A scenic photo from above lake Tamblyn looking onto Thunder Bay campusSince its establishment as a university in 1965, Lakehead University has had a close relationship with the Finnish community of Thunder Bay and across Canada. In some form or another, between 1965 and 1986 courses in Finnish culture, history, and language were offered at the university by various faculties and departments. In 1986, the Canadian Suomi Foundation partnered with the university to annually fund a Finnish language course. Over the next decade this relationship evolved into an agreement with the Canadian Suomi Foundation to establish Lakehead’s first endowed Chair in return for the university’s commitment to continue to offer at least one Finnish Language course in each academic year. The Chair in Finnish Studies was officially established in May 1996 at an event attended by his Excellency Mr. Veijo Sampovaara, Ambassador of Finland to Canada.

The Finnish Chair was created and continues to benefit from the generous support of the Finnish community of Thunder Bay and its organizations. Primary support today still comes from the Canadian Suomi Foundation which began fundraising for the establishment of the Chair in 1988. In addition, for the past 30 years the foundation has sponsored and continues to sponsor annual awards for students. The Foundation continues to raise funds for the Finnish Chair, and the value of the fund has increased as a result of income from investments, private donations, and special events.

The Chair in Finnish Studies at Lakehead University is overseen by the Lakehead University Finnish Chair Advisory Committee that consists of six members. Three are Lakehead University faculty members with research interests that include Finland and Finns in Canada, two are members of the Canadian Suomi Foundation executive, and one is a representative of the Finnish community. Except for the members from the Suomi Foundation, all other members are selected by the committee for indefinite terms.