May 8, 2019 - 2:45am

With the academic year at Vancouver Island University moving into summer mode, June Convocation ceremonies are on the horizon. This year is particularly special as it is Ralph Nilson’s last as President and Vice-Chancellor.

As the last president of Malaspina University-College and the first president and vice-chancellor of VIU, Ralph has played an historic role in the evolution of this institution. Through his leadership and advocacy, VIU became a university that punches above its weight in learning outcomes for students and delivering access to excellence in almost all areas. Two of his key accomplishments including establishing the Tuition Waiver Program and the EleV learning partnership. Both are examples of how VIU has become a national leader in creating educational opportunities for non-traditional learners. Last year, VIU was named a finalist in the Global Teaching Excellence Award.

Ralph instills through example a desire in his employees for professional excellence. He quietly lays a foundation from which we can each create our own achievements. And he is the first person to give the credit to someone other than himself. However, a list of the accolades VIU has earned during his tenure only scratches the surface of the reasons we will miss him so much.

Ralph has an incredible memory for personal details. Whether it is a new baby in the family, a wedding, or a personal passion project, he takes great joy in celebrating everyone’s accomplishments. He also seems to have a mental roadmap of how each employee at VIU fits into the picture and how important each one is. He believes deeply in the work each of one of us does.

He is also an active and engaged member of the VIU community. If there is a VIU event taking place and he is town, he is often there: enjoying plays at the Malaspina Theatre, spending time with volunteers at Milner Gardens and Woodland, or cheering on the VIU Mariners.

Ralph has left his mark on VIU over the last 12 years, entrenching the values of the institution in all that we do. Now, he will shake hands for the last time as VIU’s President with roughly 1,000 graduating students and we will have to bid him farewell in the formal sense in the coming weeks.

There are several opportunities to pay tribute to Ralph’s service including:

  • At the Cowichan Campus on Wednesday, May 15 (2:00-4:00 pm). All employees are welcome to this free event.
  • At the Nanaimo Campus on Wednesday, May 29 (2:30-5:30 pm). All employees are welcome to this free event.
  • At a Celebration Gala on Monday, June 24 (5:00-10:00 pm) at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. Tickets are $50 each and funds are being raised for the new Drs. Ralph and Suzanne Nilson Legacy Fund.

You can send Ralph a personal message online any time or in person at the Nanaimo Campus event on Wednesday, May 29. There will be special note cards available for this purpose. 


Tags: In the Community


Need more information?

Request Information

Want to talk to someone about specific questions?

Contact a Representative

Ready to join us at VIU?

Apply Online