The year 2005-2006 marked an important turning point for Lakehead University. As we celebrated our 40th Anniversary in 2005, we moved ahead on many fronts to secure a vigorous, sustainable future.
ELIMINATING THE DEFICITFor the first time since 1995-1996, Lakehead is not carrying a deficit in its operating budget. Several years of budget surpluses have allowed the University to eliminate the operating deficit, and prudent fiscal management should allow us to set the stage for strategic growth in graduate studies, interdisciplinary programming, development of the new Orillia campus, and elsewhere.
This growth will be guided by the Academic Plan and the Strategic Research Plan. While we must continue to be cautious and not overextend the institution, we also can start to address some fundamental long-term deficiencies such as teaching equipment needs and deferred maintenance.
REFINANCING THE LONG-TERM DEBT
After receiving an A1 rating from Moody's Investors Service, Lakehead University, working with RBC Capital Markets, successfully issued a 40-year $100 million debenture. Funds are being used to refinance existing debt at a lower rate of interest, finance Phase II of the Energy Conservation Project, and set up an internally restricted investment fund for Lakehead University. The endowment interest will be utilized to address particular needs within the University, and a portion will be re-invested in the capital, allowing continued growth of the endowment.
INCREASING RESEARCH ACTIVITYThe increasing success of our graduate students, faculty, and staff in securing research grants has assisted our commitment to become one of the top 25 research-intensive universities in Canada over the next five to ten years. Furthermore, the provincial government has provided graduate funding to allow us to grow to 524 graduate spaces by 2007-2008.
Premier McGuinty was on campus last spring to announce funding for the remodeling of the Munro Street Cancer Research Centre in Thunder Bay. This will provide important space and facilities for the cardiovascular research team headed by Lakehead’s Vice-President (Research) Rui Wang, and for other Lakehead researchers who may engage in preclinical studies in the future. The announcement was made in the third-floor research laboratories of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and another announcement proclaimed the naming of the Dr. Serafina “Penny” Petrone Health Information Resource Centre in the same building. This naming recognizes the personal donation of over $1 million to the NOSM Bursary Fund by the late Dr. Petrone.
CONVOCATION 2006Convocation is a reminder of the true raison d’être of a university – to educate – and in so doing advance the frontiers of knowledge and provide citizens with the credentials and capacity to succeed in a very challenging global environment. This academic year marked our largest graduating class ever with a total of 2,065 graduands in the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2006. Two honorary degrees were awarded. A Doctor of Laws to Paul Weiler, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at Harvard University, and a Doctor of Science to Jerry Franklin, Professor of Ecosystem Analysis at the University of Washington.
CONTROVERSIAL ISSUESLast winter, Lakehead was widely featured in a number of print, broadcast, and online media for its decision to limit wireless Internet access on campus because of potential adverse health effects. The University currently has many Internet café locations with hardwired hookups where students can use University computers to access the Internet and enjoy specialized software and secure communications. Lakehead will continue to monitor research on wireless technology on an ongoing basis and, at an appropriate time, re-evaluate its current position on the issue to see whether the precautionary status can be removed.
Finally, Lakehead University engaged in a number of Thunder Bay initiatives that administration and the Board of Governors viewed as being in the long-term interest of the community and the University. One of these initiatives was a preliminary discussion with the Lakehead Public School Board and the Thunder Bay Country Club about a plan to build a new, centralized high school on land near the intersection of Oliver Road and Golf Links Road. Under discussion was the possibility of entering into a three-way agreement that would see Lakehead University utilizing Port Arthur Collegiate Institute (PACI) for much-needed teaching and research space in exchange for leasing a portion of University land along the McIntyre River for use by the Country Club. While not everyone agreed with this initiative, there was spirited and useful debate on the issues. At press time for this article it was still uncertain whether the School Board will continue to pursue this site for a high school. If it does, the University would consider a revised arrangement with the Thunder Bay Country Club.
Lakehead University is committed to excellence and innovation, and we are united in our desire to have the University recognized as one of Canada’s finest institutions of higher learning. I encourage you to find out how you can take an active part in helping to accomplish the strategic goals of our remarkable institution.