This is resilience

Feridun and stuentsWhen I think about Waterloo resilience, I am reminded of a bright day in March when I stood beside our community partners to open a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on our Health Sciences Campus.

As the first person received his shot, I was filled with emotion when I realized it was almost exactly a year to the day that a global pandemic forced us to reduce our campus operations dramatically.

Yet, there we were, socially distanced and wearing masks, to mark a new beginning. It was a day of hope and a testament to our community’s resilience. It also felt like so many other proud moments during my time as president of the University of Waterloo.

We hear a lot about how universities must develop resilient talent for an uncertain future. We hear less, however, about the way a community—in my case more than 222,000 Waterloo alumni—enable a leader’s resiliency.

My ability to serve as president, through ten years of triumphs and challenges, is built upon the foundation of your support.

Very few resilient leaders go it alone and I have had the great privilege of learning from, and being supported by, all of you. I find the words of Dr. Robert Norrie (BSc ’96), an alumnus who worked in the emergency room of a hospital throughout the pandemic, resonate most for me when he says: “I’ve never felt alone or that I didn’t have people to help me.”

Alumni connect us to the world

Waterloo alumni have always been a bridge between our University and the world. Over the years, you have been my best connection to the rapid changes happening in our workplaces, research labs and communities.

You stepped up with donations for students grounded by a global pandemic. For some, your support meant they could complete their studies. For others, you provided help while they were separated from anxious parents living halfway around the world.

You have persisted through economic recessions to build companies, lead teams and push knowledge beyond traditional frontiers. Many of you went from being co-op students to hiring Waterloo co-op students in your organizations.

As we watched brutal acts of racism across North America, you challenged me to look at the ways marginalized people in our own community have been silenced and harmed.

This issue of Waterloo Magazine is the last one during my time as president. As I pass the torch to my successor, I am confident that Dr. Vivek Goel will find both rewards and resilience through his connections to all of you. I cannot think of a better way to mark this moment than to thank you and share your stories of resilience.