A Farewell to Alastair Summerlee – The Ontarion
A Farewell to Alastair Summerlee

U of G honours outgoing president of 11 years

Alastair Summerlee’s 11 year term as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guelph will end on Monday, June 30. The university and local community teamed up to celebrate the numerous contributions Summerlee has made not only to the university and the City of Guelph, but also to local and global communities.

Outgoing University of Guelph President Alastair Summerlee admires his honourary degree during a farewell event on Johnston Green June 13th. Photo by Matthew Azevedo/THE ONTARION.

Outgoing University of Guelph President Alastair Summerlee admires his honourary degree during a farewell event on Johnston Green June 13th. Photo by Matthew Azevedo/THE ONTARION.

A farewell celebration was held on Friday, June 13 on Johnston Green, recognizing the longest-serving president in University of Guelph history. Several people spoke at the event, appreciating Summerlee not only for his contributions as an academic and an administrator, but also as a humanitarian and an inspiring teacher.

Tye Burt, Chair of the Better Planet Project, announced at the celebration that the project has already exceeded its goal – to raise $200 million in four years – by $3.5 million, largely thanks to Summerlee’s efforts.

Burt also announced that the university plans to establish the Alastair Summerlee Scholarship in Civil Society, a president’s scholarship to be awarded to a graduate student completing international field research in line with the aims and goals of the Better Planet Project. Brad Rooney, President of the Alumni Association, named Summerlee an honorary alumnus – a status complete with the coveted University of Guelph leather bomber jacket.

Letters of congratulation were also read from Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge, MPP Liz Sandals, and MP Frank Valeriote, who applauded Summerlee as “the gold standard of educators.”

Towards the end of the ceremony, Dick Freeborough, Chair of the Board of Governors, announced that that the science complex, designed and completed in Summerlee’s term as president, would be re-named the Summerlee Science Complex.

“Alastair played a pivotal role in creating the science complex from vision to completion,” said Freeborough. “Having this pioneering facility bear his name is the perfect capstone to his presidency.”

As for the future, don’t expect Summerlee to slow down too much. In a recent interview with the Guelph Mercury, Summerlee looked ahead to a busy year.

“I’m going to be taking some time the next year working on four projects,” said Summerlee, counting two projects with former graduate students, a volunteer chair position with the Hunger Solutions Institute in the US, and hopes to complete work that supports education for women and girls in refugee camps amongst his future plans. “That will, I hope, keep me busy for the year, and then … I’m coming back on faculty in the Veterinary College.”

However, a much-needed break is planned before diving back into a packed schedule.

“I just live and breathe the University of Guelph 24/7,” Summerlee said. “That’s the reason, after my wife and I have gone away on holiday, I’m going to walk across the Kalahari for a month to change my perspective on life, so I stop thinking about the university 24/7 and exchange it for ‘am I going to be alive by the end of today?’”

At his farewell celebration, Summerlee said he was proud of everything that has been accomplished over his 11 year term, crediting the support of students, faculty, and staff for a “learning centred and research rich” campus and the overall growth of the university.
“Everything that happened, it was all done by you,” concluded Summerlee. “I will miss you.”