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Summerlee looks at return to classroom

By Jessica Lovell
Guelph Tribune
The University of Guelph’s longest-serving president plans to get back to his teaching roots after his term ends this summer.
“Come fall of 2015, I will be back to teaching in the regular classroom,” said Alastair Summerlee  after his successor was announced at the university’s 50th anniversary launch event Tuesday.
As of Aug. 15, University of Toronto professor Franco Vaccarino will step into the role of the U of G’s eighth president and vice-chancellor.
“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Vaccarino said of his predecessor.
Summerlee, who joined the U of G in 1988 as a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, was the first internal candidate to be named president of the university. He has served in the role since July 15, 2003.
Summerlee’s second term as president was extended to this summer to tie in with the Better Planet Project, an ambitious university public relations and fundraising campaign launched in 2010.
Summerlee didn’t specifically name the project – which has raised $171 million of its $200-million goal – among his accomplishments as president, but he did highlight a wider awareness of U of G and its strengths.
“We’ve managed to move from being the hidden gem among universities to one that people are aware of its prowess,” he said, refusing to take credit alone for the accomplishment.
“We’re ranked the highest in terms of teaching and the highest with research,” said Summerlee. “That obviously depends on so many people.”
He also praised the university for being “so deeply involved with the community.”
When his term as president ends, Summerlee plans to take a break and spend some time on holiday with his family.
He also plans to head to Africa to walk the Kalahari Desert, he said.
Then, it will be back to work. “I have a series of projects that I’m engaged in with my research,” he said.
He plans to continue that work before eventually getting back to his U of G teaching role, he said.
In the meantime, he’ll be working to get the new president acquainted with the school, while also savouring his last days in the position.
“About this time last year, I was thinking I still had about two years to go,” he said.
“But now I don’t want any day to go by, because it means it’s nearer the end.”

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