Lovisa’s global journey to DC president’s office

DC President Don Lovisa sits next to his guitar chair inside of his office. Photo credit: Kathryn Fraser

Co-written by Madison Gulenchyn

Don Lovisa describes his path to becoming Durham College (DC) president as a “fabulous journey” and is pleased it is ongoing. It’s an educational excursion that has taken him to many towns and cities across Canada, as well as many countries throughout the world.

Lovisa became president of DC 10 years ago. He said the road to get here was “a long one.”

“It has been a fabulous journey,” Lovisa, 60, said. “And I’m still on a great journey.”

He went to school part-time, and, as he would say, “forever.” Lovisa attended St. Francis Xavier University, Lakehead University, St. Thomas University, University of Toronto and Confederation College. He earned degrees in international management, adult education and has completed the course work towards a PhD in community college leadership.

Lovisa said he seized every opportunity. He was always looking for ways to create new experiences and meet people.

“That’s what the road is like. Making connections, getting the education you need, having fun and making it interesting,” he said. “But also, helping people along the way, knowing you have to make a contribution. You can receive but you also have to give.”

“You can receive but you also have to give.”

Lovisa didn’t always have the busy life he has now in Durham Region. He grew up in Fort Frances, in northwestern Ontario.

“Living in a small town, you have fewer opportunities. So like me and a lot of other people, to advance, you have to leave,” he said. “It is bittersweet. Small towns are a nice experience. You learn about yourself and community.”

While pursuing his career, Lovisa found international work. He spent time teaching, training and consulting in areas such as globalization, trade, entrepreneurship and business.

Before working for more than 30 years in post-secondary education, he worked in Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Vietnam, India, Korea, China and the Caribbean.

He learned both respect and teamwork were important when working with foreign counterparts.

“[Working globally] broadens your perspective,” Lovisa said. “It helps you understand that there are different world-views. People see the world very differently and they react to situations, problems and questions very differently than I do. It’s [understanding] to respect that and [trying] to work together to achieve the mission that you’re there to achieve.”

Lovisa said international travels teach an individual to gain respect for not only cultures but for people, too. This respect translates into his life as he applies his foreign experiences to his job at DC.

“It’s a very rewarding experience,” he said. “As we have more and more international students, understanding that they’re going to bring different ideas here and we have to respect that, we have to learn from it. We also have to help them understand our value system and what it means to be in Canada.”

Lovisa credits his office space as a place where he can work and help strengthen international and local relationships.

“It’s a comfortable space,” he said. “[It’s] a quiet space when I want it to be [and] a fun space when I want it to be.”

Lovisa enjoys personalizing his environment. A blue chair, made completely out of guitar parts, sits in his office. Lovisa built the chair and decided to auction it off. When it didn’t sell, he kept it. The chair acts as a reminder for his love of music. “It’s just part of me. I like music, I like to play,” he said.

In addition to his guitar chair, student photography and sculptures fill the rest of his office. Lovisa is proud of DC’s students and surrounds himself with their work. He said the memorabilia is inspiring and motivational.

He refers to his office as “a place of great pride.”

“Thankful,” is the word Lovisa uses to describe himself.

“For many things. For my job, for the life I get to live. For everything around me.”