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CUBA conference comes to Queen’s

Chancellor Jim Leech heads panel discussion focusing on the evolving role of the chancellor.

[Chancellor Jim Leech]
Chancellor Jim Leech speaks with students during the major admission awards event. When Queen's hosts the Canadian University Boards Association (CUBA) conference in May, Chancellor Leech will moderate a Chancellors Panel, which will discuss the evolving role of the chancellor at Canadian universities. (University Communications)

Queen’s University is preparing to host the Canadian University Boards Association (CUBA) conference in May with a theme this year of “A World of Opportunities.” Each year the conference focuses on pivotal issues affecting Canadian universities.

The purpose of the annual conference is to educate participants, who are members of university boards and governance professionals across the country, on best practices in university governance, and on national, international, and provincial trends affecting post-secondary institutions. The conference also provides opportunities for networking among individuals responsible for the leadership and operations of university governance boards.

After an opening day featuring the official opening ceremony and a keynote from mental health expert Heather Stuart (Public Health Sciences), Day 2 of the conference features Queen’s Chancellor Jim Leech moderating a Chancellors Panel, which will discuss the evolving role of the chancellor at Canadian universities.

“I’m looking forward to this panel and learning about how my role as Queen’s chancellor may be different from the role at other universities,” says Chancellor Leech. Created at Queen’s in 1874, the chancellor is the highest officer and the ceremonial head of the university. “I explain the chancellor role to my grandchildren as ‘I am to Queen’s what the governor general is to Canada – the highest office, but no defined authority.’ But that is what gives the role broad influence, through moral suasion.”

Chancellor Leech is the 14th chancellor in the school’s history and, along with chairing the University Council and acting as an ex-officio voting member of the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Leech also presides over convocation. He typically oversees 28 convocation ceremonies each year and estimates that he shakes about 5,500 hands.

“In my time I’ve tried to emulate what (The Rt. Hon.) Daniel Roland Michener did. He worked very hard to connect with the students. He would often go jogging around the campus with students," Chancellor Leech says. "For me, I’ve tried to connect through Twitter. The times really dictate the job.”

Governor General David Johnson, a former president of the University of Waterloo, has recognized that chancellors represent a highly-accomplished group that have the power to enact change. With that in mind, he convened the first-ever gathering of Canadian university chancellors at which he outlined three goals – something Chancellor Leech says resonated with him.

“He asked chancellors to get behind the promotion of the 150th anniversary of Canada, he wanted us to push the importance of fundamental research to the country, and emphasized the role universities must play in truth and reconciliation in Canada,” says Chancellor Leech. “The last one really mobilized and motivated me to make sure Queen’s is helping to lead the way. I’m proud that we have been that leader.”

Chancellor Leech is looking forward to the panel discussion, which includes McMaster University Chancellor Suzanne Labarge, Dalhousie University Chancellor Anne McLellan, and Laurentian University Chancellor Steven Paikin.

The conference runs May 2 to 4 in Kingston. For more information, visit the website.