Furthering connections with community

Dawn Farrell becomes MRU’s first chancellor

Photo of Dawn Farrell - MRU’s first chancellor.

Dawn Farrell has seen first-hand Mount Royal’s exceptional commitment to teaching and learning, and cites this as the reason behind her long relationship with MRU.

Accomplished business and community leader Dawn Farrell, PhD (HC) will become Mount Royal University’s first chancellor following unanimous approval by the board of governors. As the ceremonial head of the University, she will preside over formal occasions such as convocation and further connect Mount Royal with the community in order to serve a vibrant economy, environment and society.

Mount Royal’s board chair Alex Pourbaix, president and chief executive officer of Cenovus Energy, says, “We were looking for an individual who had a distinguished reputation in their profession, a track record of community service and a passion for higher education. Dawn more than fit that bill.”

Farrell has been the president and chief executive officer of TransAlta Corporation since January 2012. With 30 years in the electricity industry, she has held senior management positions at TransAlta and BC Hydro and sits on the board of directors of The Chemours Company and the Business Council of Canada, where she advocates for women in business.

Her community service includes contributing to United Way Calgary and Area and the Calgary Stampede, as well as being a member of the Trilateral Commission, a non-governmental and policy-oriented forum that brings together global leaders in business, government and academia.

“I’ve seen such tremendous change over my career and the most positive and momentous outcomes were achieved when business, community, government and education worked together,” Farrell says. “When Mount Royal described the chancellor position as one that uses connections to contribute to a strong future for Calgarians and Albertans, I was on board.”

Farrell’s history with Mount Royal goes back to 1986, when she taught an economics course. She returned to serve on the University’s board of governors and the Foundation’s board of directors, supporting the institution’s transition from a college to a university. Farrell has seen first-hand Mount Royal’s exceptional commitment to teaching and learning, and cites this as the reason behind her long relationship with MRU.

She says, "The faculty at Mount Royal take the time to turn students into citizens for our future. Students graduate from MRU ready to work and ready to be critical thinkers. Mount Royal educates, and it's educated people that we need to run our economy."

While accepting an honorary doctor of laws from MRU in 2019, Farrell explained that her “long love affair with learning” went back to 1966 when after her first day of school she returned home and set up her own classroom. “I loved school from the very first day that I met my very first teacher.”

Farrell graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce — Finance and Master of Arts — Economics from the University of Calgary. She also attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University. In a different life, Farrell said she would have pursued a PhD.

Along with being an external face for Mount Royal, Farrell will also act as an ex-officio member of the board of governors and work closely with President and Vice-Chancellor, Tim Rahilly, PhD.

“Dawn was one of the first people I met in Calgary,” Rahilly recalls, “and I remember thinking how we both shared an excitement over how unique and valuable MRU’s student-focused approach was to the economy, environment and community. While it’s clear Mount Royal already has strong partnerships off campus, as MRU’s first chancellor she will broaden our network, deepen our connections and act as a sage advisor.”

With the move in 2019 to Part 1 of the Post-secondary Learning Act, under the category of Undergraduate Universities, Mount Royal was permitted to appoint a chancellor, as elected by the board of governors. A search committee was chaired by Rahilly and made up of members of the board of governors, faculty, alumni association and students’ association. The chancellor role is for a four-year term and by provincial legislation the chancellor can only serve one term. It is a non-remunerated volunteer position, with travel expenses reimbursed. The formal installation of Farrell as the chancellor will occur in November 2020 during convocation.

View a video with Ms. Farrell talking about her new role as chancellor, read more about her receiving an honorary doctor of laws and watch the remarks she shared with Mount Royal’s graduating class of spring 2019.

July 6, 2020