Ontario’s highest-paid college president announced his retirement date on Thursday, bringing an end to a career that spanned over 34 years.
Humber College President Chris Whitaker, the college’s fourth president since it opened in 1967, will bring an end to his career at the completion of his second term in June 2022, said a message sent Thursday from the Board of Governors to college faculty.
During Whitaker’s tenure, Humber launched its first major fundraising campaign, implemented its first institutional and digital campus plans, reorganized departments into faculties and grew enrolment to 38,000 full-time students.
Board of Governors Chair Ana Fernandes hailed Whitaker as a “true champion of polytechnic education.”
“[Whitaker] has made an indelible mark on Humber through his leadership, strategic vision, and prioritization of people and partnerships,” she said.
Not everyone is satisfied with the impact of Whitaker’s legacy.
Professor Milos Vasic, acting president of the local faculty union, told Et Cetera the college has become a more corporatized working environment during Whitaker’s tenure.
“Humber became a much more business kind of place, which is more bureaucratic, a lot more intense, a lot more centralized,” said Vasic, with OPSEU Local 562.
The sociology professor worked at Humber from 2002 to 2004 before returning in 2013, the year after Whitaker’s term started.
During his first stint at the college before Whitaker was president, Vasic said he experienced an environment of independence that allowed for local control of each department and, therefore, more input from individual professors.
Vasic emphasized he doesn’t necessarily hold Whitaker personally responsible for the changes as the colleges “get a lot of marching orders from above,” referencing Colleges Ontario.
“There’s been a lot of good stuff that’s happened at Humber over his tenure, lots of new buildings, lots of enrolment,” Vasic said. “But, at the same time, the institutional flavour of the place [has] changed quite a bit.”
Humber’s public relations office said Whitaker was unavailable for comment until next week.
The search for Whitaker’s replacement is already underway. Fernandes, who also serves as the search committee chair, said the college will be working with a consulting firm to find the next president.