With his family and Jamaica’s top diplomat in Toronto in attendance and the Caribbean flavour of a three-piece steel band inserted into the traditional academic procession, Dr. Raymond Chang presided over his final convocation last Friday as Ryerson University’s third chancellor.
The first Caribbean-born national to serve as ceremonial head of a Canadian university, Chang has been associated with Ryerson since 2001 when he was appointed to the Board of Governors. He was bestowed with an honorary degree four years later and installed as chancellor in 2006.
In the last six years, the business leader and philanthropist has presided over 95 convocations and awarded nearly 30,000 degrees and diplomas to successful graduates from 50 classes.
“Six years ago on this very stage, I pledged to be a chancellor for students’ needs and to work tirelessly to improve the resources and support necessary to fulfill their dreams,” said Chang who also holds an honorary degree from the University of the West Indies. “I hope you think I have kept that promise. As we both embark on a new journey, today is mainly about honouring and celebrating you, the talented, ambitious and successful women and men who are about to walk across this stage.
“Never underestimate the extent to which the world needs you – your intelligence and your passion. We are therefore counting on you to draw on the knowledge and skills you have gained at Ryerson to transform them into ideas and actions that bring prosperity, peace and happiness. But whatever you do, wherever you go, I challenge you to make a difference. I implore you to be bold and walk tall with great aplomb because you can do it. I believe you have the power to become the giants on whose shoulders future generations will stand.”
A video portraying Chang’s tenure over two three-year terms was unveiled while Ryerson’s president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Sheldon Levy, paid tribute to the outgoing chancellor with a citation.
“His number one priority is seeing the student at the centre of everything,” said Levy. “I will never forget when, early in his term as chancellor, he came into my office one day and said, ‘I want to give the students some resources to do good things because I have confidence in them’…It was an exceptional mandate from a man of vision and heart.”
Levy added that Chang has been a mentor for him as president and a Ryerson champion.
“He’s the first to express his excitement at Ryerson’s momentum and how we connect with business, industry and the community, including our growing leadership and entrepreneurial education,” Levy said.
The 2010 Outstanding Philanthropist of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Toronto chapter), Chang has donated more than $30-million in the last few years, including $7-million to fund research at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
His generosity has extended to the Caribbean in general and Jamaica in particular. Five years ago, the 2011 Order of Jamaica recipient donated close to $750,000 to cover the first three years of a program with Ryerson that enables Caribbean nursing students to pursue higher education through distance learning.
By RON FANFAIR