Former U of G president Franco Vaccarino speaks at a podium
Former U of G president Franco Vaccarino speaks at the opening of the Vaccarino Centre for Student Wellness

The University of Guelph is celebrating the official opening of the Vaccarino Centre for Student Wellness, named for former president Franco Vaccarino. 

Student wellness, especially providing ways to support and enhance student mental health, was a pillar of Vaccarino’s six-year presidency from 2014 to 2020. 

Speaking during the opening ceremony on May 17, Shauneen Bruder, chair of U of G’s Board of Governors, said, “President Vaccarino was a driving force in ensuring we provided integrated and robust student wellness resources and services.

“As we know, wellness goes beyond physical health. It is about ensuring our students feel supported so that their health, academic work and personal growth can all thrive.” 

Bruder first announced that the University’s student wellness centre would be renamed in Vaccarino’s honour during a 2020 farewell event for U of G’s eighth president.  

Today, she told Vaccarino it is fitting that a centre with expansive and impactful student services and resources carries his name.  

“In our conversations and in working together on student wellness initiatives, it was clear how hard you worked to ensure U of G students felt supported and nurtured. You have left an indelible mark on our University, and we are so pleased we are able to honour your service to the University and to students today,” Bruder said. 

Dr. Franco Vaccarino at the opening ceremony on May 17

“The integration of these various services and resources over the years best reflects our comprehensive understanding of wellness and helps to provide seamless collaborative care for U of G students,” said president Dr. Charlotte Yates. 

Speaking directly to Vaccarino, she added that the new name “is a testament to your years of commitment and passion.” Student wellness has long been a central priority for the U of G community, Yates said. “But we have all gained a new appreciation of wellness over the past two and a half years.” 

Charlotte Cherkewski, a fourth-year undergraduate student who has worked with Student Wellness for the past two years, said the centre is purposefully and thoughtfully designed. “It creates safe spaces for students to learn and ask questions.” 

During Tuesday’s event, Vaccarino, an internationally recognized neuroscientist, said wellness is among the greatest predictors of a person’s success, and universities have a key role to play.  

U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates said the new name is a testament to Vaccarino’s years of commitment and passion.

For most students, university is a “home away from home at a special juncture and time in their lives,” Vaccarino said. “We must take seriously our responsibility to do what we can to support students so they can be successful.  

“Having our family name associated with student wellness means the world to me. Thank you for bestowing this honour on me and my family.” 

Vaccarino said that serving as U of G president was “the greatest honour and privilege of my professional life.”  

He is continuing his research and scholastic interests, including serving as a faculty member in U of G’s Department of Psychology and working with organizations including Brain Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.