Queen's University

Bringing “added value” to Queen’s

Jim Leech, MBA’73, a highly accomplished business leader and alumnus with an exemplary history of service to his alma mater, has been named the university’s 14th Chancellor. He recently sat down for a Q & A session with the Review to talk about his new role.

Q. What was your reaction when you were approached about your possible interest in serving as the next Chancellor of Queen’s University?

A. When I was approached by Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Palk, Arts’73, and Principal Daniel Woolf, I was simultaneously overwhelmed and energized. I just sat there in complete silence trying to process the invitation with a straight face. I’m sure Barb and Daniel were puzzled!  After all, it was the greatest possible honour; who wouldn’t be flattered to be considered for it? But how could possibly live up to the legacy of the previous 13 Chancellors?

You may wonder why I felt so strongly about this when I’d only spent 20 months studying for my MBA degree here at Queen’s. My undergrad education was at Royal Military College, and I’ll always feel an affinity to the military – after all, that was the Leech family’s “family business.” However, Queen’s provided my father, George Leech, with his second life after retiring from the military. You see, my dad served as Registrar [1968-76]. I once asked him why he loved that job versus all the other – possibly more prestigious – positions that he’d been offered upon his first retirement. He told me: “I’m surrounded by young people, and that keeps me young.” I remember his words to this day. It’s my dad’s legacy and that same enthusiasm he felt that I hope to carry forward during my term as Chancellor.
So after processing these thoughts and emotions in silence for what must have seemed like an eternity to Barb and Daniel, I concluded that I might be able to draw upon some of what I’ve learned during my first 45 years “on the job” to benefit Queen’s, its students, faculty, and staff. Only time will tell, but that’s what I’ll strive to do.
Q. Apart from your Queen’s background and that of your father’s, do you have any other Queen’s ties?
A. Yes, I do. My son-in-law, Tom Cumming graduated in Mechanical Engineering in 1985. My sister-in-law, Anne (Fletcher) Leech, is a member of the Class of Arts’64; she majored in Chemistry. My nephew David Leech, is Artsci’94, Artsci’98, while his sister, Susan Leech, is Artsci’94. As well, my cousin Robert Laubman, is Sc’71\, and his wife, Katherine Hoffman, was on faculty of PhysEd Department, 1970-71.
Q. Have you set any priorities for your term as Chancellor?
A. It’s still too early for me to discuss priorities. I begin my new duties in July, and until then I’ll be in a watch-and-listen mode. I’ve got a great teacher in Chancellor David Dodge, Arts’65, LLD’02. Going forward, for me it will be a matter of picking or responding to those opportunities where I feel my experience and counsel can be of benefit to the University. So with that in mind, I have an open question to all members of the Queen’s community: Where do you think I should devote my energies?
I’d very much like to hear what you have to say. Please write me care of the Review (review@queensu.ca).
Q. As you look ahead to your term as Chancellor, what are you most excited about?
A. I’m really looking forward to connecting with as many students as possible across the University – at social and athletic events, in the classrooms, in my governance roles, and possibly even in exercise
areas at the Athletics and Recreation Centre. That’s what will help to keep me young and invigorated. 


BORN: June 12, 1947
FAMILY: Married, two daughters, a son and five grand-children
HOBBIES: trekking, skiing (cross-country and downhill), scuba, golf, pottering at the cottage, enjoying grand-children
EDUCATION: Royal Military College, Bachelor of science (Hon. Math and Physics) 1968; Queen’s University, MBA’73
PROFESSIONAL CAREER: 2007-2014, president/CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (where he oversaw the management of $130 billion in assets); 2001-07, senior V-P Teachers’ Private Capital; 1993-2000, Vice-Chair Kasten Chase Applied Research inc.; 1988-1992, Union Energy Inc.; 1979-88, president/CEO, Unicorp Canada Corporation; 1973-79, senior executive, Commerce Capital Corporation; Canadian armed forces, 1968-71. served and continues to serve as a director on many corporate and non-profit boards. Co-authored the 2013 book The Third Rail: Confronting Our Pension Failures (Signal, $29.95), with Globe and Mail columnist Jacquie Mcnish. 





Queen's Alumni Review, 2013 Issue #4Queen's Alumni Review
2013 Issue #4
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