Award-winning aboriginal Canadian actress, playwright and filmmaker Shirley Cheechoo has been named as the next Chancellor of Brock University.
In making the announcement, University President Jack Lightstone said Cheechoo accepted the invitation after her nomination was unanimously endorsed by Brock’s Senate and Board of Trustees. She will be installed for a three-year term at Brock’s fall convocation ceremony on Oct 17.
The eighth chancellor in Brock’s 51-year history, Cheechoo is the first woman and the first aboriginal Canadian to hold the ceremonial leadership role. She succeeds businessman and philanthropist Ned Goodman, who is stepping down after serving as Chancellor since 2007.
A member of the Cree tribe, Cheechoo has won international acclaim for stage work and films that are shaped by her First Nations background, including honours at the Sundance Film Festival and the American Indian Film Festival.
Her 2012 film Moose River Crossing examines the scars left on several characters who — like Cheechoo herself — are survivors of Canada’s notorious residential school system.
Cheechoo lives on Manitoulin Island, where she runs the Weengushk Film Institute for aboriginal youth.
“I never dreamt of being a Chancellor of any university,” she said, “and I am proud and honoured to accept this position at Brock. I have had a rewarding career in the arts, and it’s for this reason I accept this challenge. I have always been involved in youth education, to help them find their path and achieve their dreams.”
Lightstone said it is “an historic moment” for Brock to welcome the acclaimed artist and humanist.
“We are thrilled to have her become the titular, symbolic head of our University,” said Lightstone. “Among other things, we are at a time when Brock is opening new state-of-the-art facilities for our Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, and Dr. Cheechoo’s artistic contribution to our understanding of the lives and experiences of the aboriginal peoples of Canada comes at a seminal moment in Canada’s evolution.”
At Brock, the Chancellor plays an inspirational leadership role aimed at advancing the educational welfare of students, including conferring degrees and awards at convocation ceremonies.