Community bids farewell to Deep Saini

Deep and Rani Saini
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - 11:10am
Nicolle Wahl

There were speeches, gifts and a few tears Monday evening as U of T gathered to bid farewell to Vice-President and Principal Deep Saini, who is leaving UTM to become the vice-chancellor of Australia’s University of Canberra.

Guests representing the university community, government and business—including former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion and former Ontario premier William Davis—filled the rotunda of the Innovation Complex to recognize Saini for his service to UTM, to U of T and the region. The event, hosted by U of T President Meric Gertler and Provost Cheryl Regehr, gave many colleagues and friends a chance to thank Saini and his wife, Rani, before they depart.

“Professor Saini has been a pillar of the University of Toronto as a tri-campus system,” said Gertler. “To speak personally, his wisdom and insight as a member of U of T’s senior administrative team have been deeply appreciated—and will be missed.”

Harinder Takhar, MPP (Mississauga-Erindale) brought greetings from Premier Kathleen Wynne, and along with Amrit Mangat, MPP (Mississauga-Brampton South), they presented a certificate to Saini. “In six short years, he has become a friend and an outstanding member of the Mississauga community,” said Takhar. “We are forever grateful to you.”

Bonnie Crombie and Deep SainiMississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie brought greetings from the city, praising Saini as a friend, colleague and city builder, and citing the importance of the city’s $10 million investment in the Innovation Complex. “How fitting is it that we’re hosting this tribute right here, in the house that Deep built!”

Regehr spoke of Saini’s passion for the UTM campus, and noted how he had ensured that it is a warm and welcoming home for international students.

Professor Michael Lettieri, speaking on behalf of faculty and staff, presented Saini with a pair of monogrammed cufflinks, and praised him for his work with the campus and the local community. “Deep’s increased focus on community building meant he spent considerable time liaising with external members from all walks of life: government, non-profit organizations, business groups, philanthropists and, of course, our alumni.”

His work on behalf of alumni also garnered praise from Carol Bisnath, president of the UTM Alumni Association. “Deep has always understood the value of building strong connections with alumni, and has attended many alumni events on campus and within the community,” said Bisnath. “He’s been an enthusiastic speaker at regional alumni events across Canada. In fact, Deep’s focus on reaching out to our global alumni is unprecedented by a UTM vice-president and principal, and he has really set the standard for his successor.”

Saini was bear-hugged by Wali Shah, a fourth-year sociology student who said he felt thankful and privileged that his time at UTM coincided with Saini’s tenure as principal. “[Students] see him in the gym at, like, 5 a.m.,” said Shah. “I have trouble getting up for my 9 a.m. class!”

Michael Lettieri, Deep Saini and Michael WilsonWhen Saini took the podium, he was clearly touched by the outpouring of appreciation. “The six years here at UTM have been among the best years of my life,” he said. “I am so grateful…thank you for your support, camaraderie and outstanding affection for Rani and I. Boundless affection!”

Gertler also presented Saini with an engraved watch from the University of Toronto, then turned the podium over to Chancellor Michael Wilson to conclude the event. “You have been a champion of UTM and of U of T, brilliantly combining your strong, independent and thoughtful leadership as principal with your collaborative, institution-wide vision as vice-president,” said Wilson. “On behalf of the entire U of T community, I congratulate you on your record, and thank you for your service.”