One of the veterans on Carleton’s Board of Governors, Dan Fortin first joined the corporation in 2015, and the board as an Alumni Association Representative in 2016. Now a community-at-large member, Dan has been an integral part of Carleton’s governance, and will become Chair of the Board commencing July 1, 2020.
As a Carleton alumnus, Dan first stepped foot on campus in 1978 as a 16 year old to undertake a Bachelor of Civil Engineering Degree. During his final two years as a student, he served as a residence fellow, and chaired the search committee in his final year. Through the years, he grew to appreciate the strong sense of community and social bonds that Carleton has to offer.
“I lived in residence for four out of the five years on campus, and I remember so well the sense of togetherness we experienced,” explained Dan. “Also as an engineering student I spent much of my time in class, labs, and working through problems with my classmates and creating important bonds. I was fortunate to experience the strength of both of those communities, and continue to enjoy lifelong friendships from that time”.
In 2008, Dan returned to campus when the former President of Carleton, Roseann O’Reilly Runte, asked him to consider co-chairing the capital campaign. Working on this multi-year initiative reminded Dan why he loved Carleton in the first place.
“Being back on campus was like a renewal for me, reminding me of my days here,” said Dan. “Becoming a member of the board felt like a natural progression, from my early student days to now being able to give something back”.
Dan brings a broad range of experience to Carleton’s board, having held numerous leadership positions both nationally and internationally. He retired as President of IBM Canada Ltd in 2014, and has remained active serving on a number of boards. Dan believes that the many lessons he has learned over the course of his 40+ year career helps him serve in the higher education sector.
“All of my roles and experiences at IBM through the years, including running the Canadian company, gave me a great deal of insight into large organizations and the mechanics of how all the pieces fit and can work well together,” explained Dan. “A university is different than a corporation, but it also has a lot of the same issues from a scale and complexity perspective – an area of expertise I can bring to the board.”
In 2018, Dan was elected Vice-Chair of the Board, and has served in this role since. In this position, he has been an ex officio member of all the standing committees, and has chaired the Advancement and University Relations Committee for the last two years. Now looking forward to his next chapter as a Carleton governor, Dan says becoming Chair is an exciting challenge.
“Chairing the Board is a real honour. Carleton is a fantastic university, and it is even more special because it is my alma mater,” said Dan. The board is a unique collaboration of many different skills and perspectives…and our board representation brings a real fulsomeness to it all’.
In this new role, Dan believes the biggest challenge will be bringing forward and integrating the thoughtful and diverse perspectives of each Governor.
“Our responsibility as board members is to act in best interest of the university. Just because I am an alumni does not mean I am solely an advocate for alumni – I am an advocate for Carleton,” stated Dan. As individuals, we bring a perspective that is unique. That diversity is so important. When I think of the role of chair, the challenge is to allow all of those voices to add to the richness of who we are as a Board of Governors, but also that each of us not lose sight that our primary responsibility is to the wellbeing of the university as a whole”.
A Raven to his core, Dan is the only current Board of Governors member to receive an Honorary Doctorate from Carleton University, and was recognized for his distinguished career in engineering and business, for his international work for the environment and for creating policies to support shared learning in the context of a global corporation. Dan was honoured with this distinction in 2009.
“I remember so well being at convocation that day…it was an incredible honour to receive such recognition from Carleton,” said Dan. “It is the only certificate I have displayed on my office wall!”
When asked what advice he would convey to current Carleton students, Dan was quick to identify that the passion for learning and the ability to work together are key pillars to future success.
“The sense of collaboration is so important – he or she who collaborates the most moves forward the fastest,” explained Dan. “Collaboration is not just the five people in your study group, but in your work life it becomes people anywhere in the world, be it from any city on any continent. To learn and develop the ability to collaborate and continue to foster those skillsets is extremely important.”
Dan wants students to understand that graduating university is not the end of learning, but rather the start of a lifelong commitment to education. And as he has proven, you never truly leave your alma mater.
Dan and his wife Jeri, also a Carleton grad, enjoys time with their three grown children and spouses, and their now three grandsons. Dan is a long time marathon runner and avid skier.