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TV host tackles ambassador role with Laurentian University

As Steve Paikin colourfully puts it, you could have knocked him over with a feather when he was asked earlier this month to become Laurentian University 's next chancellor.
Steve Paikin, host of TVO's "The Agenda with Steve Paikin", was recently appointed Laurentian University's next chancellor. Supplied photo.
As Steve Paikin colourfully puts it, you could have knocked him over with a feather when he was asked earlier this month to become Laurentian University's next chancellor.

The host of TVO's flagship current affairs program "The Agenda with Steve Paikin" said he was in Sudbury recently to film a program, and Laurentian president Dominic Giroux invited him out for a drink after the show.

The pair were joined by Floyd Laughren, who was then chair of Laurentian's board of governors, and Laurentian chief of staff Chris Mercer. The men made small talk about politics, education and their families.

As he was about to leave, Giroux asked Paikin if he'd consider becoming the university's next chancellor.

“I couldn't speak,” he said. “I couldn't get any words out. I was completely overwhelmed. I did not expect that.”

When he got his voice back, Paikin told Giroux he'd be honoured to take on the voluntary position. His installation as chancellor for a five-year renewable term takes place Oct. 26 during fall convocation ceremonies in Sudbury.

Paikin, who was presented with an honorary doctorate by Laurentian in 2012, said he has strong connections to the city.

His wife, Francesca Grosso, was born and raised in the city, and many of his in-laws still live here.

Paikin said he comes to the city five or six times a year, with Sudbury Wolves games and Science North as must-see attractions for his family.

His father-in-law, the late Dr. Roberto Grosso, was a former chair of Laurentian's board of governors about 25 years ago, and in fact used to hand out degrees at the university's convocation ceremonies.

“That's going to be my job now,” Paikin said. “I think that's a wonderful connection, that even though he's no longer with us, that I will feel for him.”

He said he's also incredibly honoured to succeed current Laurentian chancellor Aline Chretien, who is married to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

As he was presented with his honorary doctorate last year, Paikin said he watched Aline in action and said she's “the gold standard.”

“Remember, this is a woman of 76 years old,” he said.

“I watched her on her feet, hour after hour, shaking hand after hand, smiling for pictures, saying an appropriate, poignant comment to a student. Job one on that day is to make it a special experience for each and every student, and she did.

“She knew how to do it. I remember being just completely dazzled by her that day. If I'm half as good as her, I'll be twice as happy.”

Beyond handing out degrees, one of the chancellor's jobs is to act as a “bit of a cheerleader” for the university, Paikin said.

While his job as a journalist prevents him from lobbying politicians on the university's behalf, and he can't turn "The Agenda" into “the Laurentian University fun hour,” he said there are other things he can do.

He said he can spread the word through social media and his blog, as well as by attending events in southern Ontario.

“I know Laurentian's a huge success story here in Northern Ontario, but I think one of the reasons they might have picked me is living down here (in Toronto),” Paikin said.

“I just may have some access to the people and events down here to help spread Laurentian's good name.

“If I can do that by hosting events or doing events, or just trying to raise the university's profile south of the French River, I'm going to try my best to do that.”

Northern Life president and Laurentian board of governors chair Michael Atkins said in a press release Paikin is “extremely well-suited” to serve as Laurentian's chancellor.

“Mr. Paikin is an accomplished and highly-respected individual of exceptional energy, credibility, and integrity,” he said. “His professional reputation and his dedication to excellence personify our purpose at Laurentian.”

Lisa de Wilde, CEO of TVO, congratulated Paikin on his appointment.

“Steve's integrity and commitment to public service are inspiring, and through The Agenda he has helped make Ontarians smarter, more aware and more informed,” she said.

“As Laurentian's chancellor, he will make a wonderful role model for young people, motivating them by example to strive for excellence in everything they do.”


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Heidi Ulrichsen

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