Eileen Mercier, one of Canada’s most successful business women, was recently appointed as the new chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University by the Board of Governors, with the unanimous support of the university Senate.
Mercier, who is taking over the role from Michael Lee-Chin, will be installed as chancellor on October 28 at fall Convocation.
The role of chancellor, which exists at all universities, is an honorary appointment, in contrast to an actual staff member.
Robert Gordon, vice-president of Research, said that the most important qualities of a chancellor are significant stature, respect and impeccable character.
“What we were looking for at Laurier was an individual that embodied the cultural values and the intrinsic values of our institution. Somebody that was really keen as being a fantastic role model for what we do,” said Gordon.
Primarily, the role of a chancellor is to act as the ceremonial head of the university. Mercier will preside over convocations and the conferring of degrees and diplomas for graduates.
“Being involved with Convocation is exciting because I get to interact with students on one of their happiest days,” said Mercier.
As chancellor, Mercier will play a meaningful role in terms of engaging both internal and external stake holders to help further Laurier’s long-term mission as a result of her positive connections within the university, across the country and globally.
“She will be a friend, a colleague, a ceremonial head, essentially, a spokesperson for what we do, but also a person that is going to be inspirational for all of our students in terms of what she provides,” explained Gordon.
After her installation ceremony, Mercier plans to speak to individuals within the Laurier community, asking them what they feel she can do to add value to the university. She hopes to take these ideas and pick the ones that might be most important.
I am looking forward to re-engaging with Laurier in a completely different way.
-Eileen Mercier, Laurier chancellor
“The role, as I’ve been told, is something that is very individual to the chancellor involved and is a lot of what you make of it,” she said.
Ideally, a chancellor is someone who is seen as a champion for higher education, not solely at Laurier, but across Canada and even globally.
Mercier graduated from Laurier with a bachelor of arts along with an academic gold medal. She continued on with her education at the University of Albert where she attained a master’s in english. She also earned a master of business administration from York University’s Schulich School of Business.
“I lived four years of my life here. And even though it’s changed a lot, some of the very best things about [Laurier] have not changed—that fact that I know something about Laurier is going to be helpful.”
Mercier has also maintained a strong, life-long connection with Laurier. She has consistently been a member of Laurier’s Alumni choir and has supported several scholarships throughout the years in her name and in other names, including the Eileen Mercier Arts Scholarship, the Eileen Mercier Science Scholarship and more.
Mercier has also been a strong advocate of corporate responsibility of women in leadership roles. Her successful business career of 45 years has allowed her to become a strong member of many boards and organizations. She is the chair of the board of directors of Payment Canada and served as the chair of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board. Through these positions, Mercier has been able to embody and develop a strong sense of the importance of women within leadership roles, something that she will also be able to advocate for on behalf of Laurier as chancellor.
“I can’t think of a more incredible role model, committed, passionate individual for our institution than Eileen. I think she will make an exceptional and visible and committed chancellor,” said Gordon.
Eileen hopes that her role as chancellor will give her the opportunity to give back, especially to students embarking on their first career.
She feels strongly that she should pass along any pieces of wisdom that may be helpful to others.
“I’m really looking forward to this. I plan to make it fun. Fun for me, and hopefully, fun for others. I am really looking forward to re-engaging with Laurier in a completely different way.”