Retiring the regalia
This article was originally printed in the July edition of Queen’s Gazette. You can get your copy at newsstands around campus.
By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer
David Dodge knows what he will miss most when he hangs up his Chancellor’s robes after two terms in Queen’s University’s highest office: the people.
“Whenever you leave something, it’s always the people you miss most,” he says about stepping away from role he has held since 2008.
“I will miss the people I have worked with both here on campus, and those on the Board of Trustees and on University Council. But most of all, I will miss the cheery faces of our students.”
Once a Queen’s student himself, Chancellor Dodge landed his job as the university’s 13th ceremonial head after a chat with former classmate John A. Rae, then serving as the Chair of the Board of Trustees.
“I had been talking with him about wanting to make a contribution to Queen’s,” he recalls. With Chancellor Charles Baillie on the cusp of retirement, Mr. Rae suggested he consider stepping into the role.
“At the time, the university was facing some challenges because Principal (Karen) Hitchcock had just resigned,” Chancellor Dodge says, explaining that while the position is traditionally ceremonial or ambassadorial, it ended up being a far bigger job than he had first imagined.
“As well as working to find a new principal, I got involved in the restructuring of the Board of Trustees and University Council, too.”
But it is in his most public role – presiding over convocation ceremonies with legendary presence and wit – that Chancellor Dodge has most endeared himself to the Queen’s community. Though he may shake thousands of graduates’ hands over a few weeks, Chancellor Dodge takes time when he can to ask them where they’re headed next.
“Each graduate crossing the stage is an individual,” he says simply. “I like to hear what their plans are.”
Chancellor Dodge, who served as Governor of the Bank of Canada from 2001 until 2008, says he anticipates maintaining a professional connection to Queen’s through the Economics department, the School of Public Policy and the School of Business when Jim Leech takes over as chancellor on July 1.
Thinking about the future of Queen’s, Chancellor Dodge says it’s vitally important to find ways to adapt the teaching and learning process to meet the needs of 21st century students.
“We will need to build on the particular strengths and weaknesses our students bring, all while ensuring that we retain the essential humanity and sense of community that mark Queen’s,” he says.
He also stresses the importance of creating an intimate learning experience that allows students to interact with faculty and their peers in a way that develops critical thinking skills.
“It may mean moving away from the standard lectures and exam format toward something more interactive. We will also need to ensure students in their first year get a real academic experience and don’t just end up floating in classes with several hundred others.”
As he prepares for his final convocation ceremony on June 13, Chancellor Dodge says he has one piece of advice for the class of 2014: don’t be afraid to fail.
“Today’s graduates will have to be very innovative going forward, but that road will include many failures as well,” he says. “It’s important to see failures as stepping-stones. Take risks, fail, and then march on.”