Excited by what’s next: Chair Candace Thomas says moving on from Dal's Board 'bittersweet'

- October 21, 2020

Outgoing Board Chair Candace Thomas speaks at the release of the Lord Dalhousie report in September 2019. (Nick Pearce file photo)
Outgoing Board Chair Candace Thomas speaks at the release of the Lord Dalhousie report in September 2019. (Nick Pearce file photo)

Candace Thomas says stepping down as chair of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors was not an easy decision, but a necessary one.

“I still feel very heavy-hearted to have to make this decision,” she says, calling it bittersweet. “But know it’s the best thing for all parties — not just me and my family, but for Dalhousie.”

Back in April, Thomas — a member of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors since 2011 and chair since July 2019 — took a leave from her role as a lawyer at Stewart McKelvey to take on a new appointment in the provincial government as Deputy Minister of the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Minister of the Office of Social Innovation and Integrative Approaches. Calling her appointment, “an incredible opportunity to help lead necessary change,” sinking her teeth into these new roles has made juggling her Dalhousie responsibilities simply too much all at once.

“As Board chair, it was really important for me that I be fully engaged, meeting and working closely with members of the Dal community, and that’s become just too challenging to maintain,” she says.

In a memo to the university community on Tuesday evening (October 20), Sherry Porter, chair of the Board of Governors’ Governance and Human Resources committee, shared the news that Thomas was resigning as chair, offering her, “our tremendous thanks and best wishes in her critical new undertaking for Nova Scotia. She is an inspiring leader, and our loss as a Board is a larger gain for everyone living in our province.”

Celebrating service

Though she has resigned as chair, Thomas will remain on the Board through the end of the year to assist in the transition. In the period until a new chair is appointed, Bob Hanf, currently vice-chair, will serve as interim chair. Hanf — who like Thomas, is a Dalhousie Law alum — has served on the Board since 2013 and has close to 20 years of experience in various key leadership positions within Emera and its group of companies.

President Deep Saini shared well-wishes to both Thomas and Hanf in the memo to the university community.

“On behalf of the Dal community, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Candace for her incredible service. Dalhousie is a better place today thanks to her leadership — and, knowing Candace well, that leadership will hardly end when her time on the Board does… I also wish to thank Bob for his leadership to Dalhousie during this time. His longstanding commitment and contributions to Dalhousie make him ideally suited to serve our university during this period of transition.”

An opportunity to make a difference

Thomas says what’s exciting about her new deputy minister roles is the chance to make a difference in the province she’s always called home.

“I knew I wanted to do something more of service in my work,” she says. “When I learned about this opportunity — particularly to lead the new Office of Social Innovation and Integrative Approaches — it really felt like a challenge unlike anything I’d done before, one where I could have a role to play in having an impact for all Nova Scotians.”

Thomas, of course, has been making an impact at Dalhousie for some time. A longtime volunteer and with the Schulich School of Law, she’s also been chair of the Board’s Governance and Human Resources Committee and a member of the advisory group for Dal’s strategic initiative on diversity and inclusiveness. When asked what she’s proudest about in her time on the Board, she says it’s about having a small part in supporting the important work at the university.

“Dalhousie, through all of its change, has never lost sight on the path it’s on and the excellence it pursues in everything it does for students and in our community,” she says.

“There’s so much more that we can do, and so much further Dalhousie can go. It’s exciting to have played just a tiny role in that along the way, alongside President Saini, my fellow Board members and all the truly amazing people who work at Dalhousie.”


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