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A Warm Saskatchewan Farewell to Dr. Vianne Timmons

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: March 30, 2020 9:00 a.m.

After 12 years of increased enrolment and balanced budgets, Dr. Timmons leaves the University of Regina on solid footing.
After 12 years of increased enrolment and balanced budgets, Dr. Timmons leaves the University of Regina on solid footing. Photos: U of R Photography

After more than 12 years at the helm of the University of Regina, Dr. Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor, is leaving to start a new leadership adventure as President of  Memorial University in Newfoundland. Dr. Thomas Chase, current Provost and Vice-President (Academic), will become the University of Regina’s Interim President at the start of April while the presidential search process gets underway. 

During Dr. Timmons’ tenure as President, the University had an impressive record of achievements, including: record student enrolment growth and an increase in the diversity of students, faculty, and staff; a balanced budget each year; increased research funding and scope; as well as the restoration of College Avenue Campus and the soon-to-be-completed Darke Hall. 

While at the University of Regina, Dr. Timmons was recognized for her commitment to community with the 2019 Indspire Award – the highest national honour the Indigenous community bestows on leaders and achievers – and the YWCA Regina 2019 Women of Distinction Award. As well, among the many honours she received, Dr. Timmons was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017, was recognized by the Red Cross with its Humanitarian Award in 2013, and was named one of Canada’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women” four years in a row. 

Dr. Timmons leaves the University of Regina on solid footing, with a reputation of considerable standing on the national and international stages. 

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Creating a warm, inclusive
culture on campus was a
priority for the University’s
seventh President and
Vice-Chancellor.

“Vianne showcased -- to Canada and the world -- U of R’s exceptional talent and brainpower around, in particular, mental health issues affecting first responders, emergency workers, and public safety officers,” said Ralph Goodale, former Member of Parliament (Regina-Wascana) and a former Federal Minister. “This University’s Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment ranks with the best in the world. And Vianne was always proud to tell that story.” 

Early on, Dr. Timmons had a vision for the University – that “it should not reflect the world we live in, but should instead reflect the world we want to live in.” Toward that end, she has led the charge ensuring that the University is a welcoming and inclusive campus for our students, faculty, staff, and the entire community. 

Her commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) was realized last May when the University was awarded a $384,000 EDI Institutional Capacity-Building Grant from the federal government. The grant supports the institution’s ongoing efforts to create a campus free from bias or discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, and religion. The University’s EDI mainstreaming strategy and associated policies and programs will further that commitment by ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion are fully considered in all decision-making processes. 

In her personal and professional life, Dr. Timmons has championed the rights of those with disabilities and worked to build programs, such as the University’s Campus for All, which provides inclusive education and employment opportunities for this often-marginalized group of young people. 

The groundbreaking program UR Guarantee, now in its 11th year, has supported thousands of students, helping them achieve their academic goals and secure career-related employment within six months of graduation. Campaigns such as the You Belong Here anti-discrimination campaign, launched in 2019 by Dr. Timmons, continue to raise awareness of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and abuse. 

Of particular note is the University’s Inspiring Leadership Forum, the brainchild of Dr. Timmons and a premier event about women in leadership that provides an opportunity for people across Saskatchewan and beyond to hear the inspirational stories of internationally renowned leaders. ILF has grown from 250 to more than 800 attendees since it began 11 years ago. At this year’s event earlier this month, ILF 2020 attendees sang along as Saskatchewan musician Jeffery Straker serenaded Dr. Timmons with a song written in her honour. Listen to the song here.

“Strong leaders motivate others,” said Pam Klein, the University of Regina’s Chancellor. “On Vianne’s lasting legacy, I think of, ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.’ Vianne leaves us with waves to ride on.” 

Klein has agreed to take over the reins for ILF 2021, welcoming three dynamic speakers -- Holly Austin Gibbs, Suki Kim, and Dr. Jen Welter -- who will address the theme, The Courage Within

Even as Dr. Timmons leaves the University, the welfare of our students is topmost in her mind. With the outbreak of COVID-19, events such as the University’s annual Prairie Kitchen Party, a fundraiser for the Student Emergency Fund, have had to be cancelled. With the loss of part-time jobs, many hardworking U of R students are struggling to put food on the table and cover their rent or other necessities, never mind focus on their studies. The University has begun reaching out to the community through the Student Emergency Appeal asking them to support our students during these challenging times when they need it most. 

In 2012, Dr. Timmons reached out to the community in a similar way to support Nigerian University of Regina students Victoria Ordu and Favour Amadi, who faced difficulty completing their education after they were deported to Nigeria. 

“Having someone like the President be there for me, it made me reassess my own life -- how I want to be there for other people,” said Victoria Ordu LAC’15, BA’16, CHS’16.

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Cadmus Delorme, Chief of
Cowessess First Nation
and U of R alumnus.

Over the past 12 years, Dr. Timmons has worked passionately to promote and enhance Indigenous education in Canada, receiving the 2019 Indspire Award for Education. Under Dr. Timmons’ leadership, the University has made a resolute commitment to Indigenization in its strategic planning to transform the academy by including Indigenous knowledges, voices, and practices so thoroughly as to make them essential elements of the University.

This focus has resulted in the creation of many important initiatives to support the success of Indigenous students, faculty, and staff, such as the Indigenous Advisory Circle, the Aboriginal Student Centre, and the establishment of an Office of Indigenization.

“Even before the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action came upon us, President Timmons was already finding ways to do her part in Reconciliation,” said Cadmus Delorme, alumnus, Chief of Cowessess First Nation and member of the University of Regina Board of Governors. “Today the University is in a better place because of that.” 

Dr. Timmons’ compassion and her ability to listen to, engage with, and lead students, staff, and colleagues at the University have made her a respected leader within the wider community, as well. 

In 2011, compelled by the urgent pleas of passionate community members, Dr. Timmons took on the daunting challenge of ensuring the renewal of the aging College Avenue Campus. 

“I don’t know how she’s done it. How she convinced the City, the University, Conexus, federal government, everyone, to get in there and save our beautiful buildings,” remarked Dr. Lyn Goldman, friend of the University and College Avenue Champion. “When Darke Hall is finished next year, the city is going to be very proud of it. I think Vianne is one of the bravest people I know, but even more so she has committed herself to this community.” 

Dr. Timmons’ leadership has meant so much to so many. 

“Vianne, you are an incredible individual and leader. I want to thank you for everything you have done for the University, our City, and our Province,” said Roger Brandvold, Chair of the University of Regina Board of Governors. “While you will be missed, you are leaving us with an outstanding team with the skills and ability to build upon all that you have set in motion and more. On behalf of the University of Regina Board of Governors, thank you, Vianne.” 

With deepest gratitude, Dr. Timmons, the staff, faculty, and students at the University of Regina thank you for your strong, compassionate leadership over the past 12 years.  This is not good-bye, but see you later.  

Watch a video tribute that was to have been delivered at the March 20 Farewell event in honour of Dr. Timmons. The event was cancelled due to COVID-19, but nothing can dampen a warm Saskatchewan farewell.

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