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New chancellor Calin Rovinescu gets sworn in at a ceremony on Feb. 5. Photo: Jaclyn-McRae-Sadik.

New chancellor seeks to bring excellence, courage,  business mindset

Calin Rovinescu, currently the president and chief executive officer of Air Canada, was officially installed as the new chancellor of the University of Ottawa at a ceremony at Tabaret Hall on Feb. 5.

Vice-president of external relations, Louis de Melo, introduced president Allan Rock to open speeches before Rovinescu himself took to the podium. Huguette Labelle, former chancellor of the university for 18 years, was also present at the event.

Rovinescu opened his talk by addressing the many changes and innovations since his graduation from U of O’s law school in 1980. “We have indeed been privileged to see, before our very eyes, our country—and indeed our world—transform, progress and innovate rather dramatically and quite irrevocably.”

He followed with the theme of progression by talking about global competitiveness, brainpower and knowledge, and courage as important pursuits.

“So why did I accept this post at the University of Ottawa? Because of the clarity and ambitions of its strategic plan,” he said in closing.

“The fact that this is the largest bilingual university in the world is something that attracted me to it as I studied in both languages, my university degrees are in both languages, and so this is an area that I’ve known an awful lot about,” said Rovinescu in an interview with the Fulcrum.

During his speech, Rovinescu compared many aspects of a university to a business when discussing his experience for the post. He says the principles of a university and business are the same in terms of valuing knowledge, excellence and globalization, among other assets.

“That’s where I could contribute something to the process in the university,” said Rovinescu.  “Those things are the base principles for a company that wants to distinguish itself and I’d say it’s the same thing for the university. Now, the way to do it is completely different.”

In his speech Rock referenced Rovinescu’s time as president and CEO of Air Canada as a display of strength, as Rovinescu saw the company through the 2008 economic crash.

Rovinscu took an ailing Air Canada to the point where they have $3 billion in cash, with both costs and debt diminishing.

As opposed to many of his predecessors such as Michaëlle Jean, who was Governor General of Canada prior to her appointment as chancellor, questions of the corporatization of his position arose.

He dismissed these comments, which he referred to more as opinions rather than criticisms, by continuing with the themes of change and courage featured throughout his speech.

“You can’t hide from the fact the world changes, and the people who will have the most success are the ones who are capable of facing change with a certain courage,” he said, “doing things we always did before—I don’t think that’s necessarily a good recipe for the future. “