When Ian Orchard assumed UTM’s acting vice-president and principal position in September 2019, there was no way of knowing that he would be required to steer the Mississauga campus through such a challenging 10 months.
“It has been really good to have him here,” says Professor Amrita Daniere, UTM’s vice-principal, academic and dean. “It has been such a tumultuous year between (Principal) Ulli Krull taking leave for medical reasons, losing a student in the plane crash in Iran and COVID-19, but for Ian, it’s like he has seen it all. He’s calm and nothing fazes him.”
Orchard, a distinguished university professor and expert in insect neurobiology who retired from UTM in 2010 after eight years as vice-president and principal, stepped into the acting role last fall when Krull took a short-term medical leave.
“He never missed a beat,” says Daniere. “We are so lucky he was willing to do this.”
Professor Cheryl Regehr, U of T’s vice-president and provost, agrees. U of T, she notes, is very fortunate that Orchard’s passion for the university led to his decision to accept the acting role. “He has continued to serve UTM and the broader university community with consummate skill, humour and dedication, and his sound judgment during this uncertain year was a beacon for the campus.”
Undoubtedly, Orchard’s familiarity with the campus and its ongoing growth was a blessing. As principal from 2002-2010, he was instrumental in overseeing U of T Mississauga’s shift from governance by the Faculty of Arts & Science to a division in its own right with a dean, departments and department chairs. During his tenure, enrolment doubled and buildings valued at a total of $250 million were constructed.
“Back in 2002, we made historic, massive changes in seceding from the Faculty of Arts & Science and establishing our own departments,” Orchard says. “When I came back, I could see the professionalism and maturity across the campus, which proves it was the right thing to do.”
Orchard is matter-of-fact about his contribution to UTM during the past 10 months, even though his return meant juggling two jobs: he was already in the midst of a two-year contract as the senior director, academic, for the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance. His secondment to UTM meant devoting only 40 per cent of his time to the Quality Council.
“I was happy to step in and help UTM,” he says. “If you have a good team around you, it’s all possible. It certainly was not a routine return, but it was fascinating nevertheless.”
Professor Meric Gertler, president of U of T, notes that Orchard in turn has been a valued team member. “It has been terrific to have Professor Orchard around the senior leadership table for the wider University of Toronto. His wisdom and experience have been extremely valuable to the entire university as well as to UTM. On behalf of the U of T community, I’d like to thank him for this latest chapter in his exemplary record of service.”
As Orchard returns to the Quality Council to finish out his contract, he doesn’t view his departure from UTM as a goodbye.
“My research lab is still here and I enjoy the people, so I’ll still keep in contact,” he says. “UTM will always be a home for me.”