that are probably more financially rewarding but they have chosen to
do this because it’s more idealistic, because it has an impact on people.
And here you are, a university president, as the general manager of that
consortium. That’s very special. I was university president for almost 27
years, and every day was one of excitement.
Q: You’ve talked in the past about how Harvard’s endowment has benefitted
the university so much. Is there any way we can encourage that in Canada?
A: The first thing I would say about my beloved Harvard is that I think its
intellectual endowment has been magnificent for the world. I went there
as an undergraduate student without a penny in my pocket, and the reason I went there was because about 20 years before, Harvard had decided
it had to broaden its undergraduate base – first of all, it had to embrace
women, Radcliffe College for women was separate – and secondly it had
to reach beyond the very wealthy sons of wealthy New England families
who’d gone to very good New England private schools, to reach out to
the public schools, not simply of America but to North America. It was its
endowment, and indeed the willingness of those New England families
that were prepared to diminish the chances of their sons to get into Harvard,
to put up the money to support people like me. For me that is the first
thing that stands out about Harvard.
Secondly, Harvard began as a Puritan college in 1635. The Puritans
arrived in 1620. Fifteen years later they said, we can’t depend on the Old
World anymore to educate our people in the ministry. We’ll start our
own. And that Calvinist spirit of looking after your own community still
exists, and that’s why Harvard’s endowment today is back up to $30 billion
or so. But what I draw from Harvard is not the wealth of its endowment
but the willingness of its community to invest in it, so it can take its learning
and its research and spread it into the world.
Q: In your challenge to Canadians to become smarter and more caring by
2017, how will you know or feel that we “got it”?
A: Measuring the path to success is so important. The first thing I’d say
is how important it is to set milestones and objectives. In 2017, Canada
will celebrate its 150th birthday. I think we should all think: What is our
birthday gift to Canada? And each of our institutions should ask itself:
What is our birthday gift to this great country that has worked so hard
in equality of opportunity and access? What can my institution do that
makes Canada a better place? …
In determining how we become smarter and more caring, I am a be-
liever in trying to measure that. At the institutional level, most institutions
develop strategic plans. The document sets out where they are intending
to go and how they’re progressing. I think that is a very good device that
should be done constantly and in rigorous fashion, resetting goals con-
stantly in respect to changing circumstances.
The other thing I would say is, as we look at the collective of institutions
across the country, we probably should work at having institutions that
are more diverse, that carve out more innovative approaches to higher
education and research. And I clearly think we should be encouraging all
institutions to think in broader terms, both in how they impact beyond
their regions and internationally, around the world. Canada should become a beacon, a place of renown, for the quality and accessibility of its
Q: Do you think it’s the public system that has led us to this point?
A: Yes, I think the public system has been a very big part of it, but I [also]
think it’s part of the unique features of Canada. We believe in peace, order
and good government. We believe in collective responsibility for our
communities. We believe in building institutions that provide opportunities
for individuals to succeed, but it doesn’t end there – those individuals
then have a responsibility to give back to those communities to make the
community bigger, if not better. And I think that has been manifested in
our education system. It’s a precious public trust and we should work
hard to keep that trusteeship and stewardship.
i John W. Gardner, 1912– 2002, was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon
Johnson, president of the Carnegie Corporation and renowned for his writings on improving leadership.
ii Fraser Mustard is a former dean of health sciences at McMaster University and a leading researcher
on socioeconomic determinants of health.