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Charlotte Yates - from Virden to academic leader

A Virden daughter takes her place of leadership in the academic world at University of Guelph

Dr. Charlotte Yates has been installed as the Ninth President and Vice-Chancellor of University of Guelph. This ceremony to install the first female president was held on March 26.

From Virden, family and friends of Charlotte Yates watched the ceremony online.

“It is an honour to lead a university that is helping build a better future for Canada and the world,” said Dr. Yates.

In her acceptance speech she said, “Under my leadership we will be recognized nationally and globally for our unique commitment to mobilize knowledge into action….” These are apt words for the president of  U of G, whose stated aim is to ‘Improve Life’.

Yates’ biography tells that she was “born and raised in a large family in a small town on the Prairies” and of course, that was Virden. The Yates name is well known and respected as Dr. Denis Yates served as a Virden medical doctor for decades. He and his wife Patricia raised seven daughters in all, including Jocelyn (Yates) Hagan, with Charlotte being the youngest. Their mother, Patricia, was known for her love and leadership of theatrical arts.

Glen McKinnon was vice-principal when Charlotte graduated from Virden Collegiate. He recalls her strength as a student. “She was taking math, all the sciences, the toughest courses that VCI had. I would say she excelled.” He has also followed her in the news as a nationally recognized expert on labour relations in the automotive sector.

Dianne Liefso, one of Yates’ Virden friends journeyed through school with her. “She was a very well-rounded student. Not just academically. She studied piano for years throughout school and was involved in high school sports,” says Liefso. “Once she had started university, we always teased her about being a forever student.”

And, it’s thanks to another former Virdenite and friend, Janette McDonald, for drawing attention to Dr. Yates’ recent appointment.

Yates returns to Virden periodically to see family and it is rumoured she will be ‘home’ for the Class of ’73 reunion.

Dr. Yates received her undergraduate degree from the University of Winnipeg before moving to Ontario where she completed her MA at Queen’s University and her PhD from Carleton University.

Dr. Yates began at the University of Guelph in 2015 when she was recruited to serve as the University’s Provost and Vice President, Academic. Prior to this Yates served from 2008 to 2015 as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University where she was also a faculty member in Labour Studies and Political Science.

In August 2020, Yates was appointed president at U of G on an interim basis following the conclusion of former president Franco Vaccarino’s term.

“Dr. Yates has a unique skill set, having led efforts in academics, research, and equity, diversity and inclusion throughout her career,” Shauneen Bruder, chair of the Board of Governors said.

Numerous people from academia, politics, business and all walks of life spoke words of encouragement through a virtual link at Dr. Charlotte Yates installation ceremony. View the induction ceremony here.

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