Chancellor Murray Farmer: a legacy of leadership

- Joanne McGachie

If UVic Chancellor Murray Farmer has a recurring dream, it must surely include the words “Admitto Te,” or “I admit you.” After all, he has spoken those words more than 17,000 times in the past six years, presiding over 79 convocation ceremonies. Each time, the words were accompanied by a warm smile and a gentle tap on the head of the student with his cap, as he congratulated them on his or her accomplishments.

Farmer’s term as Chancellor wraps up on Dec. 31, after six memorable years as the titular head of the university. His connection with UVic, however, goes back much further—back, in fact, to the earliest days of the university.

Farmer arrived on campus in 1963—the university’s inaugural year—and graduated in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Throughout his long career in the construction, development and hospitality sectors, he has been tireless in his support of the university, and in 2007 was the recipient of the UVic Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement.  

He was appointed to the UVic Board of Governors in 2002, serving as its chair from 2007 until his term ended in 2008. Elected to the position of chancellor, his three-year term commenced Jan. 1, 2009, and he was subsequently re-appointed for a second term. By the time he formally steps down at the end of the year, he will have served an amazing 150 months on UVic’s board of governors, making him one of the longest-serving elected or appointed members.

During his 12 years on UVic’s board, Farmer oversaw a pivotal time of growth and development on campus.  Sixteen new buildings were constructed, including residences that guaranteed all first year students a place to live. New programs were developed at both the graduate and undergraduate level, and student enrolment grew as the university became a destination for students from all over the world. UVic’s reputation grew exponentially, and is now ranked among the best in Canada and in the top 200 in the world.

And, as Farmer is the first to acknowledge, his dedication to UVic has been closely matched by his wife, Lynda (herself a former Camosun College board member and chair). Through their long-standing philanthropic efforts, the Farmers have provided UVic with generous and transformative support for student scholarships, the new athletics facility being built on campus and many other endeavours.

UVic president and vice-chancellor Jamie Cassels paid heartfelt tribute to both the Farmers at a dinner at the Empress Hotel on Nov. 24.  “As representatives and ambassadors of our university, Murray and Lynda have been tireless and extraordinary,” he said.  “They have attended, officiated and spoken at countless events—always with grace and enthusiasm.

“As individuals who support our educational institutions and connect them to their communities, it’s hard to think of anyone who could have done more than Murray and Lynda Farmer. Through their leadership and support at both Camosun College and UVic, they’ve recognized the value, and personified the wisdom, of supporting a diverse group of post-secondary institutions.”

In addition to their support to the educational environment, the Farmers have provided volunteer leadership to many local organizations, including the Victoria Foundation, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre Campaign, the Royal B.C. Museum, the B.C. Government House Foundation, the United Way of Greater Victoria, and the Royal Jubilee Hospital Foundation. Over the years, both Murray and Lynda have received many awards and accolades for their tireless efforts to make a difference in their community. 

On Dec. 31, Farmer will hang up his chancellor cap for the last time, to be succeeded in the New Year by CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers. When asked about his future plans once he leaves what he calls “the best volunteer job in the country,” Farmer simply says that he will enjoy his horses, and he’ll stay involved in the community. That includes continuing his volunteer efforts by co-chairing, with Lynda, the campaign for the Camosun Foundation’s TRADEmark of Excellence, raising funds to support the college’s new Trades Education and Innovation Complex. 

Murray and Lynda, thank you for everything you have done and continue to do.


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Keywords: legacy, leadership

People: Murray Farmer, Lynda Farmer

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