The University of Victoria has chosen one of its own to lead the school through tough economic times and build on its growing reputation as a leading research institution.
Law professor Jamie Cassels, 56, was the unanimous choice of a 20-member search committee that included members of the faculty, board, senate, student societies and alumni association.
He will replace president David Turpin on July 1 to become the seventh president in the school’s 50-year history.
“Jamie knows this university well — he knows how difficult it is to get a unanimous decision from a search committee,” said board of governors chairwoman Susan Mehinagic, drawing laughs from more than 100 people who turned out to hear the announcement at UVic Thursday.
Mehinagic said Cassels’ long affiliation with the university was less of a factor than his intelligence, enthusiasm, vision and record of strong leadership.
“It wasn’t a question of internal or external [hiring],” she said. “There were, of course, external candidates; it was a question of picking the best candidate.”
Mehinagic said Cassels will earn a base salary of $350,000, which she described as competitive and reasonable in relation to other university presidents in Canada.
A former vice-president academic and provost, Cassels led the university’s planning process and oversaw the expansion of undergraduate and graduate student programs and services. He also served previously as dean of law.
Cassels offered few hints Thursday about his plans for the university. He said his first task after taking over the post from Turpin will be to listen to people and determine how best to sharpen the school’s focus and build on its success.
“This university is on the move. It’s growing. It has an international reputation as one of Canada’s finest universities — and what an opportunity to be part of that,” he said.
Cassels gave credit to Turpin for presiding over an “amazing period” of progress and achievement. “It’s every incoming president’s dream to be able to take the helm of a university that’s so perfectly poised for even greater things,” he said.
Cassels acknowledged, however, that the university faces challenges given the current economic climate. One of his tasks will be to make sure resources are used efficiently, he said.
“The other role of the president, of course, is to make sure that the resources come that we do need in order to continue to build on our momentum.”
Turpin, 56, announced in May that he would step down next year after 13 years at the university’s helm. He praised the choice of Cassels as his replacement, saying it will assure UVic’s continued rise.
“I have watched him plan and execute, motivate and lead,” he said. “I have seen him respond to crisis. And, in my more than 30 years as a university professor, I have never seen anyone better.”
UVic Students’ Society chairwoman Emily Rogers, who sat on the selection committee, also welcomed the Cassels appointment.
“I think Professor Cassels’ enthusiasm and passion for UVic is absolutely unparalleled,” she said.
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