When he was a Dalhousie Law student in the late 1980s, one of Bob Hanf’s biggest contributions to student life on campus was by serving as speaker of the Dalhousie Student Union council.
“Now, three decades later, it feels like I’m continuing that work, in a way,” says Hanf, who on Wednesday was announced as the new chair of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors.
Hanf (LLB’89) has served on Dalhousie’s Board since 2013 and has chaired both the both the Academic & Student Affairs Committee and the Community Affairs Committee during that time. Most recently, he took over as interim chair after his predecessor Candace Thomas stepped down last month. His new appointment makes him the Board’s permanent chair through to the end of June 2023.
“It feels monumental to me, personally,” says Hanf of being asked to chair the Board of his alma mater. “I’m the first person in my family to go to university. I’ve benefitted a great deal from having graduated from Dal Law and this is another way I can give back to the university and the broader community. I’m truly quite humbled.”
In the official announcement from the Board’s Governance and Human Resources Committee, the committee stated that “Bob’s leadership and counsel have contributed greatly to the work of our Board of Governors over the years, and we are pleased to have these contributions continue in this exciting new capacity.”
President Deep Saini, in the announcement, stated that, “In my time working with Bob, his commitment to supporting Dal’s students and furthering the university’s impact in our local communities and around the world shine through. I look forward to continuing our work together on many exciting opportunities that lie ahead for Dalhousie University.”
An accomplished executive leader, Hanf retired earlier this year from Emera after having spent nearly 20 years in senior roles in its group of companies, most recently as the company’s executive vice-president, stakeholder relations and regulatory affairs. Prior to that he served as president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, chief legal officer for Emera, chairman of Barbados Light & Power Holdings and president and COO at Bangor Hydro.
Hanf, who lives in Halifax with his partner, also has a lengthy list of community roles that he’s partaken in as well, including work with St. Andrew’s United Church Council, the IWK Health Centre and the Hospice Society of Greater Halifax.
“I think a lot of my work has been about translation — taking groups that may not always speak the same way to one another and finding a shared way to express whatever their common interest might be,” he says. “On a Board like Dal’s there are a lot of different opinions that you have to respect and hear out. That’s something I really enjoy doing: finding that commonality between different groups.”
Helping Dal push forward
Among his initial priorities as chair are to continue helping President Saini and the Dal community in general work towards the university’s goals. This includes addressing the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic — which, like so much at Dal, has changed how the Board itself works. (Meetings are now virtual.)
“There are things that we’ve been trying to do at Dalhousie — like accelerate e-learning and distance learning, or digitization in general — where [measures to respond to the pandemic) have forced us at least 10 years ahead, in some ways,” says Hanf. “There’s nothing quite like having direct in-person contact, but there are opportunities in this situation to figure out new ways of connecting.”
He’s also keen for the Board to help support continued progress in equity, diversity and inclusion at Dalhousie — “an area where there’s been constant discussion, but where we’re seeing real action being taken as well,” he notes — as well pushing Dal’s expertise forward in key research areas.
“We have an agricultural campus that can really be world class, for example,” he says. “In my role with Emera I was a big supporter of the ideaHUB and I have an interest there as well, but there are so many areas — clean energy, the ocean sector and others — where we can find ways to deepen Dal’s support.”
Overall, he’s excited to continue to play a key role in helping support Dal’s continued growth and impact.
“The institution is just getting better and more relevant,” he says.
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