A red-letter day for Lakehead – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – September 5, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

It was so refreshing to stand in a room filled with hope, pride and a sense of achievement. It was the opening of Lakehead University’s faculty of law, the first new law school in Ontario in more than 40 years.

You could almost hear buttons popping and chests filled with pride. The little gymnasium at the former Port Arthur Collegiate Institute was filled with a collection of local legal community members, university VIPs, community leaders and provincial visitors, not the least of which, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Minister Michael Gravelle and MPP Bill Mauro and Mayor Keith Hobbs. Provincial, regional and local representatives who are ever-present at university functions were at the opening in full force.

“What a great day,” seemed to be the first words out of the mouths of every speaker, and there were many — but the refrain never grew old. Everyone in the room was there to cheer a great day for Thunder Bay, Ontario and the country.
The new faculty will be somewhat unique as it offers a focus on aboriginal and environmental law.

The faculty of law, which received a slim $1.5 million from the province, is a huge investment for Lakehead University. Along with the medical school, Lakehead University has risen in the ranks of the Canadian university community by becoming truly comprehensive. Along with its undergraduate programs, the menu of professional schools now available have added an entirely new lustre to Lakehead.

While it is a crowning accomplishment for university president Brian Stephenson’s administration, it is well worth mentioning Fred Gilbert and his former executive team who did much of the heavy lifting in the pursuit of a faculty of law. Many told him it was an impossible dream. There were many players who made the dream a reality.

While we often look around and wring our hands and focus on our troubles, it does us well to appreciate great things are also taking place in Thunder Bay. On a comparable shoestring budget, the team breathed new life and vigor into the vacant PACI building. The university’s involvement will now ensure this grand old place of learning will stretch well into the future and not face the wrecker’s ball.

A proud mom had stopped to rest her feet and wait for a ride after the ceremony. Her son is a member of the first-year class. A former teacher, she said there have been lots of hurdles at the ceremony made it worthwhile. “It was so human, so personal.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Well done, Lakehead University.