2011 Calgary Breakfast - Indira Samarasekera

Indira SamasakeraIndira Samarasekera, President of the University of Alberta, says it takes vision, ambition, and courage to live your live with purpose.

On September 22 2011, Indira was the honoured keynote speaker at our 20th anniversary fundraising breakfast in Calgary. The sold-out event was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of over 500 attendees.

In her address, Indira shared her personal journey, from civil war in her home country of Sri Lanka, to her childhood passion for mathematics and physics, to arriving in Canada in 1977 to complete her doctorate in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of British Columbia. At the time, she noted, there were no female professors in engineering, and no women’s washroom in the engineering building.

Indira’s journey was sometimes hampered by self-doubt and fear.

While completing her doctorate, she had the first of her two children. As she struggled to manage both her academic and her domestic responsibilities, she sometimes wondered if it was all worth it.

“There have been times,” she says, “when vision and ambition were not enough.” At those times, she says, “Courage was often the critical factor.”

When she was first offered the position of President of the University of Alberta in 2005, Indira says she was “terrified” of the responsibility, but also filled with a tremendous sense of privilege at the opportunity. She realized the position would allow her to help others undercover their own unique talents and realize their own visions for their lives.

Indira noted the Canadian Women’s Foundation and the University of Alberta share similar goals – to create opportunities that empower people, to help them discover their personal vision and achieve their ambitions, and to find the courage to meet life’s challenges.

“The work of the Canadian Women’s Foundation is critically important,” she says, “Both for its impact on the individual lives of women and girls and its impact on our broader society.”

She firmly believes that Canada needs the input and talent of everyone—young men and women alike—if we are to maintain our quality of life, and that much remains to be done to ensure this becomes a reality.

“Our work is not done by any measure,” she notes.

Indira was helped along on her journey by many others. She knows from first-hand experience that what we do today will literally ripple down through generations to come.

“The actions of only one person has the capacity to improve the lives of so many others.”

Thanks to Indira’s inspiring words, the event raised $800,000 for the Foundation’s Women Moving Women campaign to help move women out of poverty.

We invite you to learn more about this unique campaign and to join our efforts to end poverty for women in Canada.