Former University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee has received the David C. Smith Award from the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) for his contributions to higher education.

Summerlee received the award in Toronto Thursday evening.

He was honoured for his commitment to developing innovative policy in teaching and research, and for his humanitarian efforts around the world.

Calling Summerlee an innovative teacher and an internationally acclaimed scientist, Patrick Deane, COU chair and president of McMaster University, said, “His extraordinary work is a great example of how educating students for success can expand the boundaries of knowledge through research and also contribute to our local and global communities economically, culturally and socially.”

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COU president and CEO Bonnie Patterson added: “Alastair has played an important role in shaping provincial policy and in fostering ground-breaking approaches to teaching, research and community engagement.”

Named for the late David Smith, formerly principal of Queen’s University, this annual award recognizes an individual who has significantly advanced higher education and research.

Previous recipients include Dalton McGuinty, former premier of Ontario; Jean Chrétien, former prime minister of Canada; Martha Piper, former president of the University of British Columbia; and Don Drummond, former chief economist with TD Bank.

As chair of World University Service of Canada, Summerlee championed programs to bring students from war-torn, poverty-stricken countries to study in Canada.

He led the Shine a Light project to improve education for girls and women in refugee camps in Kenya, and headed U of G’s Bracelet of Hope fundraising campaign for a new AIDS clinic in Lesotho.

As U of G’s longest-serving president, Summerlee emphasized civic engagement and voluntarism. During his tenure, Guelph was the first university to partner with the Leave for Change program, which sees staff and faculty spend their vacation time volunteering for projects in developing countries.

After joining U of G in 1988, Summerlee served as associate dean of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and as U of G’s dean of graduate studies. He was associate vice-president (academic) and provost and vice-president (academic) before being named as U of G’s seventh president in 2003.

A 3M Teaching Fellow, he teaches undergraduate students and supervises graduate students in OVC’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Summerlee is executive director of Fund the Food, which addresses hunger and poverty at home and abroad as well as work in refugee camps. He chairs the board of directors of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and the advisory board of Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute.

A copy of his address given during the awards reception will be posted on the COU website.