New Western university engineering building named in honour of outgoing president
Western University’s outgoing president, who once came under fire for collecting a second full salary in a single year, has been honoured with a building named on his behalf.
During Friday morning’s grand opening celebration for the new $51 million engineering building formerly known as the Three C+ building, officials revealed the facility has been named the Amit Chakma Engineering Building.
The event was attended by Ottawa’s Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan, London West MP Kate Young, and London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos.
Western’s Chancellor Jack Cowin, along with his wife Sharon, donated $5-million to the building to have it named after his colleague and long time friend.
“I’m proud that my family has chosen to make a gift or donation to the university to honour Dr. Chakma in this way, as a permanent recognition of the contribution that he has made to this institution,” Cowin said during the event.
Cowin cited numerous accomplishments Chakma has made during his tenure, including increasing international enrollment five-fold, tripling the university’s endowment, and boosting first year enrollment.
The building’s name came as a welcome surprise to Chakma, who is stepping down as president after his contract expires next year.
“I have no regrets because I know that I have done my best,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I got everything done, but I’ve done my best and I have no regrets about that. It’s more of a celebration, about handing over the torch whenever that time comes.”
Chakma holds a faculty appointment in Western’s department of chemical and biochemical engineering, but wouldn’t say for sure if he’ll be sticking around.
“The former engineering Dean [and Western’s current Provost and Vice-President (Academic)] Andy Hrymak offered me an office in this building, so I said, ‘Andy, let me sort out what I want to do before I take up an office,’ but at the end of the event, I said, ‘Andy, I want my office now,'” Chakma quipped.
Chakma came under fire in 2015 after the Sunshine List revealed his salary ballooned to $967,000 in salary and taxable benefits in 2014 as a result of working through a scheduled sabbatical.
He later apologized and announced he would voluntarily return $440,000 – the portion that came in lieu of him not taking an administrative leave. Chakma also said he would not be exercising his right to another cash payout at the end of his second term.
He survived a non-confidence motion against him in February 2016.
Officials say the engineering building addresses the need for additional space, as enrollment in engineering as grown from 1,500 students in 2009 to 2,700 students across both undergraduate and graduate programs today.
It took two years to build, and was funded through an institutional investment by Western. It was also supported by donors and the federal and provincial governments.
While the building involved input from students, faculty and staff, officials say the design brings to life a vision set by Hrymak.
“I think the most exciting thing about the building is how it enables the students to get together, to connect, to start to collaborate so all the collaboration spaces, and then all of the creation spaces, the labs, the design spaces, the prototyping lab,” he said.
The university is working to have the building certified with Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status. If the university is successful, it would be only the third academic building in Canada to achieve the status. The building is environmentally sustainable and including features such as a rainwater collection/harvesting system, electric vehicle charging ports, and a renewable solar energy system.
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