Charles Avery Dunning served as Queen's seventh Chancellor between 1940 and 1959.
Born in Croft, England, he immigrated to Canada at the age of 17 to work as a farm hand in Saskatchewan. In 1911, fewer than ten years after his arrival, he became General Manager of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Company, and in 1916 he was elected a Liberal representative to the Saskatchewan Legislature.
During his 10 years in the legislature, Dunning held the positions of Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Railways, Minister of Telephones, and Provincial Treasurer.
In 1922, he was elected Premier of Saskatchewan.
He entered federal politics in 1926 and served as Prime Minister Mackenzie King's Minister of Railways and Canals (1926-1929) and then as Minister of Finance (1929-1930).
Dunning lost his seat in the election of 1930, but returned to power and the finance portfolio in 1935. He resigned as Minister of Finance in 1939 because of ill health and resumed a career in business, where he gained a reputation as a brilliant re-organizer of bankrupt companies.
Dunning was elected Queen's Chancellor in 1940 on the death of James Richardson.
As Chancellor, he was closely involved in Queen's major financial and personnel decisions, and his public and private influence made him an extremely effective fundraiser for the university. Though Dunning did not have a private fortune with which to support Queen's, he was close friends with many of the leaders in business and politics in Canada, and soon proved his effectiveness in using his influence to the benefit of the university.
In 1943, Dunning used his familiarity with the tax laws of Canada to find a loophole which allowed Canadian corporations a large tax exemption on profits if they gave to a university, and Dunning mobilized the Trustees and graduates of Queen's in a canvassing campaign to convince corporations to take advantage of the loophole to the benefit of Queen's. The results were spectacular; the university netted $1 million in a few short months.
Dunning was also responsible for bringing one of Queen's most generous benefactors on board. Dunning and Col. R. S. McLaughlin were fellow directors of the CPR and there is a story that at a board meeting in 1943, Dunning passed a note down the table to McLaughlin, stating simply that Queen's needed a new mechanical engineering building. McLaughlin passed the note back saying that Dunning should see him afterwards, and the result of Dunning's efforts was the large gift which resulted in the construction of McLaughlin Hall.
The Chancellor Dunning Trust was established in 1946 by an anonymous donor who gave $100,000 to Queen's University to establish a permanent tribute to Chancellor Charles A. Dunning. The Dunning Trust Lectureship invites a member of the Queen's community to deliver a public lecture with the intention of promoting the freedoms and responsibilities of the individual in society.
Charles Dunning died in Montreal. His papers are held in the Queen's Archives.