Dalhousie Advisory Council embodies spirit of engagement
Group of 26 volunteers from across North America and beyond
Marie Weeren - May 1, 2012
From the Winter 2012 issue of Dalhousie magazine.
Twice a year, Dalhousie Advisory Council (DAC) members put their lives and work on hold to focus on the university. The 26 volunteers come from Canada, the United States, the Bahamas and Bermuda. In addition to geographic diversity, they represent a spectrum of experience ranging from public and community service to corporate leadership. What they have in common is a desire to give back.
“I think they all believe in the mission of universities in the abstract. Because they have a connection to Dalhousie, they think Dalhousie has the capacity to do good in the world,” says President Tom Traves, who sits on the council with Vice-President External Floyd Dykeman. “In pursuit of doing good, they’d like to help us do it better. So I think there’s a larger spirit that’s behind their engagement.”
Anne McLellan (BA’71, LLB’74), a former federal politician and cabinet minister who chairs the DAC, says the connection goes even deeper. “For those of us on the advisory board, we view this as a real privilege.”
Read also: Anne McLellan: From Dal to Parliament, a leader of distinction
Jim Spatz (MD’74), chair of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors, is also a member of the advisory council. He says the group builds on Dalhousie’s strengths and provides “a diversity of advice and a number of lenses through which to view strategic issues and strategy itself.”
(L to R) Reg Weiser, David Bissett, Nancy Gosling, John Risley. (Danny Abriel photo)
One of these lenses comes from Reg Weiser (BEng’66 (NSTC), DENG’96), founder, president & CEO of Positron Inc. in Montreal. He thinks Dalhousie has an opportunity to expand its mandate to “the community at large.”
“We can provide benefits and services to outside organizations by using our knowledge and expertise,” he says. “Dalhousie should be a centre of learning beyond a place where students are taught. It would be a revitalization, and make us less dependent on government funding.”
President Traves says since the group first met in October 2010, discussion topics have included Dalhousie’s economic sustainability, how the university is preparing medical students to respond to challenges in the health-care system, the university’s impact on provincial development, and how to ensure the best possible student experience.
“It’s really interesting when you’re sitting around talking about how we educate medical students and somebody’s able to say, ‘Well, when I was Canada’s minister of health,’ or when you’re talking about budgets and somebody says, ‘Well, when I was provincial treasurer in a western Canadian province,’ or there’s feedback on business issues from people who deal with business plans all the time and understand complex organizations,” he says. “This is invaluable advice from people who have a lot to say on issues that we’re really engaged in.”
(L to R) Brian Porter, Fred Fountain, Bill Rand, Jim Palmer. (Danny Abriel photo)
The council isn’t afraid to ask hard questions, which is important according to Fred Fountain (LLB’74, LLD’00), Dalhousie chancellor and council member. “It’s very good for Dalhousie, because it can be instrumental in improving different components of the university.”
Broadened perspectives lead to rich discussions and reflect Dalhousie’s international presence. “We can all get locked into our own experience. We can all see the world through the lens of Halifax, the Maritimes or Canada,” Dr. Traves says. “And sometimes that’s valid because obviously we’re rooted in a particular time and place, but you can miss perspectives that people who are out there as truly global citizens can bring to bear on your experiences.”
Council member Nancy Gosling (BComm’76, LLD’10) says students must adopt a global outlook, as well. “The university is teaching students now who have to be focused on the fact that nobody is an island – and I can say that, having come from an island and always having had the world to compete with,” says Ms. Gosling, president and CEO of Gosling’s Limited in Hamilton, Bermuda. She’s also a Dalhousie parent – her daughter, Victoria Esposito, is a second-year management student.
Council member Franklyn Wilson, CMG (BComm’68), chairman of Sunshine Holdings Ltd. in Nassau, agrees. “I believe the growing international scale of Dalhousie is terribly important to its future. . .” he says. “If Dalhousie is the premier institution in a significant region of a G8 country, that institution needs to be world-class. And that institution cannot be world-class without international students. It has to reflect an increasing portion of the world.”
(L to R) Ken Rowe, Robert Gillespie, Angela Singhal. (Danny Abriel photo)
Once the discussions have concluded and the list of items for the university to follow up on is in hand, council members disperse. But the spirit of enthusiasm and dedication they bring to Dalhousie remains.
“I believe in Dalhousie because I had a good experience at Dal and I have an affection and appreciation for my alma mater,” says David Bissett (LLB’62, LLD’03), retired chairman and CEO, founder Bissett and Associates Investment Management Ltd. in Calgary. “It’s important to me, so I think it’s important for other people to experience it.”
(L to R) Kevin McCann, Isabel Bassett, Purdy Crawford, Steve Parker. (Danny Abriel photo)
As a parent and council member, Ms. Gosling is closer to the university now than at any other time since she graduated. “I was educated here and I’m very appreciative of that experience – it formed who I am today,” she says. “I was honoured to be asked to be part of the Dalhousie Advisory Council and I am grateful to have a way to contribute.”
Robert Gillespie (BEng’64 (NSTC), DENG’08) is also happy to be involved. He grew up just blocks away from Dalhousie and is now principal, Westmount Investments, in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. He affirms: “Tom [Traves] has the goal for this to be the best university in Canada. I think it can be one of the best in the world and I’m happy to do my part to contribute to that.”
(L to R) Mark Dobbin, Anne McLellan, John Bragg. (Danny Abriel photo)
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