Lakehead University Celebrates 50 Years!
by Scott A. Sumner
I sat down recently with Dr. Brian Stevenson, President Lakehead University to talk about a wide range of topics including their 50th Anniversary.
When was Lakehead University formed?
“ We received royal assent on July 1, 1965 the official date when LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY started but we had our first graduation in the spring of 1965 before the act came in effect. It has been 50 years since the act this July 1st 2015.”
“ In 1946 there was the establishment of the Lakehead Technical Institute, then in 1957 we became the Lakehead College of Arts, Science and Technology and in 1965 the University. That was a fairly typical process then for becoming a university. Some start as a
college. What is really interesting for me is because LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY started as a technical college- the professional programs we have now such as education engineering, forestry or business had their roots there. If you look at the programs we are a professional
school. We have have always been an educational institution but have focused on getting jobs for our graduates.”
Where was the first campus located?
“We started in Port Arthur with the technical institute in the downtown area. Bartley and Tamblyn helped create the university. Tamblyn became the first President. We were able to get 32 hectares of land in Port Arthur in 1965 and started the campus which is our current site. The Braun building was the start. The lake then was a ravine.”
Which programs did you offer in the beginning?
“ We had arts, science, education and a list of programs at the start. It was an evolution from a technical institute to a college to a university. The changes are organic and evolved. The
fundamentals today are the same, they are professional programs that are job oriented.”
“ We have grown over 50 years from a small technical college to a fully comprehensive university. There are a handful of programs we don’t have that a big medical doctorate university would have but we have 10 faculties that are the core. “Originally the first graduating class in 1965 was 80 students. Today it will be about 2500 students.”
What were some of the milestones along the way for Lakehead University?
“ The establishment of the campus here would be the first milestone and the growth of the campus. The engineering program was big and they recently celebrated their 40th anniversary. The health & science area including social work, kinesiology, the evolution of
the business school, forestry and, recently the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the Orillia campus and the creation of the law school.
How does Lakehead University contribute to the local economy?
“At Lakehead University we have done an estimate of the economic impact of the LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY in the past 50 years and calculate roughly $6 billion of economic impact. Every year we have $300 to $400 million of economic activity (the salaries of the staff, the building we do here, the money we spend supporting the campus directly plus the 7000 to 8000 students
that find a pace to live here, go grocery shopping etc. 42% of those students are from outside Thunder Bay, including Southern Ontario and Northern Ontario. They have a cultural impact as well. There are the international students here, a total of 5 to 6% of the campus or
500 to 600 students.”
“ The consolidated overall budget of LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY is about $165 million with research operation and side budgets. We have a surplus because we did well in our endowments with our scholarships $40 million fund. Last year it did well. The operating
budget is balanced each year and we have a structural deficit which means every year we have to cut back because we have to spend more money than we get because our income is controlled and regulated by government. Some of the funds usage is restricted for scholarships or research for example.”
“ We do balance our budget each year and can’t run a deficit. It is a very difficult thing when 95% of your budget is regulated by government. Tuition fees are regulated and grants have been declining for the past few years. Each year we spend more money on the operation of LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY so each year we have to shave off expenses here and there. We still manage to run LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY with out affecting the quality of the services.”
You employ a lot of people at Lakehead University?
“ LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY has 2000 people working over the two campus. The last I saw we were the second largest employer in Thunder Bay after the hospital. That is quite a responsibility. We are a big economic driver. We are a stable influence on the economy
and are also helping the economy by training people. Our economic development strategy is supporting the private sector, municipalities and First Nations, doing training, research that supports them and trying to diversify the economy through our research.”
How does Lakehead University rank in Canada?
“ We are the number two university in Ontario in our category for research and number three in Canada in our size category. We have gone from $4 to $5 million 12 years ago to $23 million this year in research funds. This attracts the faculty and specialized staff. It begins to create possibilities for spin off companies that might be able to develop and support the industry in the region. We are a multi faceted institution and not isolated. We participate, our
faculty work with non profit profit aboriginal communities and engage in the community. One of our pillers in our strategic plan is economic development and outreach to the community.”
“ “ Since I have arrived I have established two economic advisory committees that advise me on areas to support economic development.”
Tell me a little about your background?
“ I am in my fifth year now as President, starting in August 2010, and shortly completing my first term. Previously I was Provost at the U of Winnipeg, Vice Provost at U of Alberta. I was born in Victoria and grew up in Mexico City. I got my PHD?at Queens University in International Relations, Masters in Public Policy at U of Victoria as well as my Bachelors there. I worked in government as Senior Policy advisory for two Ministers of Trade and Foreign Affairs. Worked in Washington with the organization of American States, My first job was in Mexico City. I have been renewed for a second term of 5 years.”
How are you enjoying your time in Thunder Bay?
“ I love the Canadian Shield and the scenery here. I love the lake and being by the water. The community here is great. On any given night there is so much going on.
What can we expect from Lakehead University in the upcoming years?
“ At LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY in the short term, say 3 to 5 years from now we have several capital projects we want to finish up. One is to redesign a building here we have got funds from the province to make it a research building. We have a proposal in for a new aboriginal
building. We want to finish the renovations in the law school which are pretty much completed. As our international students grow we want to build an international residence and to be able to expand our tele presence in Northwestern Ontario so can put in satellite classrooms
with high end technology including at First Nations.”
“ The other issue is to find a way to find financial sustainability which is one of my main issues. I want to be able to increase the number of Aboriginal , International and students from GTA Southern Ontario, to grow our graduate programs, grow our research capacity and
to be able to reach out to the community to help create an economic environment so that the students that graduate from LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY can stay in Thunder Bay and NORTHWESTERN Ontario to get jobs or create jobs and be entrepreneurs.”