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Indira Samarasekera

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Indira Samarasekera
Indira V. Samarasekera - Annual Meeting of the New Champions Dalian 2009.jpg
Indira V. Samarasekera at the World Economic Forum, Annual Meeting of the New Champions, 2009.
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Alberta
In office
1 July 2005 – 30 June 2015
Preceded byRoderick D. Fraser
Succeeded byDavid Turpin
Personal details
Born (1952-04-11) April 11, 1952 (age 67)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Spouse(s)Sam Samarasekera
Alma materUniversity of Sri Lanka
University of California, Davis
University of British Columbia

Indira Vasanti Samarasekera OC,[1] (née Arulpragasam; April 11, 1952),[2] was the 12th president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta.[3][4] She has been a member of the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, which advises on appointments to the Senate of Canada, since 2016.


Indira Samarasekera was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, of Sri Lankan Tamil descent, and was married to a Sinhalese,[5] Sam Samarasekera and was divorced when her children were 7 and 3 years.[6]

Education and career[edit]

Samarasekera received her B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Sri Lanka in 1974 and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Davis as a Fulbright Scholar in 1976.[7] In 1977, she immigrated to Canada, where she received her PhD in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of British Columbia in 1980. That year, she began working in the Department of Metals and Materials Engineering at UBC with a focus on the continuous casting and hot rolling of steel.[8] She was only the second woman appointed to the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Engineering.[9]

In 2000, she was appointed UBC's vice-president of research. During her time in that role, the university's research funding from government, private donors and industry more than doubled, from $149 million to $377 million.[9]

She succeeded Roderick Fraser as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta on July 1, 2005, and served two terms, ending June 30, 2015. She was the first female president of any university in Alberta.

As of July 1, 2015, she was succeeded by David Turpin as president of the University of Alberta

Awards and Honorary Degrees[edit]

In 1991, Samarasekera was awarded NSERC's the E.W.R. Steacie Fellowship, an award that recognizes promising young Canadian researchers.[10] In 2002, Samarasekera was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2012, she received Canada's Public Policy Forum Peter Lougheed award for leadership in public policy,[11] and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.[12] In 2014, she was named a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Engineering.[13]

Samarasekera has received honorary degrees from the University of British Columbia,[14] University of Toronto,[15] the University of Waterloo,[16] Queen's University Belfast,[17] Université de Montréal[18] and the University of Western Ontario.[19]

In 2018 Samarasekera was awarded the Bessemer Gold Medal by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, an annual honour named after Sir Henry Bessemer awarded for outstanding services to the steel industry [20].

Board and Committee Service[edit]

Samarasekera was appointed to the board of directors for Scotiabank in 2008,[21] and for Magna International in 2014.[22] She was appointed chair of the Worldwide Universities Network in 2012,[23] serves on the CEO of the Year Advisory Committee[24] and has served as both board member and chair of the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT).

She has served as a member of Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC),[25] the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service,[26] the Conference Board of Canada[27] and the Public Policy Forum.

From 2010 to 2012, she attended the World Economic Forum in Davos and has participated as either a speaker or a moderator.


In July 2009, the University of Alberta purchased Samarasekera's private residence for $930,000, representing approximately $180,000 profit for Samarasekera, and the home was renovated by the University.[28] University administration was criticized by some for the initiative, given budget shortfalls at the time. Brian Heidecker, chair of the University of Alberta's Board of Governors, said the purchase gave the university a strategic advantage, noting that the residence would serve as a strong inducement when recruiting future presidents. Samarasekera continues to live at the home and pays rent based on fair market value.[28]

In an interview with the Edmonton Journal on October 21, 2009,[29] Samarasekera raised her concerns regarding the fact that 58% of university undergraduates in Canada were female. She commented, "I'm going to be an advocate for young white men, because I can be. No one is going to question me when I say we have a problem", and "We'll wake up in 20 years and we will not have the benefit of enough male talent at the heads of companies and elsewhere." A group of students responded by putting up posters satirizing her comments.[30] Campus Security took down the posters within 24 hours and warned the students responsible of possible disciplinary action."[31] Samaraskera responded by noting that she appreciated satire as a form of freedom of speech, but hoped that such debate be held in a cordial and respectable manner.

In the wake of deep government cuts to the cuts to the Alberta post-secondary sector in 2013, debate ensued on and off campus as to how the University should respond.[32] Samarasekara undertook to limit her international travel. However, when personally invited by Alberta Premier Alison Redford, she traveled to China in September 2013 at a cost of $13,800. Responding to criticism, Samarasekara stated "people will find reasons to criticize me whichever way I do it."[33]


  1. ^ middle name according to LCNAF CIP data
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-24. Retrieved 2010-10-12. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Tribute". Retrieved April 7, 2013. External link in |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Congrats to Dr. Indira Samarasekera". June 17, 2004. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  5. ^ "Who is Dr. Indira Samarasekera?". South Asia Mail. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  6. ^ "INDIRA SAMARASEKERA ON BUILDING A CAREER OF FIRSTS". Shelley White. / 1 September 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Canada's education system: 'a gift beyond compare'". Archived from the original on 2012-12-02. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ "Congrats to Dr. Indira Samarasekera -".
  9. ^ a b "Office of the President".
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Article - University of Alberta". Archived from the original on 2012-10-02. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 2013-01-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-24. Retrieved 2012-10-11. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-26. Retrieved 2014-07-18. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "[UW-News-Release] Waterloo will award 16 honorary degrees at spring convocation". Archived from the original on 2014-07-26. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2012-10-11. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Personnalit茅s : Collations des grades". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  19. ^ Department of Communications and Public Affairs, Western University. "Western News - Search". Western News.
  20. ^
  21. ^,1608,CID12292_LIDen,00.html
  22. ^ "Press Release - Magna Announces 2014 Annual Meeting Results".
  23. ^ "Home". Worldwide Universities Network.
  24. ^ "Canada's Outstanding CEO of the Year™".
  25. ^ Strategic Policy Sector. "Membership".
  26. ^ "Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service - Prime Minister Harper establishes Advisory Committee on the Public Service: News Release - Clerk of the Privy Council". Clerk of the Privy Council.
  27. ^ "Board of Directors".
  28. ^ a b "U of A buys president's house for $930,000". Edmonton.
  29. ^ "The male minority". The Globe and Mail.
  30. ^ Canoe inc. "Alberta students protest 'femimenace'".
  31. ^ "Office of the President".
  32. ^ Pratt, Sheila (August 24, 2013). "Deeper cuts still to come at U of A; Larger classes, fewer programs, layoffs loom in budget crunch". Edmonton Journal. p. A1. Archived from the original on September 16, 2013. Retrieved September 15, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  33. ^ "University of Alberta president speaks about $13,800 China trip". Metro.


Academic offices
Preceded by
Roderick D. Fraser
President of the University of Alberta
Succeeded by
David Turpin