Robert Rabinovitch


Guiding the governors

ERIC SMITH | Robert Rabinovitch is taking over as chair of the Board of Governors following Richard Pound's appointment as chancellor.

Rabinovitch, an economist who has served on the board since 1997, graduated with a B.Com. from McGill in 1964 and went on to complete his master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Pennsylvania.

Currently chief operating officer of Claridge Inc., a Bronfman family management and holding company, Rabinovitch has worked in the broadcasting and communications industries and on federal communications policy in several capacities including as deputy minister.

There have been rumours in the media that he is among the top candidates likely to be offered the presidency of the CBC at the end of Perrin Beatty's mandate, but Rabinovitch downplays the talk as "all speculation."

In addition to McGill's board, Rabinovitch sits on several corporate boards and is also active in management in the non-profit sector. He is vice president for the Quebec Region of the Canadian Jewish Congress, sits on the board of Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre and is treasurer for both the Charles R. Bronfman and Samuel and Saidye Bronfman family foundations.

As a financial advisor to the Nunavut Trust, he participates in the management and investment of $1.2 billion which will be paid by 2007 from the land claim compensation fund.

The government cuts of the last few years have presented McGill's board with considerable challenges since it is the board's role to ensure fiscal probity. But according to Rabinovitch, "We've had excellent administration, and that's made the board's job, if not easier, then more focussed."

"What McGill has had to go through," he adds, "is basically defining what it is going to be in the future, whether it will be a mass university or whether it will emphasize quality."

Rabinovitch says he is glad the University has "chosen the latter," but says "we have to get the money. The board is very sensitive to the impact the cuts have on quality. It's a tremendous balancing act."

At a conference of university board chairs held last year, Rabinovitch shared his thoughts on how universities should deal with the governments that control the bulk of their funding.

"Lobby, and lobby continuously. We used to joke, when I was in government, about the people who used to show up once a year, or only when they had a problem. It's a good idea to talk to people when you don't have a problem, in a low pressure environment. Lobbying is not a dirty word, and it's here to stay."