Following a rigorous hiring process beginning in the fall of 2014, the University of Saskatchewan announced its new president on July 9 to a crowded Convocation Hall.
Peter Stoicheff, dean of the College of Arts and Science since 2011, will be the 11th president in the institution’s 108-year history. Stoicheff has an undergraduate degree in English and history from Queen’s University as well as a masters and PhD in English literature from the University of Toronto. He joined the English department at the U of S as a faculty member in 1986 and from 2005-10 he was vice-dean humanities and fine arts for the College of Arts and Science.
Several dignitaries including Premier Brad Wall were in attendance to welcome the new president and to show their appreciation to outgoing interim president and vice-chancellor, Gordon Barnhart. Barnhart spoke fondly of his time as president, stating it was both an honour and privilege to serve the university for the past 14 months.
“I look forward to working with the new president in the coming months to make sure there is a smooth transition and to ensure that this university continues to gain momentum and to ensure that the rest of the world knows full well of the full potential of the University of Saskatchewan,” Barnhart said.
After much anticipation, Greg Smith, chair of the U of S board of governors and chair of the presidential selection committee, made the official announcement, but not before acknowledging Barnhart’s dedication and commitment to the interim position, citing the university’s “debt of gratitude” for his efforts.
Smith explained that the presidential selection committee carried out an extensive six-month interview process driven by principles of transparency, accountability, confidentiality, respect, consultation and equity. In his inaugural speech, Stoicheff translated this fact into an opportunity to poke fun at himself.
“Gordon Barnhart, the way I like to put it is, it took the university at least 10 long months to decide that it had the confidence to choose me as the next president; it took 10 minutes for them to know they had the confidence to choose you,” Stoicheff said .
All joking aside, Stoicheff said he is excited, humbled and privileged to assume his new role at the university and acknowledged his long-standing admiration of the institution.
Addressing U of S students directly, Stoicheff argued that universities are needed now more than ever.
“[I’m] excited about being part of a great institution with a great history and ensuring that we sustain what that history means, that we are as good as that and better going forward. That’s really important to me. It is really about building a sense of community, a sense of trust and a sense of achievement at this university,” Stoicheff said.
Blaine Favel, First Nations leader and chancellor of the U of S, took a moment to address the media directly during his time at the podium and asserted his faith in Stoicheff’s abilities.
“The story here is about a great leader that we are elevating to this position to lead a great institution and that we are looking forward as an institution and not backwards.”
Emphasizing his belief in being an agent of positive change, Stoicheff recognized the importance to both him and the university as a whole to be the best place it can be for Aboriginal people within the province and the country.
“This is a university whose future rests on its great potential to inquire, to inform, to innovate and to indigenize and I am very thankful, I am humbled, to play a role in it,” Stoicheff said.
Stoicheff’s term as president of the U of S will commence on October 24, 2015.