Friday, March 25, 2022

Waterloo remembers President Emeritus James Downey

James Downey.The University of Waterloo’s fourth president and vice-chancellor, recognized for his contributions to post-secondary education around the world, has died. Downey was 82.

Downey, remembered by many for his loyalty, integrity and wit, led the University from April 1993 to May 1999. It was a time of dramatic changes for the post-secondary sector by two consecutive Ontario governments led by Premier Bob Rae and then by Premier Mike Harris. Through it all, Downey believed it was important to maintain the integrity of all parts of the University in the face of funding cuts and tuition increases.

“Without Jim Downey’s inspired and sensitive leadership during a period with many constraints, Waterloo would have been a lesser place, divided and disgruntled,” said Ken McLaughlin, historian and professor emeritus. “His approach allowed the University to emerge from the deficits, special early retirements and challenges to rebound dramatically under the next president, David Johnston.”

Downey looked back on his term not only as a period of coping with financial pressures, but one of achievement as he took pride in the accomplishments of students and employees. He believed it was significant that people thought highly and well of the University during this time.

"The past six years have been a slice, particularly the first four years," Downey said at one of several events celebrating his tenure as president. "They were times that tested our mettle, times of loss. What we didn't lose was our nerve, our sense of balance. We didn't turn on each other, and we came through it with distinction."

During his time as Waterloo’s president and vice-chancellor, Downey also served terms as chair of the Council of Ontario Universities and chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

After completing his presidency, Downey returned to the classroom as a professor of English at Waterloo. Almost immediately, he took on a number of administrative posts. His decision to review and renew Waterloo’s role in co-operative education was critical to the continued success of Waterloo. Downey was the founding director of the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education (WatCACE), which helped to renew and further develop co-operative education as a defining characteristic of Waterloo. It strengthened the institution’s place as a progressive leader in this area and influenced the shape of university education.

Downey became an education consultant for the Government of Ontario, and advised several Canadian and international universities on issues of governance and management. He was the founding president of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. His annual seminar for new university presidents was sponsored by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. In 2005, he was appointed chair of the Board of Governors of the Royal Military College of Canada.

“The University and indeed Canada’s post-secondary sector lost one of its champions with the sad passing of Jim Downey,” said Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo. "I extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to the many members of our campus community who had the privilege of working with him.”

"Jim’s support of co-operative education at Waterloo continues to serve our students today, and the University’s solid position as a global leader in co-op is a direct result of his leadership and vision. Indeed, universities across Canada and beyond have benefitted from his intellect and his dedication to students and their learning.”

In 2018, Downey donated his private papers to the Special Collections and Archives at UWaterloo’s Dana Porter Library. They include materials that are historical, autobiographical and biographical, touching on life in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We are fortunate to have worked closely with Jim over the years,” said Nick Richbell, head of Special Collections & Archives at Waterloo. “The records we received document a long and varied professional life. From the meticulous commonplace books he kept, to the speeches he gave as president of the University of New Brunswick as well as Waterloo, we are proud to house Jim’s legacy for future generations to come.”

Downey began his career at Carleton University, where, he held a series of academic and administrative posts, including chair of the Department of English, dean of the Faculty of Arts, vice-president academic, and interim president. Before joining Waterloo, Downey was president of the University of New Brunswick from 1980 to 1990. At the same time, he served terms as president of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, chair of the Association of Atlantic Universities, and chair of the Corporate-Higher Education Forum. From 1990 to 1993, he was special advisor to the premier of New Brunswick, special advisor to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and co-chair of New Brunswick’s Commission on Excellence in Education. The latter published two significant reports that guided educational reform in that province.

Downey was born in Winterton, Newfoundland and Labrador in 1939. He graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland. As a Rothermere Fellow, he attended the University of London, where he earned a PhD in English literature. 

“I will remember him as someone with down-to-earth values, a strong belief in a commitment and loyalty to those with whom he worked, and he had an unrivalled sense of humour,” McLaughlin said. “At his home one evening, a major donor remarked that Jim had lost his Newfoundland accent. Without missing a beat, he fell back into it and said, ‘Oh no, I have not lost it. I’m just not using it.’ The University’s endowment increased by a significant amount.”

He received numerous awards and honours. Downey became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996. In 2000, the Association of Commonwealth Universities awarded Downey the Symons Medal for outstanding service to higher education in the Commonwealth. In 2003, he received the David C. Smith Award from the Council of Ontario Universities for his contributions to universities and public policy in Canada. He holds honorary degrees from six universities in Canada and two in the United States.

There will be a funeral service for the family. The University plans to hold a memorial on campus at a later date.

