Update: Hamilton’s Mohawk College president, touted for ‘transformational changes,’ to step down next summer

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Published September 8, 2023 at 10:31 am

Mohawk College president Ron McKerlie, left, says it was a privilege to congratulate thousands of students every year as they crossed the convocation stage to accept their diplomas. COURTESY OF MOHAWK COLLEGE
Mohawk College president Ron McKerlie, left, says it was a privilege to congratulate thousands of students every year as they crossed the convocation stage to accept their diplomas. COURTESY OF MOHAWK COLLEGE

Mohawk College’s president and chief executive, who was praised for increasing fundraising, innovation, diversity and educational initiatives including access to free courses, is leaving his position when his five-year contract ends next summer.

Ron McKerlie announced the decision to not renew his contract and thus end his leadership of the Hamilton college on July 31, 2024.

When asked about the reason behind the decision, Bill Steinburg, senior media relations and communications adviser, said it was a good time for a transition since McKerlie had turned 65 recently and his term was almost over. 

“The college has accomplished a great deal during his time as president at Mohawk and is in a strong position – it is growing, with a great culture, good financial health, and an excellent leadership team,” Steinburg told inthehammer.com today (Aug. 8) in an email. “As the contract is nearing its end, this is a natural time for a transition to take place.”

Under McKerlie’s influence, Mohawk College increased its commitments to sustainability, equity, diversity and inclusion, truth and reconciliation and internationalization, according to the college in its press release Thursday (Sept. 7).

McKerlie began his term as Mohawk College’s eighth president on Aug. 5, 2014. He also serves as president of Mohawk College Foundation. He led the college through major projects and guided the college’s foundation through a decade of growth and expansion, according to the college’s press release.

Anna Filice, chair of the Mohawk College board of governors, expressed her gratitude for his leadership and guidance. 

“By his example, he has inspired others to pursue innovation and excellence in their service to students, colleagues, and the community,” Filice said in a statement. “Under his direction, Mohawk College has secured its place as a respected leader in Canada’s post-secondary sector.”

The college listed McKerlie’s numerous accomplishments, including leading it through “transformational changes.” Under his tenure, the Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation opened. The centre is Canada’s first building to receive the Zero Carbon Building Certification for Design and Performance. The Hoop Dance and other spaces were created to nurture Indigenous awareness and learning. The Centre for Aviation Technology campus was constructed at Hamilton International Airport. The college’s Mississauga campus opened in partnership with triOS College. Most recently, the Centre for Integrative and Advanced Medical Imaging opened in partnership with McMaster University.

COURTESY OF MOHAWK COLLEGE

COURTESY OF MOHAWK COLLEGE

Mohawk president guided college to create key employment support and training partnerships

McKerlie guided the college to expand its leadership on both the regional and national levels. The college increased locations for its City School, which offers free post-secondary and employment courses for those over 19 with little to no post-secondary education. Key employment support and partnerships were created through the Future Ready Premium Partnership program allowing the college to team up with 16 top employers in the Hamilton region to train “job-ready” college graduates. Nationally, the college launched Challenge 2025, growing City School programs to help people get access to educational and job courses across the country. Through the Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery, with the national secretariat at Mohawk College, a pan-Canadian network was developed to support rapid skills training for the green economy in every region of the nation.

‘There is still much more to be done before my tenure ends next year’

“On behalf of the board of directors of the Mohawk College Foundation, I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to Ron McKerlie for his exceptional leadership, which has greatly expanded the scope of the foundation’s activities over the past nine years and has significantly elevated our fundraising outcomes,” said Bob Savage, chair of the board of directors for Mohawk College Foundation, in a statement. 

Fundraising initiatives  “greatly increased”  under his leadership of the foundation, according to the college. One of the largest donations in Mohawk’s history was received to support the construction of The Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation. Other major gifts supported the Marshall School of Skilled Trades, City School and Challenge 2025 initiatives, and a multi-year skilled trades training program. Community fundraising campaigns, such as the annual Holiday Gift Catalogue, were introduced to help establish hundreds more scholarships and bursaries for Mohawk College students. The foundation also increased its emergency support funding for students in need.

“It has been a privilege to congratulate thousands of students every year, both local and from around the world, as they cross the convocation stage and step into bright, promising careers,” said McKerlie in a statement. “I have been honoured to work with an exceptional group of people who dedicate themselves tirelessly to the support and success of the students who entrust their hopes and dreams to Mohawk College. Together, we have accomplished some truly incredible milestones and established Mohawk College as one of the premier colleges in Canada. And, there is still much more to be done before my tenure ends next year.”

The Mohawk College Board of Governors will begin the search to select McKerlie’s replacement this fall. McKerlie will continue to serve as president of the college and the foundation. If his successor is named before July 31, 2024, he will continue to help with achieving “an orderly transition” in an advisory role, according to the college.

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