Fairfax's Prem Watsa to serve as 9th chancellor of the University of Waterloo

    WATERLOO, ON, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - One of Canada's foremost business leaders,
Prem Watsa, will be the next chancellor of the University of Waterloo.
    India-born Watsa, chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.,
will serve as UW's next chancellor. He will assist UW in its mission to become
one of North America's premier universities, with international academic
programs and exchanges that reach around the world.
    Watsa's appointment was approved by UW senate earlier this week and he
will begin his term as chancellor, succeeding RIM founder and co-CEO Mike
Lazaridis, on May 1, 2009. The chancellor presides over all convocation
ceremonies, conferring degrees, diplomas and certificates on graduating
students. The chancellor also serves as a leading ambassador for the
    "Since its founding just over 50 years ago, the University of Waterloo
has distinguished itself as a learning institution that is quite unique among
its peers in Canada and abroad," says Watsa. "I look forward to working with
students, faculty and staff in whatever small ways I can to help the
university achieve its ambitious plans for the coming decade."
    Watsa brings to the position considerable international experience as
well as a strong belief in the value of supporting students and community. The
university's sixth decade plan, which took effect last year, calls for a focus
on the undergraduate student experience, a growing of grad studies and an
expansion of UW's international reach that will include the opening of two
campuses abroad.
    "Prem Watsa is a remarkable human being, a family man and a strong
believer in Canada with an international outlook," says UW president David
Johnston. "This outstanding and self-made leader demonstrates integrity and,
as such, reflects the qualities the university embraces and tries to encourage
amongst our students."
    Watsa was born in Hyderabad, India in 1950. He earned a bachelor's degree
in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1971. He
moved to Ontario the following year and later earned an MBA from the
University of Western Ontario.
    His professional career began at Confederation Life Insurance Co. in
Toronto and he served as vice-president of Confederation Life Investment
Counsel from 1974 to 1983. He then served a year as vice-president of start-up
firm GW Asset Management.
    Watsa co-founded Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel Ltd. (now fully owned
by Fairfax) in 1984. The next year he took control of Markel Financial
Holdings Ltd. In 1987, he re-organized Markel and renamed it Fairfax, which is
short for fair and friendly acquisitions. The name reflects the company's
guiding principles, which maintain that honesty and integrity are essential in
all relationships and will never be compromised.
    Watsa's ties to UW go back more than a decade. His nephew Mano was a
two-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport all-Canadian and a four-time Ontario
University Athletics all-star while playing basketball for Waterloo from 1994
to 1999. He was a two-time academic all-Canadian and team captain from 1996 to
1999, and won the Ken Shields TSN Award for community involvement. He later
served in coaching positions on UW's men's and women's basketball teams.
    Fairfax is currently working with UW to create a one-year professional
master's program in actuarial science at UW, for launch in fall 2009. Still
subject to approval, the program will provide actuarial training to 30
students, one-third of them from India, who have strong quantitative
undergraduate degrees. UW will also seek to partner with Indian universities
to increase local teaching and research capacity in actuarial science.
    Prem Watsa will serve as the ninth chancellor. He succeeds Lazaridis, a
UW alum who developed the technology that led to the creation of the
BlackBerry and Research In Motion.
    The University of Waterloo has long been recognized as the most
innovative university in Canada, widely known for its innovative and
entrepreneurial spirit, and non-traditional approaches. UW pioneered
co-operative education in Canada and today offers the largest post-secondary
co-operative education program in the world.
    To mark its 50th anniversary last year, the university embraced an
ambitious sixth decade strategic plan entitled Pursuing Global Excellence:
Seizing Opportunities for Canada. By 2017, UW plans to triple the size of its
graduate student body, intensify its research activity, strengthen its
commitment to helping undergraduate students learn by experience and expand
its international connections by, among other things, opening two
international campuses.

For further information:

For further information: Michael Strickland, UW media relations, (519)
888-4777; For a photo of Mr. Watsa, please contact John Morris, UW media
relations, (519) 888-4435 or jmorris@uwaterloo.ca

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