University of Alberta elects new chancellor

Entrepreneur, community leader and U of A graduate Nizar J. Somji will begin a four-year term as the university’s ceremonial head in June.


Entrepreneur, community leader and University of Alberta graduate Nizar J. Somji has been elected as the university’s 23rd chancellor. He will begin his four-year term this June. (Photo: Dustin Delfs)

An entrepreneur, community leader and University of Alberta graduate has been elected as the university’s 23rd chancellor.

Nizar J. Somji was elected by members of the University of Alberta Senate to succeed Peggy Garritty. He begins a four-year, non-renewable term after he is installed as chancellor during spring convocation in June.

During more than 30 years of leadership developing new initiatives, forging strategic partnerships and driving innovation, Somji founded multiple successful businesses. He is best known for launching Matrikon Inc., a leader in industrial automation, which he grew from a one-person venture to a global company operating in five continents. He currently leads the Jaffer Group of Companies, which has invested more than $130 million in Alberta through ventures in construction, staffing, information technology, realty, hospitality, petroleum and property management.

A U of A graduate, Somji holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering. Dedicated to supporting advances in industrial innovation, Somji has funded two engineering research chairs at the U of A, leading to many developments in process control and automation that were adopted by several multinational corporations.

He currently serves on EPCOR’s board of directors and as chair of KV Capital, a Western Canadian equity fund enterprise. Somji has also served as chair of Redline Communications and Zafin Inc.

His expertise as a seasoned corporate executive also extends to the community. He served on the U of A board of governors and, more recently, volunteered for eight years as global director of campus development and operations with Aga Khan University and Hospital, which has primary campuses in Pakistan and East Africa.

The chancellor is the ceremonial head of the university and presides over all degree-conferring ceremonies, such as convocation.

In addition to chairing the senate, whose mission is to “inquire about any matter that might benefit the university and enhance its position in the community,” the chancellor, who serves in a volunteer capacity, is a member of the board of governors and represents the university at ceremonial occasions.

The University of Alberta Senate, an independent body of diverse community leaders and university representatives, is valued for its role in successfully examining, fostering and celebrating the achievements and excellence of the University of Alberta, resulting in an enhanced relationship with the community.