Five things you should know about Richard Van Loon

By Judith van Berkom – 

Many Kitchissippi residents know him as the Chair of the Rosemount Expansion and Development (READ) group, a position he acquired after he attended their first meeting with his wife, Jean, and, competent and experienced as he is, was asked to chair the group going forward. That’s been two years now – of public consultations, brainstorming, municipal support and input and, as Richard Van Loon says, a lot of hard work – culminating in the release of the READ committee report in September 2016.

File photo of Richard Van Loon, Chair of READ, by Andrea Tomkins
File photo of Richard Van Loon, Chair of READ, by Andrea Tomkins

Rosemount Library, located on Rosemount Avenue close to Wellington, was originally built in 1918. It is the only Carnegie library remaining in Ottawa and has a high circulation rate for its size, but has not had any significant renewal since 1982. There has been discussion of expansion and renovation over the years but the Library Board and library staff recently recommended hitting the pause button on renovations to Rosemount, pending a business case for re-location and expansion.

Richard Van Loon completed his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (1961) and his Master of Arts degree in political science (1965) at Carleton and his Ph.D. in political studies (1968) at Queen’s University after which he taught for a year at Queen’s, returned to Ottawa and went to work for the federal government – working in various departments and capacities. He has been an associate deputy minister of the federal departments of Health and Indian Affairs.

His first job was with Energy, Mines and Resources. He was part of the group involved with the Canada Water Act, which is still in existence today.

“To get that kind of opportunity was very fortunate. Being born at the right time and in the right place is pretty important,” says Richard.

In August 1996, Richard became the first president of Carleton University who was also a Carleton alumnus. He was reappointed for a four-year term on August 1, 2001 and retired in July 2005. He chaired the Council of Ontario Universities from 2003 to 2005 and worked on the restructuring of that organization following his retirement from Carleton. He is now Professor Emeritus in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton.

Two years ago, Richard retired from teaching a graduate seminar in intergovernmental affairs for the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University, a position he held for eight years. He describes the seminar as a ‘pleasure to do’ learning a lot from his students as well as teaching them what he knew.

His career in government and academia has spanned over 30 years.

Five things you should know about Richard Van Loon

1) He’s a native of Kitchissippi.
Richard went to Elmdale Public School as did his children and his grandchildren. Jean, Richard’s wife, was also born and raised in Ottawa. They met at Carleton University while he was doing his Masters and she was an undergraduate. Married now for over 50 years, they have two children and three grandchildren.

2) He is recovering from back surgery.
He can be seen in the ward on his daily hour-long walks. He also goes to physiotherapy every day. “I actually get around pretty well,” says Richard, adding that he went from not being able to walk at all to being quite mobile.

3) There is an annual scholarship for African students in his name at Carleton University and it has a lot to do with Nigerian spammers.
When Richard was president of Carleton, he received many bogus missives from Nigeria requesting funding. Having consulted with a colleague on some of the letters he had received, he was advised not to send money. Instead he and his wife, Jean, deliberated on how best to help out. The Richard Van Loon Scholarship was created in 2005. Annually, it provides student funding for two students and is intended for an outstanding student from an African country experiencing financial need.

4) Richard managed the first major opinion poll in Canada, between 1963-1969. At the time of the establishment of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1963, Richard was working on his Master’s degree at Queen’s. He was offered a scholarship and the opportunity to manage the first major opinion survey that was done in Canada by one of his professors. He outlines some of the details of that survey: “First a random sample was done [across all of Canada]. Interviews were done in person, not over the phone…. One chap spent the summer going around to the outports of Newfoundland – that was his summer job. That was the quality of the survey.”

5) Richard and Jean are still climbing the corporate ladder, so to speak.
Both Richard and his wife, Jean – a successful writer of short stories and poetry – are far from being retired. “If there was an occupational ladder, we would climb it,” says Jean.

Read more “five things” profiles right here and learn about some of the people who make our community a great place to live.

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