Learn about Queen’s first professor at Homecoming public lecture

This article originally appeared on the Queen’s Alumni website on Oct. 5, 2016.

Only two people worked at Queen’s when it opened in March 1842. One of them, The Reverend Peter Colin Campbell, had long been a mysterious figure in the university’s history. As the first professor, Reverend Campbell taught classical literature, which was seen as essential material for university students. Very little was known about him until Dr. Barbara Reeves, a professor in Queen’s Department of Classics, began researching Queen’s history as part of her department’s 175 celebrations.

Since January, Dr. Reeves has been researching and sharing stories about the history of classics at Queen’s through a dedicated Facebook page.  It was the lack of information on Reverend Campbell that caught her attention. “He is actually one of the 26 founders listed on Queen’s Charter and the only one who becomes a Queen’s professor,” she explains.  In fact, Reverend Campbell went on to become principal at the University of Aberdeen.

During her research, Dr. Reeves uncovered a copy of a 33-page document that Reverend Campbell presented to the Legislature of (the Province of) Canada in 1845 on the role of university in society. “He’s a very thoughtful, intelligent individual. So it’s no surprise he ends up being principal of a prestigious university because thinking about education was very important to him,” says Dr. Reeves.

Next week, she will share everything she has learned about this mysterious figure in Queen’s history during a kick-off to Homecoming lecture. When Dr. Reeves began her project, she discovered that there wasn’t even have a picture of Reverend Campbell in the Queen’s Archives. Working with an undergraduate research student, Dr. Reeves has uncovered a trove of new information about Queen’s first professor. She now has a photograph of him, thanks to the University of Aberdeen Archives and a much more complete picture of his life story.

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