Preparing students for in-person exams

Students write exams in the Physical Activities Complex circa 1975.

Students write exams in the Physical Activities Complex circa 1975.

A message from the Student Success Office.

This April students will return to writing final exams in-person, at the PAC or other campus locations. In collaboration with the Registrar's Office, the Student Success Office has created resources to support students who may be experiencing their first in-person university exam period.

  • Instructors can access a 5 Minute Presentation on Preparing for In-person Final Exams to deliver in the final weeks of the term.
  • Students can be directed to the SSO’s online learning resources to Prepare for In-person Final Exams.
  • Advisors can use these resources in conversation with students who have questions about final exams.

Students can also book a one-on-one appointment with a peer success coach until the end of the term, to create a study plan for their exams and learn how to feel prepared.

Robots rock the PAC

The FIRST Robotics competition setup on the floor of the Physical Activities Complex.

The robots are back on campus. The University of Waterloo will be hosting the 2022 Ontario District FIRST Robotics competition on Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26. 

Forty teams of high school students with a passion for designing, building and programming robots will be competing. In this year’s challenge—called RAPID REACT—presented by The Boeing Company, teams must use innovative engineering, creative thinking and teamwork to reimagine the future of safe, high-speed cargo delivery. With limited time available, teams must use their remote-controlled robots to retrieve assigned cargo as quickly as possible before returning to a hangar for transport.

The University of Waterloo FRC has a history of attracting the best teams in North America. World-class teams from across Ontario will vie for a place at the FIRST Ontario Provincial Championships, including Hall of Fame Team 1114 Simbotics from St. Catharines and World Champion Teams 610 Crescent Coyotes from Toronto and 1241 Theory 6 from Mississauga. Two teams composed entirely of female students, 771 SWAT from Oakville and the 6875 Amazon Warriors from Windsor, will also compete along with Team 3683 from St. David’s Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo. 

Two separate competitions with 20 teams will run on Friday and Saturday, with practice matches in the morning and qualification and playoff matches in the afternoon. Due to ongoing COVID restrictions, access to the competition is limited to the media and guests only. A livestream of the competition will be available at

The schedule is as follows:

  • Friday, March 25, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. - Practice rounds, opening ceremonies, qualification rounds, playoff matches, awards;
  • Saturday, March 26 from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. - Practice rounds, opening ceremonies, qualification rounds, playoff matches, awards.

GreenHouse announces winter term winners at the 25th Social Impact Showcase

Social Impact Award winners pose for a group photo.

A message from St. Paul's GreenHouse.

The Social Impact Showcase celebrates the amazing work that GreenHouse students have accomplished throughout their social innovation journeys. Six out of the nine student teams that pitched last week were awarded funding to support their ventures from the Social Impact Fund, established by St. Paul’s University College.

This term students focused on migration dilemmas, bringing clean drinking water to Indigenous communities, creating space for Indian Indigenous youth in climate justice, waste management in high-density residential building, youth mental health and volunteer mentorship.

And the winners are…

Pluriversity, awarded $6,000, is an online leadership program that empowers Indian Indigenous youth to be climate justice leaders. Pluriversity is led by Sriranjini Raman, Faculty of Environment.

Barefoot Solutions to the Water Crisis, awarded $5,600 plus and additional $1,000 for winning the People’s Choice Award, is finding ways to leverage the methodology of the Barefoot College to help empower Indigenous Matriarchs to bring clean drinking water to their communities. Barefoot Solutions to the Water Crisis is led by Julia Baribeau, Faculty of Engineering.

ConnectMe, awarded $3,300, connects newcomers in Canada who are struggling with migration dilemmas with a diverse range of coaches of the same cultural background. ConnectMe is led by two MBET grad students, Delaram Amani, Faculty of Engineering and Parmiss Aghdaei, Faculty of Engineering.

Drop Point Waste Solutions, awarded $2,000, seeks to address the issue of excess waste entering traditional disposal systems in high-density residential buildings by implementing a unique ID entry system and weight scale. Drop Point Waste Solution is led by Justin Succar, Faculty of Environment.

Nurture, awarded $1,500, is helping to foster positive mental health among youth by making Waterloo Region a Sustainable Food Forest. Nurture is led by founder, Sriranjini Raman, Faculty of Environment, and co-founder, Jackie Kinney, Faculty of Environment.

GrassRoots, awarded $1,500, is a digital tool designed for volunteer mentorship and community growth. GrassRoots is led by Joan Arrow, Faculty of Math, and Sara Marsh, Faculty of Arts alumnus.

