University of Toronto President Meric Gertler is featured in a Globe and Mail series called Halftime, which features people from across Canada talking about their fifth decade.
The series highlighted President Gertler's work as an internationally renowned urban planning and policy expert. He reflects on career success, family life and the importance of taking risks.
President Gertler says he could never have predicted heading U of T and taking on such a big leadership role in the academic world. He says he's glad he focused on becoming a scholar first.
“It was really important for me to achieve what I wanted to achieve as a scholar in my field and have that kind of global recognition at a certain point,” he says in the feature.
President Gertler, named a member of the Order of Canada in 2015, said success in his 40s was “feeling like my work was having some kind of impact, both in terms of the direction of my discipline, so shaping some major debates and the evolution of the field. But also having an impact in terms of public policy. To me, that has always been important.”
As a child, he developed his interest in cities because of his dad who was a planner for the City of Toronto.
“I remember looking at these very cool models of parts of the city,” he says. “One of the hot issues then, as it continues to be now, was what would the waterfront of Toronto look like in the future? There were all these futuristic, spacey models, none of which came to pass, of course. But just imagining future living environments was really exciting.”
What made him happy in his 40s?
“My kids, who were eight and five when I started my 40s,” he says. “They were pretty small and developing into real people, so that was a huge amount of fun. Professionally, I would say becoming recognized in the wider world. It was really in my 40s that I felt like my impact in my discipline was really registering.”
If he could go back and give himself advice two decades ago?
“I would tell myself maybe take a few more risks. I was always very cautious and careful and studied and considered. It has worked out pretty well but you always reflect on what opportunities you might have passed up by not taking a few more risks in terms of the work that you do or the activities you get involved in.”