U of T Chancellor Rose Patten celebrated for her exceptional leadership

“Rose and leadership go hand in hand. She wrote the book on the subject – literally"
Rose Patten beams during her retirement ceremony

U of T Chancellor Rose Patten and her husband Tom Di Giacomo attend a recent farewell reception at Hart House to celebrate her tenure as the university’s 34th chancellor (photo by Lisa Sakulensky)

Rose Patten’s name was a byword for leadership at a celebration marking the culmination of her distinguished tenure as the University of Toronto’s 34th chancellor, with one speaker after the next taking to the stage to express their gratitude for her transformative influence on the university and its community of future leaders.

After more than 25 years of service to the U of T community, Patten is set to complete her second term as chancellor (the maximum length permitted) on June 30, leaving a legacy characterized by visionary leadership and her commitment to championing those who would follow her.

At a farewell reception at Hart House, President Meric Gertler praised Patten’s unparalleled ability to bring out the leader in each and every member of the U of T community.

“Rose and leadership go hand in hand. She wrote the book on the subject – literally,” said President Gertler, referring to Patten’s vade mecum, Intentional Leadership. “Leadership has been the central theme of her time as chancellor. It is the hallmark of her life and career, in business and in volunteer service.”

U of T President Meric Gertler said leadership has been a hallmark of Chancellor Rose Patten’s career (photo by Lisa Sakulensky)
A major figure in Canada’s financial services sector, Patten’s long history with U of T has been defined by her prolific engagement in, and enhancement of, almost every aspect of university life, President Gertler said.

Her involvement began as a member of Governing Council, where she served for the full extent of her nine allowable years, culminating in three years’ service as chair.

From 2007 to 2010, Patten chaired the task force whose recommendations led to U of T’s current tri-campus governing structure.

Toronto-based portrait artist Brenda Bury, left, and Nobel Prize-winning U of T University Professor Emeritus John Polanyi, middle,  pose for a photo with Chancellor Rose Patten (photo by Lisa Sakulensky)

First elected as chancellor in 2018, Patten will have presided over 133 convocation ceremonies by the end of her six years in the position.

In addition to her ceremonial duties, Patten has been a constant presence on campus as chancellor, attending scores of university events each year.

Beyond her administrative roles, she has imparted her insights on leadership with the next generation as an adjunct professor at the Rotman School of Management, where she serves as co-director of the Executive Leadership Program.

Myriad senior leaders at U of T have drawn on Patten’s expertise, President Gertler said – including himself.

Chancellor Rose Patten shakes hands with Governing Council Chair Anna Kennedy as former Interim President Frank Iacobucci and Trinity College Provost and Vice-Chancellor Mayo Moran look on (photo by Lisa Sakulensky)
Anna Kennedy, chair of Governing Council, also counted herself among the beneficiaries of Patten’s knowledge and counsel.

“Rose has led with grace, wisdom and incredible generosity, providing insights and guidance to everyone she interacts with,” Kennedy said. “We’re very thankful and grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to work alongside and learn from such an accomplished leader.”

A former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Frank Iacobucci said his 10-month tenure as U of T’s interim president was as memorable as any other part of his career largely because of Patten’s remarkable leadership.

From breaking the glass ceiling in business to steering U of T through uncertain times, Patten has converted challenges into opportunities throughout her distinguished career, Iacobucci said, but what sets Patten apart as a leader is her profound understanding that every organization is at its heart a human enterprise.

“A special talent Rose possesses is a respect for and fondness of people,” said Iacobucci. “Humanity is a companion for all that she says and does.”

Mayo Moran, provost and vice-chancellor of Trinity College, echoed this sentiment as she thanked Patten on behalf of the countless U of T community members who have benefited from her human-centred approach to leadership.

This is exemplified by Patten’s steadfast commitment to mentorship, particularly for women leaders, that has not only made her a role model, but also the namesake of the Rose Patten Mentorship Program, said Moran.

“The University of Toronto is so much better for having had you at helm,” she said. “I also feel heartened … by the fact that you’ll continue, through your writing and your teaching, to shape generations who are going to go on and really exemplify the human side of leadership.”

U of T Vice-President and Provost Trevor Young, left, poses for a picture with Chancellor Rose Patten (photo by Lisa Sakulensky)
Following a video tribute, President Gertler announced that Patten recently made a new gift to the university, which, among other things, will enable the renewal of Convocation Hall’s grand, circular entrance hallway. That key space will now be called the Rose Patten Rotunda.

Additionally, a new scholarship at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine has been named the Rose M. Patten Graduate Student Scholarship.

Both Patten and her husband, Tom Di Giacomo are long-time donors to the university, President Gertler said, supporting a range of initiatives to bolster student financial aid and academic programs. As a result of Patten’s most recent gift, she and Di Giacomo are now members of the Chancellors’ Circle of Benefactors, the community of U of T’s most generous philanthropic supporters.

Chancellor Rose Patten and her husband Tom Di Giacomo are among U of T’s most generous donors (photo by Lisa Sakulensky)

In her remarks, Patten said she was touched by the tributes and turnout to the reception, reflecting on how her relationship with U of T has deepened over the past quarter-century.

“I often speak about mentoring and volunteering, and I always say that we receive more than we give, or at least as much,” Patten said. “At U of T, it was especially true for me. And let me say, it was more.”

She highlighted her role in conferring degrees as a special privilege of her office, expressing what a joy it’s been to celebrate the milestone with graduating students and their families.

Patten said every commitment she’s made to U of T has enriched her, noting that everyone has a role to play in leading the university toward a brighter future.

“In this institution, there’s always more to know, more to learn, more to appreciate, more to think about,” she said. “It can make life not just a journey, but an adventure. I can’t imagine mine without my relationship with everyone here.”

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