play a constructive role,” Abu-Zahra said. “He had an idea to help young refugees from countries like Jordan and Lebanon continue their education. He worked hard to support us. He found donors to help support the development of our project, which offers a postsecondary certificate to refugee students in Lebanon.”
She added that Rock also set up new scholarships for refugees and assisted the Faculty of Law’s Refugee Sponsorship Support Program.
“Allan Rock has often alluded to scholarship with a social purpose, that teaching and learning go hand in hand with service to others and world-class research. These are more than words to him. He walks the walk,” Abu-Zahra said.
Jessie Nault, who is of Algonquin heritage and was enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine’s Indigenous Program, thanked Rock for a “fabulous university experience.”
“Even though we have 43,000 students here, I never felt like a number,” she said.
Gaby St-Pierre, director of CO-OP and the Career Development Centre, delivered an uncanny imitation of Allan Rock speaking French. He said they first met eight years ago when he briefed the new president on uOttawa’s CO-OP program. St-Pierre said he asked Rock to raise the visibility of the University’s experiential learning programs by mentioning them every chance he could, to donors, alumni and the public.
“The meeting was all in French and, in fact, for the past eight years, every conversation I had with Allan Rock was in French. I really appreciated that,” St-Pierre said. Today, Rock’s legacy includes the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement and the Allan Rock Scholars Fund, he said.
Rock said he felt a bit like Casey Stengel, a mediocre baseball player who later had great success as manager of the New York Yankees. When asked the secret of his success, Stengel famously said that managing was the art of getting credit for all the home runs hit by other people.
“Every generation since 1848 has been called upon to do its part to contribute to the development of this magnificent institution,” Rock said. “I believe that when it came to our time, we together have done our part. All of the building blocks are in place for us to continue the trajectory upwards.”
And, he added, after a brief period of study, he plans to return to campus as a professor in the Faculty of Law.