David Walker eager to help plan 175th anniversary celebration
Planning for Queen’s 175th anniversary in 2016 is already underway with an executive committee, chaired by David Walker, beginning to consult with stakeholders at Queen’s and the broader community. Dr. Walker, the former director of the Queen’s School of Medicine and dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, currently teaches in the schools of Medicine and Policy Studies. He recently sat down with Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer, to discuss his latest role at the university and to reflect on the significance of the anniversary.
MK: How did you get involved in planning for Queen’s 175th anniversary celebration?
DW: I got a call from the principal one day. He said, “I have a job I would like you to do.” And I never say no to the principal. I thought about it for a second, and then thought, ‘what fun. That might be great.’
MK: Why did you decide to participate in this initiative?
DW: The last time Principal Woolf asked me to chair something was the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health. I was a bit nervous about that, but I found it to be a very engaging, challenging and, in retrospect, rewarding commission. I have been involved with Queen’s since I was 18, and it has given me a lot. I am very fond of the institution so I thought it would be a good thing to help organize a birthday party for it.
MK: What is your role on the executive committee?
DW: My role is to create a process for the celebration of the 175th. My role has been complemented by Rico Garcia, who is the coordinator of the 175th celebration process. To date, we have created an executive committee that meets every month, which is going to do the day-to-day planning and oversight of the steps we take from now until then. We’ve created an advisory committee I chair with Peter Milliken that will meet far less frequently. It’s a large committee made up of just about everybody we could think of who might have some ideas or represent constituencies that are important inside and outside the community of Queen’s. That advisory committee will provide advice and ideas over the course of the next few weeks. Then we will take those ideas and boil them down, marry them to a robust communications plan and then engage a variety of individuals and organizations in terms of creating events that will occur during that year.
MK: In your opinion, why do you think it’s important for Queen’s to celebrate its 175th anniversary?
DW: Moments like this are important for institutions just like they are for individuals. It gives the institution a chance to celebrate what has been. Queen’s and the remarkable people it brings together have made enormous contributions to the world, this country, province and city. So it’s important we look back and celebrate those contributions and successes, and perhaps even look back thoughtfully on some things that maybe didn’t go as well as planned. I also think it’s important for us to look forward. When one has a birthday or a New Year’s celebration, you always look back a bit but you always look forward too.
MK: Specific events haven’t been finalized, but do you have a general sense of what the celebration will look and feel like?
DW: Happy, thoughtful and constructive. The activities will vary. There will be a handful of marquee, big ticket events all the way through to activities planned by alumni groups around the world, faculties, schools, departments, groups, clubs, and sports teams. Maybe we will win the Vanier Cup. (Laughs) I will try to organize that, but it seems we need other teams to be complicit so that might be more of a challenge.
I have always tried to be a staunch supporter of our students so we are going to do everything we can to involve them. It is a bit challenging because the students who will be here during the celebrations aren’t necessarily the students who are here now. Nevertheless, we hope students will be front and centre during these celebrations.
The principal has said, and I agree, that it is critically important that we celebrate arm in arm with the city. Our history and Kingston’s history are inextricably linked. It’s interesting: the bicentennial of Sir John A. Macdonald’s birth is in 2015, we have our 175th anniversary in 2016, and Canada’s sesquicentennial is in 2017. There will be a linking of all of those together with Kingston because Kingston was the home of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first capital of Canada and the home of Queen’s. It all comes together rather nicely.