Calin Rovinescu Article for The Montreal Lawyer

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Calin Rovinescu Article for The Montreal Lawyer


By Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ottawa


Nearly 40 years ago, a young law student named Calin Rovinescu graduated from the University of Ottawa having earned his LL.B. Years earlier, as a boy, he had immigrated to Canada from Romania with his parents. They had always stressed to him that success in his new home would require hard work and self-reliance, and Calin took those lessons to heart. With his degree in hand he set out on the long and distinguished career that eventually led to him being named President and CEO of Air Canada, and to being granted this well-deserved award as CEO of the Decade.  

I have become acquainted with Calin in my role as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, to which he returned in 2015 to take up the role of Chancellor. As I have gotten to know Calin, it has become evident to me that his leadership, vision and integrity are the driving forces behind many of the causes he supports so generously and selflessly.


One need look no further than Calin’s inspired leadership in the aviation industry. He became President and CEO of Air Canada in 2009, during a time when the global airline industry was in significant turmoil. Air Canada has since been transformed into a strong international franchise with record profitability, serving an incredible 50 million customers a year. Calin is humble about his success, and does not hesitate to credit the hard work of Air Canada’s 30,000 employees for the transformation of Air Canada.


Calin is not just a figurehead at the University of Ottawa. His passion for building the intellectual capacity of our 40,000 students is palpable. He articulated that passion in his inaugural speech as Chancellor:


“Knowledge is simply the most valuable asset out there. It is exportable, importable, transferable, scalable and available to be richly mined without damaging the environment. It is our most basic and most abundant truly “natural” resource.”


Compassionate and community-minded, Calin regularly shares his tremendous business acumen and expertise on campus with the aim of inspiring positive change. In his biannual Chancellor’s Debate, at which he engages global thought-leaders in discussions of important issues, as well as in informal discussions in classroom visits, he encourages uOttawa students to take risks, to invest in brainpower, in diversity and in Canada. He is also a generous donor to uOttawa and other worthy causes.


Calin is a role model for our students, demonstrating that you simply can’t beat the combination of knowledge and hard work. It’s true that this award sets the bar rather high, but I know that Calin would love nothing better than to inspire today’s uOttawa graduates to match – and even surpass – his impact and his achievements.


On behalf of the University of Ottawa, I am pleased and honoured to be able to offer my congratulations to our Chancellor on this extraordinary award.