Sheridan honours the life of Chancellor Hazel McCallion
The Sheridan community is mourning the death of Hazel McCallion. Born Hazel Mary Muriel Journeaux, McCallion was Sheridan’s inaugural Chancellor and namesake of its Mississauga campus. She died on January 29, 2023. Hurricane Hazel, as she was affectionately known, was 101 years old.
McCallion was the first and current Chancellor of Sheridan College, a role she was honoured to accept in February 2016 at the age of 95, and which she held until her death. She was formally installed as Chancellor in June 2016 and became the ceremonial head of Sheridan, serving as a key ambassador for the institution. She presided over numerous Convocation ceremonies during her time as Chancellor, offering words of wisdom and heartfelt congratulations to thousands of graduates. She was instrumental in bringing Sheridan back to Mississauga in 2011 and was presented with an Honorary Degree of Applied Studies in 2015.
“Chancellor McCallion leaves a powerful legacy as a champion of education who embodied the values and attributes that we aim to instill in our students.”– Dr. Janet Morrison, Sheridan President and Vice Chancellor
“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the death of our Chancellor, our campus namesake, and our deeply cherished friend,” said Dr. Janet Morrison, Sheridan President and Vice Chancellor. “Chancellor McCallion leaves a powerful legacy as a champion of education who embodied the values and attributes that we aim to instill in our students. Her impact on Sheridan defies her stature and many of our students saw her as a legend when they had the opportunity to meet her at Convocation. We are so proud to carry on her legacy through the next generation of Sheridan students.”
Hazel McCallion was the fifth mayor of the City of Mississauga, where she served for 36 years, from 1978 to 2014. She won the election 12 times, twice acclaimed and ten times through re-election. One of her last official tasks as mayor was her attendance at the official groundbreaking and sod turning ceremony for Sheridan’s Hazel McCallion B-Wing building in October 2014. “This is something very, very special to me. I just can’t believe that it would happen before I left office,” she said during the groundbreaking ceremony.
McCallion was born on February 14, 1921, in the small rural Maritime community of Port Daniel, on the Gaspe Coast of Quebec, the adored youngest of Herbert Journeaux and Amanda Maude Travers’ five children. She credited her longevity to both good genetics and a healthy upbringing with an abundance of fresh food, grown and raised locally, and a pollution-free environment.
McCallion’s family were hard workers and churchgoers who believed in the importance of living with purpose and helping others, traits that were evident throughout her life. She received her first pair of hockey skates when she was five years old and learned to skate on the local pond, taught by her elder brother Lockhart. This was the beginning of her lifelong love of and involvement with hockey, including two years in Montreal as a professional hockey player during the 1940s, where she earned $5 per game.
A legacy in education
McCallion left home at age 16 to further her education since the local school educated students up to Grade 9. She moved to St. John, Quebec, near Montreal, where she lived with her sister Linda and completed Grade 10. She passed and completed Grade 11 in Quebec City. Her family was unable to afford a university education because of the Depression, but her sisters Linda and Gwen paid for her to attend secretarial school.
McCallion often mentioned that her one personal regret was that she never had the opportunity to receive a postsecondary education beyond secretarial school. Because of this, she worked tirelessly throughout her life to ensure others had the educational opportunities she couldn’t afford. “I would have loved university life and exchanging ideas and challenging the norms of the day,” she said in her book Hurricane Hazel: A Life with Purpose.
“She was typically the most sought-after person in the room during (Convocation) ceremonies, as students excitedly gathered around her for the opportunity to shake her hand and get their photo taken with a legend.”
Her belief in the transformative power of postsecondary education led her to support Sheridan and the University of Toronto Mississauga into becoming the schools they are today. “Great cities need great learning institutions. And Mississauga has two great higher-learning institutions,” she said.
Sheridan’s Mississauga campus in the downtown city core proudly bears her name. Thanks to her passion and unwavering support of postsecondary education, about 5,000 students every academic year receive the college experience that she never did at the Hazel McCallion Campus.
McCallion’s passion for supporting education saw her attend as many graduation ceremonies as possible — from high school celebrations to Convocation — to see the joy on the students’ faces. As Sheridan’s Chancellor, she offered her congratulations as each graduate crossed the stage at Convocation. She was typically the most sought-after person in the room during these ceremonies, as students excitedly gathered around her for the opportunity to shake her hand and get their photo taken with a legend. In fact, event organizers learned to factor in more time during the ceremony to allow for these interactions to take place. In recent years, when in-person attendance was not possible, she enthusiastically delivered a pre-recorded message to the graduates, which was shared via video at the ceremonies.
“I will do whatever I can to make sure that every student who enters Sheridan knows that every door can open before them — whether they start or finish here with an advanced certificate, diploma, skilled trade or undergraduate degree.”– Hazel McCallion, Sheridan Chancellor
“I love being around young people,” she said in her chancellor installation speech in 2016. “They’re full of hope, promise and potential. Their energy and affection are contagious, and they make me feel young. I will do whatever I can to make sure that every student who enters Sheridan knows that every door can open before them — whether they start or finish here with an advanced certificate, diploma, skilled trade or undergraduate degree.” She added: “And with the education they gain at Sheridan, these graduates are a lot like me — determined, resilient, motivated and hard-working.”
She noted that “education really is our best hope, in Canada and around the world, to finding solutions to so many challenges today and tomorrow.” Chancellor McCallion was determined, decisive and fiercely independent, but also equally humble, compassionate, honest and transparent. She was precisely the kind of role model Sheridan students needed and exactly the champion and ambassador to best communicate Sheridan’s values, ambitions and strengths to the world.
A life with purpose
In December 2016, the Ontario legislature passed a private member’s bill, and February 14 was renamed Hazel McCallion Day across Ontario in honour of her birthday.
In February 2021, Sheridan held a virtual celebration for her 100th birthday milestone. Sheridan alumni were invited to submit their artwork in celebration of McCallion. Alumnus Jude Phillips created a mural, which was proudly displayed on Sheridan’s A-Wing windows facing Duke of York Blvd. at the Hazel McCallion Campus.
McCallion was the embodiment of a role model for Sheridan’s students and wanted to help Sheridan and its graduates prepare for the next 50 years, quipping about being there to shake their hands in 50 years. “I hope that my life’s work and all that I have accomplished... has in some small way improved the life of someone else and that when I am remembered years from now it will be with fondness and affection.” Hazel McCallion was living proof that age is just a number. She truly exemplified what it means to live a life with purpose.
“I hope I’ve left behind my love of learning and the pursuit of education as worthy endeavours. It is my dream that the students who will be filling the halls and classrooms of these institutions in the years to come will share that love and be inspired to become all they were destined to be and more.”– Hazel McCallion, Sheridan Chancellor
Perhaps Chancellor McCallion said it best: “Leaving a legacy is far more important than leaving an inheritance, in my view. I hope I’ve left behind my love of learning and the pursuit of education as worthy endeavours. It is my dream that the students who will be filling the halls and classrooms of these institutions in the years to come will share that love and be inspired to become all they were destined to be and more.”
A spirited and trailblazing leader, and a wise and passionate friend, Hazel McCallion leaves a legacy of courage and bold vision. Sheridan thanks her for her selfless dedication and service, and its community will miss her greatly.
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