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Dear Pearson Community,

As many of you know by now, our President and Head of College, Désirée McGraw, has informed me that she and her family will be returning to Montréal at the end of her five-year term. On behalf of the Board, I want to express my gratitude to Désirée for the passion, dedication and transformational leadership she has provided to the Pearson community and will continue to provide in her fifth year. I also want to thank her family, Chris, Jack and Michael, for their commitment to Pearson and the significant contributions they have made to campus life over these years.

When Désirée was first appointed in 2015, she was not only the first woman to serve as Head of College, but she became Pearson’s first President. Her mandate has been an ambitious one: to renew and re-found Pearson College for the next 50 years of educational leadership, scholarship and service. In addition to her considerable on-campus responsibilities, Désirée’s external role as College President has meant significant time off campus “raising funds, friends and profile” in re-establishing Pearson as Canada’s School for the World.

Toward the end of Désirée’s mandate, we will celebrate her achievements on behalf of Pearson, but now is an opportune time to highlight a few:

  • The College has reinvested in its educational mandate through increased spending on curriculum and teaching as well as student financial assistance, health and wellness. Most importantly, Désirée spearheaded the College’s return to a full student body in 2018.
  • We are upgrading and updating our coastal campus – including renovating three student residences in three years – as we aim to become Canada’s greenest campus by our 50th anniversary in 2024.
  • On behalf of the College, Désirée signed an historic community Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Beecher Bay on whose territory the College sits.
  • Working closely with alumni, the College issued a statement of apology addressing historic misconduct.
  • We are securing the College’s financial future by growing and diversifying revenue streams, including a declining draw on our endowment to a sustainable 4% this fiscal year (down from 8% when Désirée first arrived in 2015). We are also seeing a greater return on our investment in Advancement – for every dollar spent, we are raising four to five. Since July 2016, we have raised over $15M of our $40M campaign goal; and we are projected to exceed the campaign’s halfway mark ($20M) this fiscal year.

To build on this momentum, it is important for me to underscore for the Pearson community that there is much work still to be done in Désirée’s fifth year and that she has the full support of the Board in moving that work forward.

The Board expects that the work on curriculum reform will progress with focus and imagination. As you are aware, Pearson is a key supporter of the desire of the UWC, in conjunction with the IB, to develop a new diploma program. As Chair of Pearson, I am aware of, and share, the desire within the UWC movement to re-think not only the substance of our curricular offerings, but the methods by which they are delivered to, and experienced by, our students. This work, led by Désirée and Heather, will be completed  this academic year and will be launched in 2020. The UWC is moving forward on curriculum reform and Pearson must be an important part of this endeavour. The Board looks forward to discussing at our meeting in November a bold Educational Vision that addresses two overarching challenges: What does the world need of Pearson and what do our students need of Pearson? I encourage all in the Pearson community to participate in this process in a spirit of enthusiasm and respect.

Désirée will continue to work on our Reconciliation Plan, with the help of the entire Pearson community, including Marcia Dawson. As Désirée has said “we will develop an Indigenous Vision that is comprehensive, constructive and inclusive of the community.”

Désirée, Ty and the team, will continue to work on rebuilding physical infrastructure at Pearson. During Désirée’s tenure, major improvements have been made to the College’s infrastructure, thereby improving the quality of life for all, as well as reducing risks to health and safety. This work is not finished and more needs to be done this year, including the renewal of our fifth residence, Victoria House.

And, of course, all of these necessary initiatives require financial support. When Désirée was hired as President, she was asked by the Board to spend a considerable amount of her time and energy raising the profile of the College, and in turn, improving our fundraising results.

Most UWC schools struggle to achieve financial stability and Pearson is no exception. That is why the Board has been so supportive of the fundraising and other initiatives by Désirée and her team to grow and diversify the College’s revenues.

And make no mistake, these efforts must continue this year and well into the future. Pearson’s survival depends on it.

I am sure that you all can see, and appreciate, that this year will be a busy and important one for all of us. Désirée and her team will carry forward the initiatives I have mentioned, as well as others, with the full support and confidence of the Board. This year must continue to be one of renewal. I know that Désirée, her team and the Board can count on everyone’s full support and engagement as we all continue our shared journey to renew and re-found Pearson College UWC for the future.

The Board is deeply grateful to Désirée for her momentous efforts and accomplishments on behalf of the College. As she completes her five-year mandate this year, the Board will work to secure the next Head of College, and we will seek input from members of the Pearson community in the coming weeks.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all,

The Hon. A. Anne McLellan, P.C., O.C., A.O.E.
Chair of the Board of Directors,
Pearson College UWC