Alumni celebrate Queen’s Law – past, present and future!

Celebrate Queen’s Law is an annual high-water mark in the Queen’s Law social calendar, but there was even more than usual to look forward to at this year’s gala event in downtown Toronto. Alumni from across the country not only convened with classmates and connected with friends, but learned about exciting Indigenous and international initiatives, cheered on an outstanding young grad, paid tribute to the school’s longest-serving Dean, and welcomed his successor.

“Attending Toronto events gives me the opportunity to network with fellow alumni of all ages and backgrounds,” said Elisabeth van Rensburg, now a lawyer with TD Insurance. “As a Law’14 grad, it’s encouraging to see how many older alumni still support our alma mater and it makes me proud to also be a Queen’s Law grad. It is also very special to be able to attend Queen’s Law alumni events with my mother, Justice Katherine van Rensburg, Law’81, and these receptions are something that we both look forward to.”

Dean Bill Flanagan announced a new $250,000 gift to Queen’s by David Sharpe, Law’95, CEO of Bridging Finance Inc., Queen’s Law Dean’s Council Vice-Chair and a Queen’s Trustee, who was among the 150 attendees. Flanagan said, “David has been a wonderful partner for the law school and university – and for me personally – as we strive to respond to the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Report.”

Sharpe’s latest significant gift has established the Chief R. Donald Maracle Reconciliation/Indigenous Knowledge Fund to support a three-year project at Queen’s that will be led by Professor Mark Dockstator, a highly respected Indigenous scholar and leader. The funds, Flanagan said, will be used “to increase awareness, understanding and appreciation of Indigenous Knowledge, exploring ways to integrate Indigenous concepts of knowledge, wisdom and ways of knowing and understanding into the academic environment of Queen’s.”

Joy Wakefield, Law’12, received the 2019 Dan Soberman Outstanding Young Alumni Award for her work in increasing access to law in northern Ontario. She’s a staff lawyer for Legal Aid Ontario in Thunder Bay and is seconded part-time to Nokiiwin Tribal Council, working with communities on the north shore of Lake Superior. “We have lots of challenges that are unique to smaller communities,” she said, “and I am proud to bring awareness to the successes and what we are pioneering there.”

Event host Sheila Murray, Law’82 (Com’79), President and General Counsel of CI Financial, addressed the crowd in her company’s lounge in Maple Leaf Square. As Chair of the Dean’s Council, she spoke of the leadership and legacy of Dean Flanagan, whose third and final term comes to a close on June 30. “Bill’s been out there selling this university and raising our profile internationally,” she said. “I know Queen’s is one of the top law schools in the country and he made sure our graduates are extraordinarily well regarded.”

To mark his 14-year tenure, she told how a campaign was launched to endow the new Dean Bill Flanagan International Studies Award. “We started with ambitious target of $500,000,” she said. “We surpassed it and we are still raising money!” The awards will be available to students selected to attend one of the International Law Programs at the Bader International Study Centre (the “Castle”) and to those participating in an international internship.

Liz Guilbault, Law’19, spoke about the dean from a recent student perspective. “It was always clear that Bill’s top priority has been the student experience,” she said. “He prioritizes the inclusion of every student above all else.”

Murray presented Flanagan with a commemorative book containing reflections of his colleagues, staff, students and alumni.

“Palpable at the celebration was the recognition by all in attendance that this chapter has been a truly remarkable one for the law school,” said guest Henry Dinsdale, Law’87 (Artsci’84), a partner with Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. “The heartfelt gratitude for Bill’s many accomplishments and the growth of the school under his stewardship was on full display. Cha Gheill!”

Dean Flanagan introduced the school’s incoming Dean, Mark Walters, Law’89. “I am thrilled to be handing the reins over to Mark, a highly talented scholar and teacher who cares deeply about the school.”
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be the next dean of this law school,” Walters told the crowd. “It’s such an honour and such a privilege.”

He spoke of how he knew all of his predecessors, starting with Bill Lederman, who was one of his first-year teachers in 1986. “Each of the deans has left an important mark on the law school … The school has a really meaningful role to play as an institution in Canadian public life,” Walters continued. “Bill, you’ve left us with brilliant scholars and teachers to be able to make
that contribution. I am so excited to be returning to the best law school in Canada!”

By Lisa Graham

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