A former student pub bouncer and concert security guard turned investor and philanthropist has been appointed Chancellor of one of Canada’s fastest growing universities.
With the support of its Senate, Wilfrid Laurier University’s board of directors has unanimously approved Michael Lee-Chin as chief executive of the Southern Ontario academic institution.
The appointment takes effect on October 28 at an official installation ceremony during the fall convocation.
Lee-Chin is the second Jamaican to be appointed Chancellor of a Canadian university following Dr. Raymond Chang at Ryerson University five years ago.
Jamaica’s Consul General in Toronto, George Ramocan, said Lee-Chin’s appointment re-affirms the significant role Jamaican nationals have been playing in their adopted homeland.
“To have two of our nationals in high-ranking positions at two top Canadian tertiary institutions is no small feat,” said Ramocan. “Quite often, we hear of the negative things that a handful of our people are doing. However the positive far outweigh the negative and we are extremely proud of Michael’s appointment.”
Three years ago, Wilfrid Laurier bestowed Lee-Chin with an honorary doctorate.
“It is a great honour and a pleasure for me to accept this position as Laurier’s Chancellor,” said Lee-Chin who also holds honorary degrees from the University of Toronto, York University, McMaster University, Northern Caribbean University and the University of the West Indies. “I have been impressed by the university and by the track record and energy of its people. I look forward to doing whatever I can in my new role to help the university continue to build its reputation, differentiate itself from other universities and do a great job of meeting students’ needs in the 21st century.”
Lee-Chin, who is the executive chairman of the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica, is the university’s eighth Chancellor since it became a public institution in 1973.
Wilfrid Laurier’s president and vice-Chancellor Max Blouw said Lee-Chin epitomizes the university’s institutional proposition of inspiring lives of leadership and purpose.
“His internationally recognized achievements in the business and investment arenas are matched by his astounding record of philanthropic work,” said Blouw. “He is an ideal choice for this key role as the university celebrates its centennial and lays the groundwork for a bold and influential second century.”
Farouk Ahamed, the chair of the university’s board of governors, said they are delighted to have Lee-Chin on board.
“We look forward to working closely with Michael as Laurier celebrates its centennial and embarks on a number of exciting initiatives over the coming years,” he added.
As Chancellor, Lee-Chin will be a member of the Board of Governors and Senate and will serve on the Senate’s honorary degree committee and the Board development committee. He will also preside over graduation ceremonies and will officially bestow all degrees and diplomas.
Chancellors of the university generally serve for a term of four years and may be appointed to a second term.
It was while working as a bouncer for $2.50 an hour after graduating with a Civil Engineering degree from McMaster University that Lee-Chin ran into an Investors Group mutual fund salesman who boasted of the exorbitant daily commissions he was making.
Lee-Chin spent two years with the company as a financial adviser before joining Regal Capital Planners in 1979 and working his way up to regional manager. In 1983 at the age of 32, he borrowed funds to purchase $500,000 of Mackenzie Financial stock. After four years, this stock appreciated seven-fold and he used the profit to make his first major acquisition, AIC Ltd. which was a small Ontario-based investment firm.
At that time, Advantage Investment Counsel (a division of AIC Limited) had nearly $800,000 in assets under management. Within 20 years, AIC grew from less than $1 million to $15 billion in assets under management and was servicing over one million Canadians.
In September 2009, AIC’s retail investment fund business was sold to Manulife Financial, making Portland Holdings – of which he’s the chairman – one of the largest shareholders worldwide.
Eight years ago, Lee-Chin donated $30 million to the Royal Ontario Museum’s expansion and renovation campaign for which the landmark addition was named the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and the four-storey interior atrium, the Hyacinth Chen Crystal Court, in honour of his mother. He also provided a $10 million gift to the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management for the establishment of the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship.