Bill Davis Re-Dedication Celebration, UTM
October 14, 2010
It is a great honour to be here today as we officially re-dedicate the South Building as the William G. Davis Building here at U of T Mississauga.
Bill Davis is one of the giants of the University of Toronto community, and nowhere is his commitment to excellence in post-secondary education more evident than at U of T Mississauga. Of course, as everyone here recognizes, the Premier Davis’ service to the University of Toronto extends over all three campuses and across decades. Premier Davis has had an intimate relationship with the University of Toronto: From his days on the Varsity Blues football team in the 40s, through his graduation from U of T in 1951, to his term as Minister of Education for the Province of Ontario in the 60s and his extremely successful terms as Premier of Ontario in the 70s and 80s, culminating in three distinguished terms on our University’s Governing Council.
[I should mention here as an aside, that after the Varsity Blues upset #2 ranked Ottawa two weeks ago, I am sure no one cheered louder than Premier Davis!]
His deep familiarity with U of T and his knowledge of the post-secondary education system in Ontario gave his contributions at Governing Council meetings a special authority. He had a light touch. His often irreverent but always insightful asides could refocus a debate, putting matters into perspective and lowering the temperature. This skill was no doubt honed in the legislature, where, under his leadership as education minister and then premier, Bill Davis helped lay the foundation for a dynamic post-secondary education environment that continues to be a pillar of our province’s economy.
Higher education in Ontario experienced significant growth during the 1960s, with the expansion of existing universities, the establishment of new campuses, and the creation of Ontario’s community college system. In fact, between 1962 and 1971 education spending in Ontario grew by more than 450%. This rate vastly outstripped population growth, ushering in an era of enrolment growth and meaningful increases in per-student funding, promoting quality and enhancing the student experience. Those in academic administrations around the province today can only dream of seeing such leadership and economic times again!
Moreover, post-secondary education continued to be a priority for Premier Davis throughout his time in office –and, of course, well beyond. Bill Davis’ role in nation building is sometimes overlooked, but it is worth remembering that his contributions to the constitutional negotiations of the early 1980s were critical to the success of the 1982 Constitution.
So as we rededicate this building today we honour not just an icon of the University of Toronto. We are, in fact, in Bill Davis’ backyard… On a campus he continues to support with pride and passion… In the region of Mississauga, Brampton, Peel that he champions at every turn… With the advantages of a system of higher-education that he pioneered and advanced… In a province that he led with such distinction… In a country that owes a great deal to his statesmanship.
The rededication of the William G. Davis Building reflects this propitious alignment – as the circumstances of Premier Davis’ career come together beautifully on this campus.
Thank you, Premier Davis, for all you have done – for the University of Toronto, for UTM (née Erindale College), and for higher-education across this province.
Thank you also for allowing us to name this building in your honour thereby letting us share in the lustre of your extraordinary reputation.
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