University Presidents’ Panel – The Future of Education

April 13 2018 , 12:00 pm to 1:30pm
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Topic: University Presidents’ Panel – The Future of Education

The Empire Club is pleased to present our University Presidents’ Panel featuring: Dr. Meric Gertler, President of The University of Toronto;  Dr. Rhonda Lenton, President and Vice Chancellor, York University and Dr. Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice Chancellor, Queen’s University in conversation with Sheldon Levy, CEO NEXT Canada.

Canada was recently named by the OECD as the world’s most educated country with an astonishing 50% of its population completing post-secondary education. This story is in large part due to the quality of its public schools and universities which increasingly attract students from all around the world.

How did our universities get to this level, and what differentiates them from those operating in other countries? Is there a strategic plan for continuing this success story? How can Canadian businesses profit from this fortuitous situation and what impact does this success story have on their own recruitment plans for the future?

The Empire Club has brought together the Presidents of what are arguably three of the world’s best universities: the University of Toronto, Queen’s and York, to discuss how they got to where they are and where they plan to go next. This special session, moderated by a highly-respected educator and the former President of Ryerson, is a must for anyone who is impacted by the quality of education in this country and who wants to take full advantage of this competitive edge that Canada now enjoys.

The panel will discuss the future of Universities as it pertains to:

  • Research, innovation and commercialization;
  • Education, gender issues and the skills agenda;
  • Building an inclusive economy and the changing nature of jobs.

The panel will discuss what is being done to ensure a strong Canadian economy and how Universities can compete at the international level.


Dr. Meric S. Gertler: President of the University of Toronto.  A professor of geography and planning, and the Goldring Chair in Canadian Studies, he is widely known for his work on the role of institutions in shaping innovation and local economic prosperity. His comparative analysis of urban economies spans North America, Europe and Asia. He has advised governments in Canada, the United States and Europe, as well as international agencies such as the OECD and EU. He has authored or edited nine books and has held visiting appointments at Oxford, University College London, UCLA, and the University of Oslo.

Professor Gertler serves on Canada’s Business-Higher Education Roundtable, where he chairs the Working Group on Research Partnerships. He is a trustee of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, a director of MaRS Discovery District, Waterfront Toronto, and Universities Canada, and serves on the Ontario government’s Highly Skilled Workforce Planning and Partnership Table. He previously served on the Expert Panel on Business Innovation in Canada for the Council of Canadian Academies.

A graduate of McMaster University (BA), the University of California, Berkeley (MCP) and Harvard University (PhD), he was awarded an honorary doctor of philosophy from Lund University, Sweden in 2012 and from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China in 2017. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK). In December 2015, President Gertler was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Dr. Rhonda L. Lenton: President and Vice-Chancellor of York University. She joined York in 2002 as Dean of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, and went on to serve as the University’s inaugural Vice-Provost Academic, and then as Vice-President Academic & Provost from 2012 until April 2017.

A dedicated champion of community engagement and innovative partnerships, she has played an instrumental role in the creation of the York University-TD Community Engagement Centre and in expanding York’s institutional collaborations with other postsecondary education partners.

A sociologist by training, she earned her PhD from the University of Toronto. Her areas of teaching and research expertise include gender, family conflict, research methods and, more recently, higher education. She has published peer-reviewed book chapters and articles in a broad array of academic journals. Prior to joining York, she was an associate dean and professor at McMaster University.

Dr. Daniel Woolf: Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University in 2009. He is also a professor in the Department of History at Queen’s.

Woolf began his academic career at Queen’s, earning a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in 1980 before continuing on to Oxford University where he earned his Doctorate (D.Phil ’83). He returned to Queen’s as a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellow in history (’84-’86), during which time he taught in the Queen’s history department. Following a one-year appointment at Bishop’s University he joined the history department at Dalhousie University in 1987. Tenured in 1990, he became a full professor in 1994, later serving as both Associate Dean and Acting Dean of Graduate Studies.

In 1999, Woolf joined McMaster University as Dean of its Faculty of Humanities and as a professor in its History Department. In 2002, he relocated again, this time to Edmonton, as Dean of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts and a professor in its Department of History and Classics. He was reappointed as Dean in 2007.

Woolf is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). As a scholar, he specializes in early modern British cultural history and in the history of historical thought in Britain and around the world. In 2004, he won the John Ben Snow Foundation Prize, awarded by the North American Conference on British Studies for the best book by a North American scholar in any field of British Studies focusing on the period between the Middle Ages and the 18th century. He is the author or editor of many books and articles and serves on a number of academic editorial or advisory committees.

Woolf serves on the Board of Directors of Historica Canada and is a past member of the Executive Committee of the Royal Society of Canada. He assumed the role of Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities in July 2017 for a two-year term.

Sheldon Levy: CEO of NEXT Canada, which helps promising young Canadian innovators start and scale their own ventures. A longtime champion of innovation and builder of startup ecosystems, Sheldon also serves on the Advisory Board of the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship and on the Leadership Council of Scale Up Ventures, Inc.

Sheldon served from 2015 to 2017 as Deputy Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, where he helped drive innovation and entrepreneurship throughout Ontario’s postsecondary education and training system.

From 2005 to 2015, as President and Vice Chancellor of Ryerson University, Sheldon initiated Ryerson’s many initiatives to foster student innovation. Under his direction, Ryerson created the Digital Media Zone (DMZ), an early-stage incubator for student entrepreneurs which has since become an international success. Sheldon is also a founder and advisor to Ryerson Futures Inc., an accelerator that has exported the DMZ concept to such locations as Calgary and Mumbai.

Sheldon’s prior positions have included President, Sheridan College; Vice President Finance and Strategy, University of Ontario Institute of Technology; Vice President Governmental and Institutional Relations, University of Toronto; and Vice President Institutional Affairs, York University.