Nov. 4, 2022

It’s official! UCalgary installs its 15th chancellor

Football great Jon Cornish to be officially installed as chancellor Nov. 10
Jon Cornish
Jon Cornish has co-MC duties at the Hunter Student Commons building launch Oct. 18, 2022. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

It’s been a busy three months for Chancellor-elect Jon Cornish.

How busy? Since being chosen for the position in July, the football great has been involved in more than 36 events. Between Students’ Union barbecues, building launches, and leading the UCalgary float in the Calgary Stampede and Pride parades, our new chancellor has certainly been getting a wide-ranging introduction to campus life. And that’s something they are welcoming with enthusiasm.

“I get really hyped up,” says Cornish of their new schedule. “It was great to see everybody that came along for the Stampede and the Pride parade getting energized for those kinds of events.

I love doing parades, but honestly, I think it’s the time I've spent with students that's been the most valuable.

During a four-year term, the chancellor acts as the chair of UCalgary’s senate, sits on the University Board of Governors and presides over degree-conferring ceremonies at convocation. The chancellor also serves an ambassador in advancing the interests of the university and the post-secondary education sector in general.

The position is entirely a volunteer one, but Cornish is no stranger to volunteer work.  

Introducing students to a university community — and football

Cornish’s work within the community made them a perfect candidate for the role of chancellor. Cornish made waves when playing for the Calgary Stampeders from 2007 to 2015. During nine seasons with the Stamps, Cornish was selected as both Calgary Male Athlete of the Year and Most Outstanding Canadian multiple times, as well as winning Canada’s Top Athlete in 2013.

Only three months into the new role, Cornish’s football experience has already proven useful to the new role of chancellor.

“A week or so ago, I coached a bunch of international students,” says Cornish. “I introduced them to the sport of football, after which they attended a Stampeders game. It was a nice little crossover between the role of chancellor and my role as ambassador for the Calgary Stampeders.”

Alumni relationships that support students

As the founder of the Calgary Black Chambers, Cornish has been working to address systemic barriers BIPOC people face in Calgary. Through the chambers, Black leaders in the community mentor youth seeking guidance. It helps strengthen communities by offering scholarships, advocating for and providing fellowship to BIPOC youth and professionals who otherwise might be on their own.

Cornish sees great value in these connections between community leaders and young people: “One of my objectives as chancellor is to ensure that our students have access to the outstanding wealth of knowledge that we have in our city.”

And there’s a wealth of knowledge to be mined in the shared experiences of alumni and students. As a longtime advocate for equality and equity, Cornish acknowledges that students are often searching for more than they can find in a traditional classroom setting.

Alumni with life experiences similar to a student’s can provide much more personalized guidance. Cornish plans to build on the already strong relationship UCalgary has with its alumni to help nurture leaders within the student community.

Advocating for mental health

The kind of support and mentorship Cornish hopes to bring throughout the new chancellorship couldn’t come at a better time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health of many students and faculty has suffered.

“Across the board, not just in the student populations, but in all populations, there has been a marked decline in people’s happiness,” says Cornish. “We have to take a position that I know our president, Ed McCauley, has prioritized to make sure that our students are well taken care of.” 

Cornish will be officially installed as chancellor during the fall convocation ceremony at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 10.

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