OISE Community Lounge Dedication

Remarks by Professor David Naylor
On the dedication of the Nexus Community Lounge at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in honour of

The Hon. William G. Davis, P.C., C.C., Q.C., LL.D.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to join you here at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and to celebrate the vision and foresight of Ontario’s 18th Premier, the Honourable William G. Davis.

There have been many things named in the Premier’s honour – schools, college campuses, and awards. Here at the University of Toronto, we have a major building at the Mississauga Campus and an Academic Chair right here at OISE. I know that he is shy about this sort of recognition. However, I hope our honouree will not be cross with me for wondering if we could launch a movement to see the Sky Dome at the Rogers Centre renamed the “Davis Dome”! In fact, the last time I saw him was at the Dome, cheering on the Argos to victory in the Grey Cup – this was fitting, I think, for a former Varsity Blues football player, who has been a faithful friend of football and athletics generally at this University over many years.

Mr. Davis has also been a very steadfast friend of the University of Toronto. It was he who saw the University of Toronto Act through the Legislative Assembly in his role as Education Minister 30 years ago. And his interest in his alma mater has continued, as we saw in the 9 years that he spent on our Governing Council. I feel fortunate indeed that a portion of my term overlapped with the Premier’s time on Council.

Notwithstanding his being shy about recognition, no one is more deserving of accolades than Mr. Davis – or should I say Dr. Davis? In fact our records indicate he has received no fewer than 13 honorary degrees, including the degree Doctor of Laws from this University.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you know the Honourable William G. Davis is responsible for a trifecta of accomplishments of crucial importance in the history of education in Ontario.

First, in 1965, the college system was introduced under his leadership as Minister of Education. What a path-breaking initiative that was – and it has been emulated all over the planet in different forms.

That same year, Mr. Davis launched OISE. Today an integral part of the University of Toronto, OISE is known as one of the world’s education gems. It is not just Canada’s brain trust for research on education and a source of inspired teachers and education leaders for the country. It is respected world-wide. Just last month, I visited China and, as part of the Beijing Forum, took part in a symposium on higher education. The Dean and Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Peking University welcomed me most warmly, and that reception, they made clear, was all about the great reputation of OISE!

The third step forward by Mr. Davis was taken in 1970, when he funded what is now known as TVO. It was a time when the educational power of television and distance learning was just becoming apparent. And I suspect that is part of the reason why TVO’s Steve Paikin has joined us today.

When Mr. Davis became Premier in 1971, he continued to support Ontario’s education aspirations. I know from a colleague that he maintained informal annual luncheons with all of the college and university presidents, to stay in touch and to keep the lines of communication open.

It was a golden age of foresight, expansion and innovation. Colleges were colleges. Universities were universities, but they did not all expect to be miniature versions of the University of Toronto! In many ways it was a better time, and certainly under the leadership of the Honourable William G. Davis, we had a better and clearer vision of what education could and should be. Small wonder that Mr. Davis is still known as “the education Premier”!

In other ways, too, it felt like a better time. The social consensus was stronger. There was, as always, a broad spectrum of opinion but it was firmly anchored in a mainstream of shared Canadian values. Debate was vigorous and differences were sometimes very stark, but there was greater civility, with none of the bitter polarization that we see so often today. No one embodied this better spirit of generous partisanship, this inclusive vision of Canada, than the man we are honouring today.

Friends, it gives me hope for a better Canada that the counsel of this great Canadian is still so widely sought by people in every walk of life. They consult Mr. Davis across party lines and across all three levels of government. And he makes time for them, as he does for his family and countless friends.

In closing, let me say that the University of Toronto is extremely proud to claim the Honourable William G. Davis as a member of our family. And of course, Mr. Davis, OISE considers you as the head of its family – its founding father.

As a tribute to your vision and leadership, OISE would like to dedicate this community lounge to you. This space is a place of reflection, for a bit of respite, for colleagues and friends to meet. It is a place to encourage the development of a family of educators – just as the name Nexus suggests, to bond, to form linkages, to promote the connections that produce inclusive excellence – a hallmark of OISE and this great institution, and a hallmark of your extraordinary career of public service.

Premier, on behalf of the entire University family, Dean Julia O’Sullivan, and the many students, faculty and staff who have learned and worked here, as well as the countless others who have benefitted from the pedagogic talents and ideas of OISE graduates and faculty members, we are pleased and proud to dedicate this lounge in your honour.

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