By Leslie Ferenc
When he graduated from York University, it never occurred to Greg Sorbara he’d return 36 years later as chancellor of his alma mater.
“Very few would have thought it,” the former Ontario cabinet minister joked during an interview Monday after it was announced he will serve as the university’s 13th chancellor.
Sorbara is an alumnus of York’s Glendon College (BA ’78) and Osgoode Hall Law School (LLB ’91), who received an honorary doctor of laws (LLD ’13).
Sorbara, 67, said the university was an important place “that transformed my life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people … It defined my life’s journey. I am thrilled and honoured to be appointed as chancellor.”
Those who went before him, including Roy McMurtry, will serve as an inspiration during his three-year term, Sorbara said, adding he was looking forward to making a contribution toward advancing the important work of the university.
Sorbara, who served as minister of colleges and education in Liberal premier David Peterson’s government, said “education is the most important thing you can promote as a government.” As chancellor, an honorary role, Sorbara will preside over all convocation ceremonies and confer degrees. York University has 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff and more than 250,000 alumni.
Though he will not have any role in setting the university’s agenda, there’s much to look forward to in the coming years, he said, including the new subway being built to York and beyond into York Region.
“It will help put York in the centre of the GTA,” he said. A new campus will also be created in York Region, helping the university “expand its reach and capacity.”
His appointment comes at a special time. His eldest granddaughter, Freedom Sorbara, one of 13 grandchildren, will be heading off to university in the fall. While it won’t be York — like most children, she wants to study away from home, he said — “she’s starting university, and so am I.”
In announcing the appointment, Julia Foster, chair of York’s board of governors, said the former MPP for Vaughan has “worked in the interests of the Greater Toronto Area and has contributed substantially to its infrastructure and financial growth. His appointment builds on his commitment to and engagement with York University and its broader community.”
Mamdouh Shoukri, president and vice-chancellor, described Sorbara as “a champion of postsecondary education and a longtime friend of York University.”
“His legacy includes increasing accessibility for low-income post-secondary Ontario students through loans and grants, while investing in enrolments, expanded faculty complement, graduate scholarships and research.”
While he wouldn’t comment on recent security issues at the university, Sorbara he has a “tremendous degree of respect” for the administration and the importance of campus safety for students, staff and faculty.
Sorbara will be installed at the first spring convocation ceremony, on June 13.