University of Waterloo will soon

be looking for a new president

WATERLOO, Ont. -- President James Downey has indicated he will not be seeking to continue at the University of Waterloo when his current term ends in June 1999.

In a letter to University Chancellor Valentine O'Donovan, released today, Downey explains his reasons for not seeking a second term are largely personal.

"The past five years of retrenchment and the difficult decisions that have flowed therefrom have taken their toll on my energies," Downey said. "And while the fiscal forecast is better for the next five years, there are still many streams to ford and rapids to shoot, and I feel it would be better for Waterloo if it had a president with fresh energies to steer it."

In commenting on the letter, the chancellor said: "Dr. Downey's decision not to seek a second term as president is firm and must be respected, but it will come as a considerable disappointment to many people in the university, as well as to leaders in higher education both nationally and internationally, who were hoping he would continue to provide leadership.

"He has led Waterloo with a steady hand through the worst financial period of its history, and has helped to position our university to take advantage of the better times that we believe lie ahead. I have expressed to Dr. Downey my own appreciation for the admirable work he has done and continues to do," O'Donovan said.

Paul Mitchell, chair of UW's Board of Governors, said: "Those of us who have worked most closely with Dr. Downey know he has been an ardent and articulate advocate of UW and her sister institutions during these difficult times. I have the greatest regard for the contributions Dr. Downey has made not only to Waterloo but to higher education in the province."

Downey was appointed president of UW in April 1993 and has presided over the university during the period of the most severe fiscal retrenchment in the institution's 40-year history. Despite that, Waterloo has avoided divisive labor disputes, and has continued to attract outstanding students, faculty and staff.

In the past year, after a major early-retirement plan in 1996, 70 new professors have been appointed -- a critical component in the renewal that is occurring across the university.

And, for the past six years in succession, UW has been ranked in the Maclean's reputational survey as the best overall university in Canada.

Downey said: "It is for others to assess what has been achieved here during the past five years, but I am satisfied that, despite financial adversity, we have kept the university faithful to its acknowledged spirit of adventure and achievement. This is a remarkable institution. It has a rendezvous with greatness, and I am pleased and honored to be part of its cause and company."

A Presidential Nominating Committee has already been established and will be consulting with the university community and others before it begins its search for a new president later this year.


From Jim Fox, UW News Bureau, (519) 888-4444

UW experts/releases:

Release no. 25 -- February 11, 1998