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the 25th Social Impact Showcase and thank you to over 500 community members who took the time to vote for their favourite venture. Here’s to our students’ continued success moving forward.

    Beyond the Bulletin Episode 121

    Beyond the Bulletin logo featuring vintage microphones.

    The latest episode of the Beyond the Bulletin podcast is now live. Trevor Charles, a professor in the Department of Biology and an entrepreneur, discusses the LiftOff program for Black entrepreneurs. The University has announced changes to public health restrictions on our campuses for the Spring term and beyond. Employees are invited to take a survey capturing worker and workplace experiences with remote work during the pandemic. And the Sustainability Office launches the Waste Sorting Game to better manage waste on the campus and further the University’s Shift:Zero Campaign.

    Link of the day

    International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

    When and Where to get support

    Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, immigration consulting, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

    Instructors looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (

    Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

    Course templates are available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

    The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

    Supports are available for employees returning to campus. Visit IST’s Hybrid Work and Technology guidelines and workplace protocols to assist with the transition.

    The Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help undergradsgrad students, postdocs and faculty members with academic writing.

    Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

    The Centre for Career Action (CCA) has virtual services and programs to support undergrads, grad students, postdocs, alumni and employees in figuring out what they value, what they’re good at, and how to access meaningful work, co-op, volunteer, or graduate/professional school opportunities. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat, call 519-888-4047, or stop by our front desk in the Tatham Centre between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday.

    Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

    Renison's English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

    If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

    The Library is open with expanded hours for access to book stacks, drop-in individual study space, bookable group study rooms, drop-in access to computers and printers, book pick-up services and IST Help Desk support. Librarian consultations, Special Collections & Archives and the Geospatial Centre are available by appointment. Full details on current services and hours are available on the Library’s COVID-19 Update webpage.

    The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

    The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

    The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: or visit the SVPRO website.

    The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's Indigenization strategy.

    The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

    WUSA supports for students:

    Peer support  - MATES, Glow Centre, RAISE, Women’s Centre - Visit to book an appointment either in person or online for the Fall term.

    Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH and all residences.

    Co-op Connection all available online. Check for more details.

    Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at caps@wusa.caMore information is available.

    WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

    Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

    GSA-UW supports for graduate students: 

    The Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) supports students’ academic and social experience and promotes their well-being.

    Advising and Support - The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges and can help with navigating university policies & filing a grievance, appeal, or petition.

    Mental Health covered by the Health Plan - The GSA Health Plan now has an 80 per cent coverage rate (up to $800/year) for Mental Health Practitioners. Your plan includes coverage for psychologists, registered social workers, psychotherapists, and clinical counselors.

    Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 to 70 per cent of your dental costs and by visiting dental professionals who are members of the Studentcare Networks, you can receive an additional 20 to 30 per cent coverage.

    Student Legal Protection Program - Your GSA fees give you access to unlimited legal advice, accessible via a toll-free helpline: +1-833-202-4571. This advice covers topics including housing disputes, employment disputes, and disputes with an academic institution.

    The Graduate House: Open Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. We’re open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Graduate House is a community space run by the GSA-UW. Vaccination Records and Government ID continue to be required for all dine-in guests. Graduate students who paid their fees can get discounts and free coffee.

    When and Where (but mostly when)

    Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join our “Waterloo Warriors” team on the website or app. #ItsInYouToGive

    Half Price Fitness Memberships and Rock Climbing Memberships. Only $25 for the remainder of the term. Purchase your membership now.

    Warriors truLOCAL Kickback ProgramMarch 22 to April 22. Purchase high quality locally sourced meat and fish while supporting your favourite Waterloo Warriors varsity team. Find out more.

    Theatre and Performance program presents Mustard, Thursday, March 24 to Saturday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.

    NEW - Lecture in Catholic Experience featuring Professor David Seljak, "Religion and Nationalism Refuse to Die. So now what?" Friday, March 25, 7:30 p.m., online.

    University Senate meeting, Monday, March 28, 3:30 p.m., MS Teams.

    Quantum Valley Investments Problem Pitch Competition, Tuesday, March 29, 5:30 p.m.

    Master of Taxation, Virtual Information Session, part-time info session, Thursday March 31, 1:00 p.m., full-time info session, Thursday March 31, 2:00 p.m. To register visit,

    NEW - PJ-Friendly Writing Groups for Undergrads, Thursday, March 31, 2:00 p.m.

    Indigenous Speakers Series presents Lenore Keeshig, Thursday, March 31, 4:00 p.m.

    NEW - Concept $5k Finals, Thursday, March 31, 5:00 p.m.

    NEW - UW OER Fellows Grant Program submission deadline, Friday, April 1.