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Prem Watsa appointed first-ever Chancellor of Huron

Jon Munn, Director, Marketing and Communications
Oct 17 2017

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Prem Watsa, one of Canada’s most well-known business leaders, as the first-ever Chancellor of the university. Watsa, chairman, and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holding Ltd., also known as the Warren Buffet of Canada, was voted in as Chancellor by Huron University College’s Board of Governors in late September. Barry Craig, Principal of Huron University College, says this is an important milestone for the 154-year-old university.

“We are building something new at Huron: an education that cares about our students' characters as well as their minds,” explains Dr. Craig. “Prem Watsa is a true leader with heart. As Chancellor, he will exemplify Huron’s commitment to ethical leadership.”

Watsa is one of Canada’s most influential business leaders. As a self-made leader, he brings a considerable amount of experience to this brand new position at Huron. Watsa’s success can be traced back to when he first arrived on Canadian soil with just 8 rupees in hand. He ignited his entrepreneurial spirit while selling air conditioners and furnaces to support his university education.

Watsa’s initial struggle is in stark contrast to where he is today. His monumental success can be attributed to an inspirational persistence and refusal to compromise on his vision of building a company that values integrity, fortitude and excellence. For this and many other reasons, Huron is confident Prem will help position the University as one of North America’s leading Liberal Arts institutions.

“Our society needs leaders with great minds and great hearts. That’s what Huron University College is committed to developing, so I am proud to have been elected as Huron’s Chancellor.”

As Chancellor, Watsa will assist Huron in achieving its mission of providing students with elite yet accessible education, and he will help shape the way the university inspires Leaders with Heart.

Ian Jeffreys, Board Chair of Huron University College, says Watsa exemplifies what a true pioneer, team player, and trailblazer is, making the iconic Canadian businessman a prime example of what it means to be a Leader with Heart. “Through working hard and dreaming big, Prem has proven that with passion and a good education, a person’s opportunities are limitless,” Jeffreys said. “This is exactly the mindset that Huron students develop as the University creates the best environment for students to grow into Leaders with Heart.”

About Prem Watsa

Watsa, a member of the Order of Canada, was born in Hyderabad, India. He attended the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in 1971 where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. With only 8 rupees to his name, Prem moved to London, Ontario and completed an MBA at the Richard Ivey School of Business. Watsa began his professional career at Confederation Life Insurance Co. in Toronto serving as vice-president of Confederation Life Investment Counsel for 9 years. Later, he would serve as vice-president of GW Asset Management.

In 1984, Watsa co-founded Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel, which he now fully owns. In 1985, he took control of Markel Financial Holdings Ltd, a small Canadian trucking insurance company on the verge of bankruptcy. He re-organized and renamed the company to Fairfax, short for fair and friendly acquisitions. The company’s success continued to increase and reached annual revenues of $10 billion in 2014. The company is now approximately 253 times in book value of what it began in 1985.