Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell named Lakehead University’s 10th Chancellor

Photo of Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell

Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell

October 1, 2021 – Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ont.

Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell has been named Lakehead University’s next chancellor.

The announcement was made by President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Moira McPherson, who served as Chair of the University’s Chancellor Electoral Board, on Friday, Oct. 1.

The chancellor is the titular head of the University, conferring all degrees and diplomas, as well as representing the University on other ceremonial occasions and participating in outreach and philanthropic initiatives.

Dr. Deverell will be formally installed as Lakehead’s 10th chancellor at convocation in 2022.

She has worked as an academic, broadcaster, television producer, journalist, and theatre artist. Dr. Deverell has received numerous awards, including two Geminis and the Black Women’s Civic Engagement Network Leadership Award. She is the first person of colour to serve as Lakehead University’s chancellor.

Dr. Deverell was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2005 for her pioneering work in broadcasting, and received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the Lakehead Orillia Convocation ceremony in 2017.

“I am deeply honoured by the trust placed in me to be a worthy symbolic head of Lakehead University,” she said.

“Symbols are important: some will see a Woman, following in the outstanding footsteps of ninth Chancellor Lyn McLeod and fifth Chancellor the Rev. Dr. The Hon. Lois Wilson. Others will see a Person of Colour.

“Still others will see an artist, a teacher, and a member of President McPherson’s Committee on Truth and Reconciliation. You can’t be what you can’t see, and I will do my best to represent Lakehead University to all its many past, present, and future communities and stakeholders.”  

Known for breaking barriers for women and people of colour, Dr. Deverell is a scholar and a founder of Vision TV. She was the first woman to lead a journalism program in a Canadian university, and concluded her term as News Director at APTN in 2005 where she mentored her Indigenous successor.

“On behalf of Lakehead University’s Board of Governors, I would like to welcome Dr. Rita Deverell as the new chancellor of Lakehead University,” said Angela Maltese, Chair of Lakehead University’s Board of Governors.

“Dr. Deverell has been a pioneer and barrier breaker throughout her distinguished career in broadcasting, journalism, and theatre. Her commitment to advocating for an inclusive post-secondary education aligns well with Lakehead University and the Board’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The selection process for Lakehead University’s chancellor involved inviting the public and University communities to submit nominations. Candidate nominations were reviewed by the University’s Chancellor Electoral Board, which then recommended the appointment of Dr. Deverell.

President McPherson served as Chair of the University’s 26-member Chancellor Electoral Board.

“We are so proud to welcome Rita as Lakehead’s chancellor, and I want to thank those who were involved in the selection process,” Dr. McPherson said.

“I very much look forward to working with our new chancellor, and relying on her wisdom and experience throughout the initiatives she will be involved in. I would like to offer my deepest thanks to current Chancellor Lyn McLeod, who we have been so proud to have as our chancellor since 2017.

“It continues to be an absolute honour and pleasure to have her as part of our Lakehead University community as her presence and insights bring grace and dignity to everything she is involved with, and she has inspired our students and staff alike,” Dr. McPherson added.

Biography: Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell

Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell (BA, Philosophy, Adelphi University; MA, History of Religions Columbia/Union Theological Seminary; EdD, OISE/U of T) is a theatre artist, television producer/director, scholar, and a founder of Vision TV.

She was the first woman to lead a journalism program in a Canadian university, and concluded her term as News Director at APTN in 2005 where she mentored her Indigenous successor.

Dr. Deverell’s awards include two Geminis, the Black Women’s Civic Engagement Leadership Award, the Order of Canada, and an Honorary Doctorate from Lakehead Orillia. 

In 2018, she was named the Woman of the Year for her contributions to arts and activism by the Alliance of Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists (ACTRA). Her book American Refugees: Turning to Canada for Freedom, University of Regina Press 2019, is in bookstores now.

Dr. Deverell and the acting company in her play “Who You Callin Black Eh?” were winners of the Teen Critics Jury Award at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival, and in 2021 a Canada Council grant will facilitate a “pivot” digital version of the play, complete with web-based interactive study guide.

She currently is a Trustee of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC/SRC), an Adjunct Professor of Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University, and of Education at Lakehead.

For 29 years Dr. Deverell and her husband, who grew up in Orillia, have made the home they always return to in Oro-Medonte.  




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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2022 World Universities Rankings for the third consecutive year, and in the top 100 of 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit www.lakeheadu.ca.