Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

The Magazine Of Queen's University

Search form

From the principal: My last column

From the principal: My last column

[photo of Principal Daniel Woolf]Anyone who had the pleasure of attending the recent opening of our newest building, Mitchell Hall, on March 30, will have seen and heard one word that described the success of this project. The word is “together,” and it’s the theme for this issue. With the help of our generous donors, two levels of government, and extraordinary collaboration of various sectors of the Queen’s community, a highly complex conversion of our 90-year-old Phys Ed Centre has been completed, a fantastic melding of research, innovation, athletics, and student wellness. So ”together” is a great word, and it’s included on the building’s donor wall.

I believe ”together” is also a remarkably accurate word to describe the Queen’s family, both on-campus and off, past, present, and future. Over my decade as principal and vice-chancellor, the university has faced many challenges and some difficult conversations. Being a university, there are invariably multiple views on most topics, and sometimes strong disagreements. But I’ve never doubted for a moment that anyone who intervened on any topic (even when I respectfully disagreed with them) had the best interest of the university in mind. We often use terms like ”community” in conjunction with universities, and in reality they are more like cities with centres, suburbs, visitors and permanent residents, always dwelling somewhere inside real cities. But despite Queen's complicated, sometimes Byzantine organization – shared with every other university I’ve worked at – I think we have transcended local or individual interests many times over the last ten years to achieve great things. I won’t rehearse the full list of achievements here, but apart from Mitchell Hall and other building projects, I can point to our success in addressing mental health issues, to our significant progress on issues of inclusion and diversity, to our work toward reforming an unsustainable pension plan, to our incredible fundraising success, and to improved relationships with our local community and government partners.

This is my last column as principal, and the next time you receive an Alumni Review, the author of this page will be our 21st principal, Patrick Deane. I know I am leaving the leadership of the institution in excellent hands. As to my plans: I will be taking two years of administrative leave to recharge my batteries, to re-engage with my research and writing projects on a more full-time basis, and eventually to develop some courses to teach in the Department of History, to which I will return enthusiastically in July 2021 for a few years prior to full retirement. I’m excited about the prospect of wrapping up my career at my alma mater, and in the department and faculty that gave me so much, and prepared me so well, as an undergraduate four decades ago.

My wife, Julie (herself my unwavering partner on this journey) and I have a great many thank-yous to convey. They are too numerous to list in entirety, but I would like specifically to thank our donors who routinely made the imaginable real. And I thank you, my fellow alumni, for your consistent devotion to our university, and to ”paying it forward,” as generations of previous alumni, now passed, have done since the 19th century. You’ve been respecters and guardians of tradition, but also understood that the world evolves and that Queen’s must evolve with it. Great things have been achieved, indeed. But in my view, the best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see how things will evolve over the next decade.

Cha ghèill!

[cover image of the Queen's Alumni Review issue 2, 2019, showing the 'Together' message in Mitchell Hall]