TRU proudly celebrated the installation of Dr. Brett Fairbairn as TRU’s fourth president and vice-chancellor on Wednesday morning at the first of six spring convocation ceremonies this week.
“While I have been president since December, it is today, in front of convocation, that I formally and publicly declare my service to TRU,” said Fairbairn. “That makes this a special day, for the university and for me.”
The installation ceremony represents a public acknowledgment of a new president’s appointment to office. The Tournament Capital Centre Fieldhouse was full as the academic processional was drummed in, and the platform party and VIP seating swelled with faculty, staff, senior leaders and special guests bearing witness—including Fairbairn’s wife Norma and two of his children, the third watching via livestream.
After the national anthem, Elder’s blessing and introductions of the platform party and special guests, TRU Board of Governors Chair Jim Thomson introduced Fairbairn with a short biography, and gave the stage to Chancellor Nathan Matthew to administer the oath of office. Much like a swearing-in at court or the vows at a wedding, this traditional “I do” is Fairbairn’s public declaration to carry out the duties and exercise the powers of the Office of the President.
Part of the ritual of an installation ceremony is the changing of regalia, when the president removes the robe of his alma mater—the scarlet and dark blue of his DPhil from Oxford, in Fairbairn’s case—and is dressed by the chancellor in TRU’s blue and sage. After he settled into his new robes of office, to a standing ovation around him, Fairbairn smiled.
“I’ve never changed clothes before so many people before,” he joked, before launching into a heartfelt address. All humour aside, the president was clearly moved, and his wife slipped over to the stage at one point to hand her spouse a tissue.
In his installation address, Fairbairn noted the listening focus during in his first six months in office has given the TRU community a chance to get to know “that new president guy” as well. He expressed gratitude for the warm welcome to the university he received and the show of support at the ceremony. Sharing a little of his family history, he spoke of the transformative power of education, as well as TRU’s history and open-access philosophy.
“At TRU we strive to keep our doors open to anyone seeking higher education, because we believe anyone has a right to reach their potential if they are willing to work for it,” he said.
Speaking to the graduands of the Faculty of Education and Social Work who were about to receive their credentials, he concluded, “It is clear you are graduating into a world full of opportunity and uncertainty. The best preparation is the education you have received. Education has changed and will continue to change your lives. But not only your lives. … The lives you lead and the work you do will improve the communities in which you live.”