Alumnus named Chair of Western's Board

By Paul Mayne

As alumnus Paul Jenkins, BA'71 (Economics), contemplates his new role as Chair of Western’s Board of Governors, he cannot help but reflect on his days as a member of the university rowing team.

“When you’re in a boat, you all have to be rowing in the same direction,” said Jenkins, who was unanimously appointed to the position on November 23 at the Board’s regular meeting. “I have a strong Board, with people from a collection of backgrounds, using their respective skill sets and advantages to move the university forward.”

A Board member for seven years, Jenkins brings with him a wealth of financial know-how. The Western Economics graduate also earned a masters in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science in London, England. From 2003-10, he served as Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, where he was the bank’s Chief Operating Officer and a member of its Board of Directors.

Jenkins, who replaces Hanny Hassan as Chair, sees his background serving him well in his new position at Western.

“I am a strong believer in the importance of having a strategic vision for organizations. That’s equally true for universities – and for Western,” he said. “It’s critically important our Board function at a strategic level. We’ve made some good progress, but we still have some ways to go. The Board is in agreement with that.

“At a more granular level is the funding model. It’s going to be a critical issue for all universities. None of us should underestimate the pressures that are going to continue to build. So, from the Board point of view, the importance of being good stewards of the finances of university – also the sustainability and stability from a financial point of view – is something important for me.”

The potential for some high-profile changes to senior administrative roles during his tenure – in particular the roles of President and Provost – is something Jenkins sees as a way for the university to continue to grow and evolve.

“One needs to approach this with enthusiasm. Transition and succession are parts of a healthy, aspiring institution,” he said, noting the recent appointments of Vice-President (Operations & Finance), University Secretary and Director (Sport and Recreation). “We have a strong brand here. I am enthusiastic about the opportunities, but one of the keys is the importance of doing them in a very open and transparent way.”

For Jenkins, good governance and good outcomes go hand-in-hand. Board members, as well as members of the campus community, must understand the roles and responsibilities that come with membership on the university governing body.

“It starts with having a vision of the clarity of roles and responsibilities – and with that comes accountability,” said Jenkins, who stressed the Board needs to do more to help bring that level of awareness to the community. “But it’s not just the Board; it’s the academic side of the house. You look to good governance on both sides and the two of them working collaboratively. I see no reason why that will not continue to be the case. But we need to strengthen that.”

Also on the ‘to-do list’ for Jenkins will be continuing to tout the need for transparency.

“I go back to my belief in good governance. Good governance is, part and parcel and significantly so, is identifying roles and responsibilities and being accountable for those. How do you be accountable? Through your transparency and communication.

“You need to have moments where committees or boards can deliberate things in a frank and open way. But when decisions are taken, and why they were taken, you need to be transparent about that. Behind that is a sense of understanding the role of the Board and the strategic direction of the Board. Some people call it a buzzword, but it’s important to understand why transparency is important and how it fits into the governance structure.”

As he moves forward, Jenkins is quick to communicate his role will be to help lead the Board not manage it.

“I look forward to a two-year term; there will be a lot of work to do. But we have a very good Board. It’s important when people come into the boardroom that they’re wearing their Board hat. I strongly believe in postsecondary education and development of human capital is critically important. Western has a strong brand and we want to continue to grow and develop it around the theme of excellence. We are privileged in so many ways to be part of that. Hopefully contributing to it, for me, is something that I look forward to.”