Today David Sylvester, President, University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) announced the establishment of the Ron Knowles Bursary Award, in memory of the late Ron Knowles, a beloved Mentor to students in the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability.
Ron was known for his insightful questioning, patience, kindness, guidance, and strength. He inspired many students to make a social impact, in so many ways. Contributions to the Bursary Fund in Ron’s memory can be made through the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto here.
Ron was one of the founding instructors and architects of the Corporate Social Responsibility Program at the University of St. Michael’s College, with Mimi Marrocco, 20 years ago. He began his professional life in retail and loved to tell stories about his early days at Beaver lumber, and with companies like T. Eaton, where he served in a variety of management roles, including Senior Vice President. When he first met Dr. Marrocco in 1999, he had just published a book called “Coming to our Senses: Reclaiming the Dignity of Organization Life”. He went on to inspire many people to “come to their senses” with his kindness and genuine dignity.
Ron took his management and leadership skills to a consulting role, and he became a National Director and partner at Western Management Consultants. When Continuing Education at USMC ventured into the business arena with a professional development program focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility, Ron was invited to be an instructor on Employee Engagement. At the time he and a colleague had just completed a teaching assignment at the Rotman Faculty of Management at U of T. There they had developed and delivered a course on change management and had even worked with a software start-up to create a simulation called “Experience Change”. That start-up has grown into an internationally successful business providing Change Management training to Fortune 500 companies. This change management simulation remains an essential component of the Diploma program’s curriculum.
Ron’s breadth of experience, his appreciation of the value that business can bring to society and his commitment to individuals as drivers of positive change proved invaluable. His role within the program continued to grow. His insights on leadership, on strategic planning and on good governance together with his generosity in serving as a mentor to dozens of students are gifts that we acknowledge and treasure.
In the words of one student – “Ron, I would like to express a deep & heartfelt thank you for all that you’ve contributed to SO many individuals through this program (and beyond!). Personally – Ron, you made an incredible difference in my life; both as my cheerleading program mentor, as well as a trusted friend that has provided so much wisdom & great insights that I’ve carried forward through my life over the years.”
As a tribute to this extraordinary person, the University of St. Michael’s College has launched the Ron Knowles Bursary Award. The first award of its kind; it will improve the accessibility and reach of the Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability to carry forward Ron’s legacy of making an incredible difference in the lives of people who want to make a positive social impact in the world.
A colleague, a mentor and a good friend to many here at St. Michael’s, Ron Knowles will be deeply missed.