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REF NO.: 94

SUBJECT: Ottawa leaders gather to celebrate university and the province

DATE: Nov. 8

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.

The event attracts Ottawa's key business, technology, industry and government representatives, most with Newfoundlandand Labradorconnections. Funds raised are in support of scholarships at Memorial University.

As guests feasted on a menu that included such delicacies as Exploits Valley salmon and Change Island cheesecake, they heard Premier Williams speak about the university and on Newfoundland and Labrador's pride, potential and future.

“Memorial University helps to shape the minds that have built our province,” said the premier. “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.”

Premier Williams discussed the Atlantic Accord dispute, describing its resolution as “the end of handouts as we received something to which we were entitled.” He suggested that Newfoundland and Labrador would, in future, be recognized as an energy storehouse through redirection of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. “Energy is the future, and we will be part of it,” he said.

Memorial's president, Dr. Axel Meisen, addressed the guests, bringing 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 CanadaAM'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 said that thanks to the phenomenal turnout the committee will be able to fulfill one of the underlying goals for the event - to endow a scholarship fund at Memorial.

Planning for next year's event is already underway and it was announced that the keynote speaker will be Gen. Rick Hillier.

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For further information, please contact Ivan Muzychka, manager, Communications, Memorial University, (709) 737-8665, (709) 687-9433 or


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