Brock University’s incumbent Chancellor Shirley Cheechoo made her first visit to campus Thursday.
She was struck by the sense of community she felt on campus.
Brock’s first Aboriginal woman to be named to the role will hold the position for three years starting at Fall convocation on Oct. 17.
Cheechoo – an award-winning actress, playwright and filmmaker – is honoured and overwhelmed by her new role, a position she said will offer her the opportunity to make a difference at Brock and in the lives of students of all backgrounds.
“It’s very important that Aboriginal women have these kinds of positions in the community,” she said. “I want to be able to make my mark here at Brock University.”
A big part of that will be making Brock a welcoming environment for Aboriginal youth, a place where they can learn and grow and feel valued.
As a residential school survivor, Cheechoo is passionate about educating people on the history, culture and languages of First Nations people.
Cheechoo, who was in residential schools from age five to 14, still has difficulty talking about the trauma.
To her, the most meaningful recommendation in the recently released Truth and Reconciliation Commission report focuses on teaching Canadians the history of the nation’s first peoples.
Being named Brock’s next Chancellor is something she never dreamed could happen.
It has given her a sense of belonging and a way to reach people with her unique voice, she said.
As Brock’s eighth Chancellor, Cheechoo will take part in convocations and also intends to make frequent trips to the University as part of her ceremonial leadership role.
University President Jack Lightstone said Cheechoo is a perfect fit for the role because of her background in the arts. With Brock poised to open the new state-of-the-art Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, he said her appointment comes at the perfect time.
Choosing a Chancellor is an opportunity to reflect on developing areas of the University, he said, pointing to outgoing Chancellor Ned Goodman, a Canadian business icon who helped build the status and reputation of the Goodman School of Business.
“Shirley Cheechoo is an accomplished person in Canada’s cultural industries as a maker of films, playwright, actor, author and painter,” he said. “The fact that she is also a woman is wonderful and we’ve never had a woman Chancellor, it’s long overdue. The fact that she is an Aboriginal woman is a real bonus.”
Lightstone said Cheechoo will preside over convocations and offer graduates insights into life after University and what responsibilities come with it.
Previous Brock Chancellors were:
Richard Hearn 1966-69 (former chairman of Ontario Hydro)
Charles Sankey 1969-74 (former VP of Ontario Paper Company)
Cecil Shaver 1974-80 (internationally known expert on respiratory diseases)
Ralph Misener 1980-85 (president, Misener Steamships Co.)
Robert Welch 1985-2000 (St Catharines lawyer and former deputy premier of Ontario)
Raymond Moriyama 2001-2007 (renowned architect)
Ned Goodman 2007-2015 (geologist, mining executive, investment advisor and philanthropist for whom Brock’s Goodman School of Business is named)