Roy Romanow became the university's 15th chancellor on Nov. 1. (photo by David Stobbe).

From student to chancellor

From politician to premier to public policy professor, Roy Romanow’s enthusiasm for the University of Saskatchewan has always been steadfast.

By Lesley Porter

Now the university’s 15th chancellor—a role he assumed on Nov. 1—Romanow is honoured to continue serving the campus community that means so much to him.

“This is my university,” he said. “This is where I dreamt I would attend when I was a young student.” He explained that the value of attaining post-secondary education was instilled in him at a young age. From there, it was something he built his life around.

“I think I can quite safely say, without university education, I probably would not have been fortunate enough to experience the various things which life has provided for me,” he said. “My father, who came to Canada from Ukraine, always wanted his children to get higher education, something which he was not fortunate to receive. So I am very honoured and very indebted and very much an admirer of this great institution.”

As executive and ceremonial head of the university, the chancellor has a de facto seat on the Board of Governors. Other duties include, but are not limited to, conferring degrees at convocation ceremonies and acting as a university ambassador to the external community.

“I would say that the chancellor’s role is to make sure that he or she is both a shield and a sword in the sense of a protector and a promoter of academic excellence and academic freedom,” said Romanow.

His wealth of experience will no doubt ensure a smooth transition to the chancellor’s office. Born and raised in Saskatoon, Romanow completed degrees in political studies and law at the U of S. His involvement in student government was perhaps a foreshadow for a robust career in public office, which began when he was first elected to the provincial legislature in 1967. From 1971 to 1982 he served as Deputy Premier and Attorney General of Saskatchewan. He played a key role in the federal-provincial negotiations that resulted in the Constitution Act 1982, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Romanow became the Leader of the Opposition in 1987. He served in this role until 1991, when he became Premier of Saskatchewan—a title he would hold for nearly a decade. After retiring from politics in 2001, he was appointed by then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to lead the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada and, in 2004, became a member of the federal Privy Council through a five-year appointment to Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee. Most recently, Romanow was a senior policy fellow in the College of Arts and Science at the U of S.

“Every one of those activities, in some way has—at least in my case—enriched me, expanded my vision, my concept of life, how precious it is and how short-lived it is,” he said.

While he is still working through a list of priorities for his tenure as chancellor, one objective for Romanow is to ensure that the spirit of learning and discovery—the same one that has played such a pivotal role in his life—is maintained.

“We rank up there as one of the top universities in the country, and I would even say beyond, so it’s a great base that we stand upon,” he said, highlighting the university’s rich history, bright students, dedicated alumni and extensive research outputs.

As time passes, however, the university must work hard “to make sure that that base isn’t weakened.

“The makings are here to keep moving onwards and upwards in our contribution to our province and perhaps even more importantly, our great country.”