President lauded for vision

(Edmonton) U of A President Indira Samarasekera has won a major leadership award from an organization representing post-secondary institutions across North America. She is the 2012 recipient of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VIII Leadership Award.

The CASE District VIII board, which represents public and private post-secondary education institutions across Western Canada and the northwestern United States, presents the award annually. The award recognizes a president, chancellor or other leader of a district member institution for outstanding efforts to promote understanding and support of higher education.

Samarasekera wins the award for her visionary leadership in launching reforms that are repositioning the University of Alberta for growth and sustainability. She benchmarked the university against global peers and she inspired faculty, students and staff to aim for a place among the Top 20 public universities by 2020, a challenge the university community has embraced with enthusiasm.

The recognition program “celebrates exemplary achievement in the field of advancement by member institutions,” said Cheryl Nations, chairwoman of the CASE VIII Board of Directors.

“On behalf of the board, I’d like to congratulate Dr. Samarasekera for her outstanding leadership. She’s a model to what our program stands for,” Nations said. “Her accomplishments exemplify standards by which we compare our work, and educate and inspire us to greater success.”

“President Samarasekera’s vision for the University of Alberta has taken this institution to new heights of achievement,” said Gordon Clanachan, acting chair of the U of A Board of Governors. “Her energy and leadership continue to power our success as one of the world’s top universities.”

Nominator O’Neil Outar, chief advancement officer for the U of A, praised Samarasekera for her “ability to build consensus with a deft touch,” aligning the university’s 18 faculties and schools. Letters of support from then-premier of Alberta Ed Stelmach, mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mandel, president of Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Suzanne Fortier and other distinguished supporters also recognized her as a leading Canadian voice for innovation and mission-driven science as she successfully advocates for government investment during uncertain economic times.

The board of governors appointed Samarasekera president of the U of A in 2005. Since then, she has spearheaded the Dare to Discover strategic plan and the Dare to Deliver academic plan, which have served as blueprints for the university’s next phase of growth.

Under her dynamic leadership, the university strives to fulfill its promise of “uplifting the whole people,” drawn from the words of its founding president, who noted that knowledge would be used for the benefit of all people, not just scholars. During her tenure, the U of A has established funds, institutes and programs that are evidence of her capacity to inspire human and capital investment in teaching, learning and research.

Samarasekera receives her award at the 2012 CASE District VIII Conference in Seattle, Wash., in February 2012.