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Queen’s remembers Principal Emeritus Ronald L. Watts

Ronald Lampman Watts, the 15th principal of Queen’s University, died Friday, Oct. 9. He was 86.

Ronald L. Watts served as the 15th principal of Queen's University.

Dr. Watts, who served as Queen’s principal from 1974 to 1984, was also one of Canada’s leading experts on federalism.

“On behalf of the entire Queen's community, Julie and I extend our deepest condolences to Dr. Watts' wife Donna and the entire Watts family,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “Dr. Watts was a beloved and respected member of the Queen’s community, and will be sorely missed. He was also an enormously influential figure in the debates on federalism in Canada over several decades, a greatly respected international consultant on governance, and a fine teacher, many of whose students went on to successful careers in academe, the private sector and the public service.”

Born in Japan to Canadian Anglican missionary parents in 1929, he was educated at the University of Toronto (BAH’52) and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship (BA’54, MA’59, PhD’62).

He arrived at Queen’s University in 1955 as a lecturer in philosophy, but moved to the Department of Political and Economic Science in 1961. Dr. Watts took an interest in the administration and students of Queen’s, serving as a residence don in McNeill House and helping to plan the many residences built during the 1960s.

He was appointed Dean of Arts and Science in 1969 before becoming principal five years later. At 45, he was the youngest principal since George Monro Grant assumed the office nearly 100 years earlier.

During his time as principal several buildings were expanded including Botterell Hall, a nine-story medical sciences building located next to Kingston General Hospital.

Faced with reductions in government funding Dr. Watts also launched a campaign to cut costs, such as reducing energy consumption, while also maintaining the quality of teaching and research at Queen’s. His second five-year term was highlighted by laying the plans for the Queen's National Scholars program to attract outstanding young faculty members as well as starting the planning for the establishment of the School of Policy Studies.

Dr. Watts’ main academic interest was the comparative study of federal political systems. After retiring as principal, he served as director of Queen’s Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, senior adviser to the federal government on constitutional affairs, and consultant to governments all over the world, including Canada, Kenya, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom.

He also published a number of books, including New Federations: Experiments in the Commonwealth, Multi-Cultural Societies and Federalism, Administration in Federal Systems, and Comparing Federal Systems.

Dr. Watts received five honorary degrees and became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979 and a Companion in 2000.

A celebration of Dr. Watts' life will occur in Grant Hall on Friday, Oct. 30 at 11 am with a reception to follow in the atrium of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.