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Honorary degree citation - Robert Ritchie

By: Michael Carney, June 2008

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Robert Ritchie, exemplary business and community leader in a time of complexity and rapid change.

Robert Ritchie is a graduate of McGill University and what is now the University of Western Ontario's Ivey School of Business. Now retired, he remains extremely active in the community.

He began his career with Canadian Pacific in 1970, when he joined the railway’s former parent company as a research analyst.

Perhaps those academic beginnings in careful analysis and thought helped to prepare him for the enormous challenges he would face over the course of his career.

L’industrie ferroviaire a subi, depuis les années 70, des changements radicaux : déréglementation, conteneurisation, intégration intermodale, changements technologiques et informatisation : c'est à peine si on reconnaît les bons vieux chemins de fer de jadis! Robert Ritchie a été à l’avant-plan de tous ces changements, gravissant les échelons de la direction par la voie du marketing, un secteur qui le tenait au fait des réalités du marché et des besoins de la clientèle.

By 1987, Robert Ritchie was Executive Vice President for the CPR system, responsible for operations and marketing of the railway’s Intermodal Freight Systems division in Toronto. He became President in 1990, then President and Chief Executive Officer of CPR in 1995.

Under his leadership, the railway experienced record financial results. In 2001, he successfully led CPR through the complex spin-off from Canadian Pacific Limited, and it is now one of Canada’s most significant publicly-traded companies.

What is remarkable about Mr. Ritchie’s accomplishments in business is his leadership in the successful navigation of extraordinary complexity and difficult stakeholder relations.

The industry is heavily regulated, and many people have a stake in its “track record”. Companies and consumers depend on its timely performance in delivering goods—sometimes hazardous goods—to market safely. Railways cut across an extremely complex patchwork of land and rights of way—a lot of “back yards”. Obtaining agreement and moving the company forward through mergers and acquisitions, new projects and regulatory hurdles involves remarkable team-building and skill sets. Robert Ritchie has all these and more.

M. Ritchie a su réunir les effectifs et les compétences pour bâtir une entreprise moderne et efficace dans l'industrie du chemin de fer. Or, le rail, comme nous le savons, a joué un rôle fondamental dans l'histoire de Montréal et du pays tout entier.

Malgré un agenda très chargé, cet homme énergique trouve encore le temps de s'investir dans la communauté.

Robert Ritchie gives back to the industry and to the broader community in so many ways: he is a director of ShawCor Limited and a member of the Advisory Board of Willis Canada; he sits on the board of the Association of American Railroads and is past chairman of the Railway Association of Canada. In Calgary, where he now lives, he is on the United Way campaign cabinet. He is a director of the Van Horne Institute and the Max Bell Foundation for McGill; he is a past governor of McGill and sits on the Canadian Advisory Board of INSEAD.

He has set a remarkable example of leadership for all of us.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Robert Ritchie, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.




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