June 30th, 2022

Farewell from Chris Whitaker

As I complete my time at Humber after 10 years, I am grateful for the opportunities I have had and the work in which I have been a part. Working at Humber has been the highlight of my career. It was the role of colleges in making a difference in the lives of individuals and communities that attracted me to the sector almost 35 years ago. Providing accessible and practical, career-focused education always made so much sense to me, particularly after spending time in a conventional university environment.

After a lengthy career at a traditional college, I was excited about the differentiation that was occurring in the sector with degrees and Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning (ITALs). It was the polytechnic vision and the challenge and excitement of how it could transform post-secondary education that brought me here, but it was the people – the community of Humber that kept me here. From the moment I arrived at Humber and ever since I have been struck by the people who work here and your collective kindness, trust and enthusiasm for our common purpose.

To get the special sauce that is Humber’s culture requires great people, and an organization that creates an environment where people thrive and sees the benefits from collective talents combining to create something much bigger than all of us.

I learned early on that success is a team sport and my job as president was to listen, respect and support people – to help lead the way, but not get in the way! And look at what we have accomplished together over the past decade.

We’ve used our resources wisely and have been in the fortunate position to continuously enhance the campus environment for learners and employees. We recognized that learning happens everywhere – inside the classroom, in campus spaces outside the classroom, and from homes and other workplaces. There have been construction cranes on campus continuously since I arrived and the LRC, Barrett CTI, Lakeshore Welcome Centre, Athletic Centre, Longo Centre for Entrepreneurship and now the Humber Cultural Hub are examples of how we continuously improve spaces with student needs in mind.

We have expanded both traditional and non-traditional programming, including:

  • working with the provincial government to achieve the first standalone Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees at an Ontario college
  • broader degree and graduate certificate programming, including new engineering degrees, which is part of the value proposition of our polytechnic model of education and a key differentiator
  • embracing international education for both domestic and foreign student benefit, including our new Humber International Graduate School, International Development Institute projects, and the expansion of global partnerships
  • building our applied research and work-integrated learning activities to become the #2 Research College in Canada
  • establishing Faculties and developing the college’s first institutional Academic Plan and Digital Campus Plan

We have built strategic partnerships through the creation of our Centres of Innovation Network and the Advanced Manufacturing Skills Consortium.

We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the college system, reflecting on how far we have come.

Our advocacy resulted in visits from the Prime Minister, two Ontario Premiers and many other dignitaries.

We embraced sustainability and were named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for seven straight years for our commitment to be Net Zero carbon by 2050, we received the first Passive House EnerPHit Certification for a non-residential building in Canada for our work on the NX building and so much more.  

We launched our first-ever public fundraising campaign and recently exceeded our $50 million goal.

The Humber Hawks continued to soar, now having captured 57 CCAA National Championships and 312 OCAA Provincial Championships - the most in the nation.

Together, we survived the unprecedented impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The world and all of us have been changed by the pandemic and it may take a few years to understand and come to terms with the full impact of these changes. I am so proud of how the Humber community came together throughout this time.

We know we are adaptable and resilient. We know we can rely on each other when things get tough and can rise to meet challenges. And we know that the work we do is more relevant and more needed than ever. The workforce and labour market have shifted dramatically, and learners and the economy depend on us. The pandemic, climate change and international conflicts and wars remind us that the world is a small place where we are all interconnected. We must think with a global mindset while acting locally to support change in our communities.

We must continue to take a stand against racism, intolerance and inequality and our efforts to embed EDI and Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing within our curriculum, core competencies and business practices will have a lasting positive impact.

Thank you to the faculty for continuing to reimagine the future of teaching and learning. Thank you to the support staff who ensure our programs and services are supporting students and staff in the best way possible every day. Thank you to the administration who continue to lead with compassion and creativity.

Finally, thank you to the Executive team for your ideas, for your innovation and for your commitment.

I leave confident that Humber will continue to lead, transform and differentiate post-secondary education. As I told a student reporter when my retirement was first announced, I’m not really passing the torch because it has always been burning brightly, firmly in the hands of all our great faculty and staff.

It has been an honour and a privilege.

Thank you one and all.