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Queen's University

School of Policy Studies


This Lecture Series honours Tom Plunkett, who served as Director of the School of Public Administration at Queen’s University from 1977 to 1984 and 1990 to 1992.

Born in Northern Ireland in 1921, Tom grew up in Montreal.  Following service with the Air Force during World War II, he completed high school, an undergraduate degree from Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) and a Master’s degree from McGill University.  

With an interest in public administration inspired by his studies, Tom embarked on a sterling career in local government, sharing his expertise with municipalities all across Canada, Singapore, Guyana and even China, and serving as principal advisor to the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Toronto in the mid-1960s and chief advisor on the unification of Winnipeg and surrounding municipalities in the early 1970s.  His growing reputation in city administration brought him to Queen’s University as director of the Institute of Local Government in 1972.  He became director of the School of Public Administration in 1977, where he nurtured two young graduate programs--the full-time MPA program founded in 1970 and the new part-time Professional MPA program established in 1976--to national prominence, and returned as acting director for two years in 1989, prior to the merger of the Schools of Public Administration and Policy Studies.

As a practitioner, Tom shared his experience of local government administration with his students; as a scholar, he shared his research with professional administrators as well as students and academic colleagues. He was the author (or co-author) of more than six books on urban government in Canada and numerous articles, reports and case studies that may still be found on university reading lists today.  He was awarded the Vanier Medal, by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada in 1983 as  a mark of distinction and exceptional achievement to a person who has shown distinctive leadership in public administration and public service in Canada, or who, by his/her writings or other endeavours, has made a significant contribution in the field of public administration or public service in Canada.

The Thomas Plunkett Lecture Series is supported by the Thomas Plunkett Executive-in-Residence Endowment Fund.  Established by family and friends, with support from his students, the Endowment Fund supports the participation of distinguished senior practitioners in municipal government or the broader public sector, in the School’s scholarly activities.

2013 - Bringing Common Sense to City Building
Karen Stintz, Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, City of Toronto (November 22, 2013)  

School of Policy Studies, Robert Sutherland Hall
Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.3020