Founding Director of the Conrad School retires

Monday, September 19, 2022

After 41 years of exemplary service to the University of Waterloo, Howard Armitage, the founding director of the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business (previously known as the Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology or CBET), retired on July 1st, 2022.

Howard Armitage
Howard’s University of Waterloo journey began in 1981 when he was appointed as an Associate Professor in the School of Accounting and Finance. He was later appointed as the Director of Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance in 1996. A passionate, dedicated and revered professor throughout his time at the University of Waterloo, Howard won the Distinguished Teaching Award (1997), the LS Rosen Outstanding Canadian Accounting Educator Award from the Canadian Academic Accounting Association (2000), the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship for Educational Excellence (2004) and Ontario’s Top Entrepreneurial Educator Award (2014).

During a president’s breakfast in 1999, Howard approached David Johnston, at the time the newly appointed president of the University of Waterloo, with an idea and a challenge. “We have a region known for technology, a university renowned for its great entrepreneurial spirit, a supportive business community and an outstanding student body. However, nowhere on campus do we have an academic unit with a specific focus on business, entrepreneurship and technology. Shouldn’t we do something about that? What prevents us from doing it?”

This conversation was just the start of Howard being a champion for entrepreneurship education at Waterloo. In 2002, with Johnston’s support and backing from academic and business colleagues, Howard founded the Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, which would later become the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business. Its mission was to support and expand on Waterloo’s culture of entrepreneurship with high-impact programs that built on the university’s tradition of excellence in experiential education. Armitage’s approach to identifying business opportunities by solving important problems remains central to the Conrad School’s approach today.

First MBET cohort

First cohort of the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program.

After stepping down as Executive Director of CBET in 2011, Armitage continued to show leadership within the University, the Conrad School and the wider community. In 2013, Armitage was appointed as Special Advisor, Entrepreneurship by Feridun Hamdullaphur, former president of the University of Waterloo. While continuing to teach his “seductive” accounting course in the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program at the Conrad School, he also worked towards greater integration of academic and non-academic entrepreneurship activities. Along with campus and community partners, he advised on policies and activities that have laid the groundwork for creating Canada’s most dynamic and successful campus-wide entrepreneurship ecosystem.

"He imbued the Conrad School with unfailing commitment to student success and experience, with positive energy, with a sense of purpose and an entrepreneurial spirit"

MARK WEBER, Eyton Director, Conrad School

“While I celebrate Howard’s peerless career and his many accomplishments, I confess to being pained by his retirement. I had hoped he might stay on forever,” says Mark Weber, current Conrad School Director. “In my time as director it has become so very clear to me that founders matter. And Howard was an amazing founder for the Conrad School. He imbued the Conrad School with unfailing commitment to student success and experience, with positive energy, with a sense of purpose and an entrepreneurial spirit. Howard has never stopped looking for new opportunities or asking ‘why not?’. What a gift to his students, his colleagues and to this university!” 

A high performer not only in the University but also in the community and beyond, Howard also received the City of Waterloo’s highest honour – the Waterloo Award – in 2017 and won the Canadian and World Squash championships in his age bracket in 2018.

Howard has been very clear that he is not retiring ‘from’ something, he’s retiring ‘to’ do other things. His retirement plans include more travel with wife Phyllis; continuing his work with selected NFP organizations, biking and hiking new trails and doing everything he can to stay on top of the squash ladder.

The Conrad School wishes Howard continued adventure in retirement and hopes he will return regularly to check on what he created.

Celebrate Howard Armitage’s retirement during the Conrad School’s 20th Anniversary Celebration on October 15th. Register by September 23rd to join.