University of Calgary

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Submitted by alumni on Wed, 05/28/2014 - 19:59.

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Jim Dinning Chancellor Jim Dinning’s Four-Year Term Draws to an End

Picture Juno award winning composer Allan Bell speaking on stage and watching with visible pride as two talented pianists — University of Calgary alumni Lana Henchell and Linh Tran — interpret a composition Bell has written. The audience, following the score on a screen above, sits enraptured, perhaps no one more so so than Jim Dinning, host of the evening’s Lecture of a Lifetime event.

"It’s a moment I’ll always remember,” he says with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm that is typical for Dinning whose title as chancellor may be formal, but whose warmth, sense of humour and passion have defined his four-year term, which ends June 30th.

Elected by the university’s Senate, the chancellor — a volunteer position — serves as a bridge between the university and the community. It’s a job in which Dinning has taken great pride — hosting Chancellor’s Club, Lecture of a Lifetime and other events that underscore the depth and breadth of talent on campus and the university’s strong ties with this city.

“We’ve shone a light in a unique way on each of the faculties we’ve partnered with to host Chancellor’s Club events,” Dinning says, whether they are on campus, like the one featuring the Faculty of Kinesiology at the Olympic Oval, or off campus, with the Faculty of Science at Telus Spark.

The chancellor also plays an important role at convocation, and Dinning has presided over nearly 50 of the ceremonies since 2010. A father of four himself, he recieves immense pleasure in engaging with students on these milestone days, greeting each with a congratulatory handshake and a few questions about what’s next after graduation.

“We’ve raised the bar on convocation, and on the tapestry of talent receiving Honorary Degrees,” Dinning says. “That builds relationships, and it reflects the university’s standing in this community, and across this country, pushing us toward those Eyes High goals.”

When renowned Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in June 2013, the university so impressed him with an exhibition of his work and the calibre of the students and faculty that he has since joined the Faculty of Environmental Design’s Dean’s Circle.

Adds Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design: “Jim introduced us to Raymond and then accelerated the relationship, and helped in a sincere way to raise the profile of the university and the faculty with this leading practitioner of architecture in Canada.”

In his convocation addresses, the Chancellor exhorts students to take on leadership roles and to embrace the challenges ahead of them. Senators describe Dinning’s leadership style as collaborative. “What I’ve tried to do is encourage members of the Senate to find something they can be passionate about and really sink their teeth into,” Dinning says. “And I always say, we’ve got everything from anthropology to zoology, so there’s something for everyone!”

Dinning says one of the highlights of his term has been supporting the trajectory of the university — specifically president Elizabeth Cannon’s bold direction. “Dr. Cannon has shown us remarkable leadership, bringing this university together and, as we approach the 50th anniversary, really setting a new high water mark, and she deserves a lot of credit.”

Web Extra: Robert Thirsk will become the new chancellor on July 1. Discover more about this former astronaut and University of Calgary alumnus at

— Story by Andrea Kingwell/Photo by Riley Brandt