In the Guelph Mercury this morning was news that David Mirvish, Toronto theatre magnate and son of the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ed Mirvish, will succeed Pamela Wallin as Chancellor of my alma mater, the University of Guelph.
“It’s an honour and privilege to be asked to serve as chancellor of the University of Guelph,” Mirvish said in a press release.
“I am proud to become a member of a university community that is making a difference around the world,” he added. “I look forward to getting to know the students, faculty, staff and alumni, and to being an ambassador for Guelph’s people, ideas and innovations.”
The chancellor serves as an ambassador for the university and presides over all convocation ceremonies, conferring degrees on all graduating students. What makes Mirvish an interesting choice though, especially in light of U of G's reputation as a go to place for cutting edge science, is that Mirvish is a theatre guy. He owns and operates Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, Princess of Wales Theatre, Ed Mirvish Theatre and Panasonic Theatre, and he also once operated the Old Vic in London. Mirvish productions have played on the most important stages in the world: Toronto, Broadway and London, and many have toured across North America. Mirvish is to Canadian theatre what the U of G is to biology and food science.
So why Mirvish? It's a bold choice because it might highlight a little appreciated, though no less stellar, part of the U of G campus: the College of Arts. There's a lot of talent that goes through the MacKinnon Building and Massey Hall, but for the most part they all end up leaving town and heading to Toronto when their time is done. I don't know what Mirvish might do to change that, but I have a feeling that moving forward Guelph's Arts programs might make it to the list of talking points more.
At the very least, Mirvish's appointment will have the immediate effect of getting the taste of Wallin's tenure out our collective mouths. Although, Wallin's appointment was initially seen as a positive, her later selection as a Conservative Senator was in stark relief to her being the chancellor of a university seen by many as the Berkley of Canada. (Oliver Rockside shout out!) But when Wallin voted against the Climate Change Accountability Act, she put political ideology over the fact that she represented a university filled with scientists researching and advocating for action on global climate change. Her time as the U of G's figurehead was all but numbered.
But I guess we'll see what to make of the Mirvish chancellery when he starts handing out degrees this coming spring.