President's Report 2006 | Community

Bright lights shine at affinity event

Among the 350 guests for the 2005 Ottawa Affinity Newfoundland and Labrador were: From left, Gen. Rick Hiller, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff (who will speak at the 2006 event); Dr. Axel Meisen, Memorial's president; Premier Danny Williams; and David Reddaway, British High Commissioner.

It was a celebration of Newfoundland and Labrador, in general, and Memorial University in particular under the late autumn colours of the nation's capital.

Anyone in Ottawa Nov. 7 with tickets to the fifth annual Affinity Newfoundland and Labrador event had some of the hottest tickets in town. Demand was so great that the event was relocated to the Ball Room of the famed Fairmont Chateau Laurier to accommodate the 350 guests. It may have had something to do with the featured guest speaker, who was none other than Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams.

"Memorial University helps to shape the minds that have built our province. Memorial has produced an exceptional crop of graduates and Memorial's alumni serve as ambassadors for the best place on earth. They serve as a beacon for Canada's youngest and coolest province."

That was part of Premier Danny Williams' address to guests, alumni and friends of Memorial at the Affinity event. The event attracts Ottawa's key business, technology, industry and government representatives, most with Newfoundland and Labrador connections. Funds raised are in support of a scholarship at Memorial University. Memorial's president, Dr. Axel Meisen, gave the Ottawa audience an informative update on the many innovative developments at the university.

"We have built, in Newfoundland and Labrador, a university that is among the top universities in Canada and in the top 500 universities in the world, and that is out of some 16,000 institutions," said Dr. Meisen. "At Memorial, we remain deeply committed to the development all of Newfoundland and Labrador."

The emcee duty for the evening was shared by Canada AM's Seamus O'Regan and entertainer Rick Mercer. "The only way you can lead is to innovate - and Memorial is very much an institution about innovation," said Mr. O'Regan.

Other guests included Dean MacDonald, chairman of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro; Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff; Ottawa broadcasting icon and native Newfoundlander Max Keeping of CJOH-TV; David Reddaway, British High Commissioner; Martin Burke, Irish ambassador; Alex Himmelfarb, clerk of the Privy Council; Brad Thomson, Trans Canada Corp.; senators Bill Rompkey and George Furey; MP Norm Doyle; former MP Sheila Copps; among many others.

The event is organized by a committee of Memorial alumni, chaired by Tom Bursey, who lives and works in Ottawa. The committee receives assistance from the university's Alumni Affairs and Development division. The year's sponsor was TD Bank Financial Group.

Mr. Bursey was enthusiastic about the successful evening. "It was the culmination of five good years of building an event," explained Mr. Bursey. "It's a great way for alumni to connect, reconnect and enhance relationships with other alumni and for anyone who is either from the province or who has an interest there."