One of the most powerful men in the early history of Upper Canada, Strachan was also an unwitting founder of Queen's. He immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1799 and settled in Kingston and then Cornwall. Ordained as an Anglican minister in 1803, he accepted the Rectorship of York (Toronto) in 1812.
Strachan took charge of the community when the Americans invaded in 1813 and, after the war, became a leading member of the "Family Compact" of English and Loyalist families who controlled the colony. Influential in politics and religion, he was also was a force in education – and in 1827, founded the Anglican King's College, later the University of Toronto. An unintended consequence of this achievement was the founding of Queen's.
Throughout the 1830s, Presbyterians sought to become partners in his richly endowed college. But Strachan guarded Anglican privileges and bluntly rejected all suitors. Frustrated by his stubbornness, Presbyterian leaders finally decided in the late 1830s to found their own college: Queen's.
The new university's leaders continued to approach Strachan about a merger in the 1840s but he remained obdurate - thus ensuring that Queen's survived. One Queen's historian has called Strachan Queen's "patron saint" because of his unwitting contributions to the university.