Changing of the chancellors

Calin Rovinescu, the 14th chancellor of the University of Ottawa

“With higher education and ambition, the sky can truly be the limit.”

– Calin Rovinescu

By Johanne Adam

Published Tuesday December 15, 2015

The University of Ottawa has set a skyward course, with Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada president and chief executive officer, becoming the 14th chancellor in its history. He succeeds the Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean, who stepped down as chancellor last April when she was elected secretary general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

Rovinescu said he was “extremely honoured” to take on the role.

“I am very proud to associate myself with the University, especially under the tenure of Allan Rock, who has brought such energy and direction to this establishment,” said Rovinescu, adding that he hopes to inspire students and alumni to aim high.

“I have been privileged to have had some fantastic experiences on the personal and business aspects of my life. And I would love to be able to share and communicate in the clearest way possible what great opportunities leading Canadian universities can provide. How, with higher education and ambition, the sky can truly be the limit. My parents came to Canada as immigrants when I was five years old, and their university degrees were literally their only assets. This lesson was not lost on me over my career. “

Rovinescu added: “When I look at the mission of the University and its objectives going forward, it hits so many of my own interests, such as its global aspirations and its commitment to the ethics of service and responsibility. There is also the bilingualism aspect, uOttawa being the largest bilingual (English-French) university in the world. Furthermore, I am enthusiastic about fascinating new initiatives, such as the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the university’s strengths in public policy, such as the Crossroads Initiative.”

Meanwhile, at a ceremony on November 4 to mark the end of Michaëlle Jean’s term as University chancellor, which ran from February 2012 to April 2015, the University’s Centre for Global and Community Engagement was renamed the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement.

Allan Rock, University president and vice-chancellor, said it was a fitting tribute for Jean, who has shown a deep commitment to public service and community service learning. The centre, which opened in October 2011, is a one-stop shop for students seeking information about volunteer opportunities in Canada and around the world.

Jean used her position as a public figure to raise the profile of uOttawa’s programs, both in Canada and abroad.  Showing both leadership and deep commitment, she was also a catalyst for numerous partnership agreements between the University of Ottawa and many institutes of higher learning in French-speaking countries.

Throughout her career, Jean, a former governor general of Canada, has advocated for community engagement. Whether as University chancellor or as UNESCO special envoy for Haiti, she has stressed that making sure that youth can get involved in their communities matters, to develop their desire to serve and thus contribute to a better world.

The chancellor acts as the titular head of the University. Like other chancellors before him, Rovinescu will be accorded the place of honour at Convocation and other functions on and off campus, such as student welcoming activities, presentations of prizes and awards, special lectures and conferences, and visits by dignitaries.

“Through my experiences and relationships, I hope to continue to build on the university’s strong brand and legacy, both on and off campus,” said Rovinescu.

 An outstanding career trajectory

Rovinescu earned a degree in common law from uOttawa in 1980. Before that, he received a DEC from McGill University in 1974 and a degree in civil law from the University of Montreal in 1978.

In 2014, the University bestowed an honorary doctorate on him in recognition of his distinguished career in corporate law and business. In the same year, he became a member of the uOttawa campaign cabinet.

Rovinescu first joined Air Canada in April 2000, serving in a variety of senior management positions, including as executive vice president of corporate development and strategy, chairman of its various subsidiaries and as chief restructuring officer until April 2004. In November 2004, he became a co-founder and principal of Genuity Capital Markets, an independent investment bank.

He returned to Air Canada on April 1, 2009, as president and chief executive officer. At a time of economic turbulence and financial distress, he piloted the airline’s transformation to global expansion, improved customer satisfaction and dramatically increased profitability while overseeing the return to a surplus position of its $15 billion pension plan. Air Canada has also been recognized as the leading North American airline for five years running by the leading global airline rating agency. As a result, in 2013, Report on Business magazine named him Canada’s best CEO.

In 2012, Calin Rovinescu was elected chair of the Star Alliance Chief Executive Board, the controlling body of the 27-member Star Alliance network of airlines. In June 2014, he was elected to chair the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Rovinescu also serves on the boards of several private and non-profit corporations.

Rovinescu will be officially installed as chancellor at a special ceremony at a later date.

Michaëlle Jean at the ceremony.

At a ceremony last month to mark the end of Michaëlle Jean’s term as University chancellor, the University’s Centre for Global and Community Engagement was renamed. Photo: Bonnie Findley.
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