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Leadership 101 with Chancellor Hazel McCallion

Newsroom authorby Meagan KashtyMar 6, 2022
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Hazel McCallion portraitOn February 14, the Sheridan community came together virtually to celebrate the 101st birthday of Chancellor Hazel McCallion. 

McCallion’s legacy is unmatched. As the college’s first-ever Chancellor, she’s overseen over 50 convocation ceremonies, attended numerous events at her namesake campus in Mississauga, and supported Sheridan students’ pursuit of education. In 2021, Sheridan unveiled a mural at her campus namesake in Mississauga, paying tribute to her extraordinary achievements

At her 101st birthday celebration, Daniela Hampton-Davies, chair of Sheridan’s Board of Governors and the Honourable Jill Dunlop, Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities, were among the esteemed guests to wish McCallion a happy birthday. 

Sheridan students also had the opportunity to benefit from McCallion’s words of wisdom at the event. Nicole Garbanzos, a second-year Journalism student and Mehmet Oner, a first-year journalism student, chatted with McCallion about her life, legacy, and lessons she’s learned over her 101 years. 

Nicole Garbanzos: What is the biggest lesson you've learned in your 101 years of living? 

Chancellor Hazel McCallion: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that before you make any decision, you should do your homework. You should research it. I've been in positions where I've had to make some pretty tough decisions. Get advice. Talk to as many people as you can that you feel know something about it. And then you make a decision. 

Mehmet Oner:
You’ve had amazing success in your 101 years of life. You became a pioneering female businessperson, and successfully ran the City of Mississauga for 36 years. What is your definition of success? 

Chancellor McCallion:
Well, success is achieving your goals and ambitions — having a vision, or some idea of what you want to do in life. You can't just sail along without a plan. You have to determine in your own mind what you would like to do, and to be successful at everything you undertake to do. Never hesitate to consult. Don't feel that you have all the answers to a situation — there may be someone who can make a small suggestion that will greatly help you in making a good decision. 

Garbanzos: What is the proudest moment you have had during your time as the mayor of Mississauga? 

Chancellor McCallion: Well, of course, I've had many very wonderful times. The fact that we got through the train derailment of 1979 and evacuated 250,000 people with no incidents of anybody being harmed, I think that was very wonderful. 

And then, to see a city being built that began as a rural area with none of the facilities we see today — to see what has happened in Mississauga, where we built a city for people. That was my very (primary) concern — that I was there to serve the people and to make sure as we grew and as more people came into the city, that there were facilities for them to enjoy and benefit from. 

One thing that we did very well is we had a great relationship between the residential development that we built and the industrial development that provided jobs. 

Garbanzos: Madame Chancellor, you are an iconic Canadian figure who's pursued many different roles in your life: businesswoman, politician, educator, mother, hockey player and even journalist. One of the most critical turning points in your life was when you were elected mayor of Mississauga in 1978. You won the election against incumbent Ron Searle who had the slogan "A good mayor." Two weeks before the election, you published your own slogan: “A better mayor.” This was a really simple, but brilliant strategy. Which of these careers made you the happiest? 

Chancellor McCallion: I think being the Mayor of Mississauga. I took it from a rural area and built it into the second largest city in Canada. And people are happy. 

Oner: What's the secret to living such a vital and healthy 101 years of life? 

Chancellor McCallion: I think you have to watch your diet. I think you've got to be careful as to what you put into your body. Right now, I eat a lot of vegetables and fruit. Activity is one of the basic successes of good health. You know, I played hockey, I skied, I played baseball, I love the outdoors, I did a lot of fishing. I think it has a lot to do with the way in which you live your life. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 
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