Brandon University did not have to go far to find Canada’s first Black president.
Just 11 months after joining the Manitoba-based university as vice-president (academic and provost), Dr. Gervan Fearon has made history in becoming the institution’s 11th president and vice-chancellor.
Founded as a Baptist institution in 1899, Brandon received its university status 47 years ago.
“Brandon is at a transition point right now with a lot of promise and opportunity on the horizon,” Dr. Fearon told Share. “In that sense, this new designation gives me an opportunity to be part of the growth and development. It’s a privilege for me to be in that position.
“I am passionate about education and the transformative opportunities it holds for individuals and communities. Working with students and faculty staff, I want to contribute to the growth and development of Brandon University in meeting post-secondary educational needs of both students and the province.”
Fearon joined Brandon after spending four years as Dean of Ryerson University’s Raymond Chang School of Continuing Learning, Canada’s leading provider of university-based adult learning. He said his association with Ryerson has prepared him for his new role at Brandon University.
“Ryerson is an incredibly dynamic institution that allowed me to see the role that a university can play in community and city building,” said the British-born award-winning professor. “I see Brandon playing a similar role.”
After graduating from high school in four years (he attended Bathurst Heights Collegiate and West Hill Collegiate), Fearon successfully pursued a Bachelors of Economics degree and a Master’s in Agriculture from the University of Guelph in 1981 and 1985 respectively and a doctorate in Economics from the University of Western Ontario in 1999. He also completed the Queen’s University Strategic Leadership program.
A visiting scholar at the University of Washington and faculty administrative leader of York University’s TD Community Engagement Centre which is an innovative, community-based facility designed to improve public access and involvement in university activities and resources, Fearon was the recipient of the University of Toronto at Scarborough Division of Management’s Professor of the Year Award in 2000 and the 2007 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at Atkinson.
In addition to teaching, he has worked in the public and private sectors, including Chase Econometrics of Chase Manhattan Bank in Pennsylvania, where he tackled some of the organization’s large scale mathematical and forecasting modules.
He also served as chief executive officer of Launch Fusion Communication, an award-winning website which provided online access to over 200 international newspapers and radio stations and as president of Nucore Business and Economic Services.
A former president of Tropicana Community Services, the largest Black social service delivery agency in Canada, Fearon is a member of the Jamaican Canadian Association and a major contributor to a community report – Towards a Vision for our Community – that was unveiled last October.
“My volunteer work provided me with a huge opportunity to be able to develop my leadership and engagement skills,” said the well published scholar. “All of my community work has contributed to what makes me who I am and it’s important for people at the community level to understand that they should not underestimate the incredible value of the volunteer work they are doing.”
Fearon replaces Dr. Deborah Poff, who was the university’s president for the last five years.
“Gervan has proven himself to be an exceptional individual,” said Brandon University’s board chair, Laura McDougald-Williams. “During his time on campus in Brandon and in previous senior positions within academia, government and the volunteer sector, Gervan has demonstrated incredible capacity to drive collaborative change, unwavering commitment to excellence and the ability to connect with everyone that he meets.”
The third of four children, Fearon spent three years in Jamaica before coming to Canada with his parents and siblings in 1968. He’s married to Kathy Moscou, who is completing her PhD in pharmaceutical science and global health at the University of Toronto. The couple has five children.
Black and Caribbean-born Canadian university chancellors include the late Oscar Peterson, who held the post at York University from 1991-1994 and Lincoln Alexander, who was the University of Guelph’s longest serving chancellor; Ray Chang, who left the position at Ryerson two years ago and Michael Lee-Chin and former governor general Michaëlle Jean, who are at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Ottawa, respectively.