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Set for a historic day for Queen’s

The installation of Patrick Deane as the 21st principal and vice-chancellor will celebrate Queen's through a mixture of old and new traditions.

Patrick Deane will be formally installed as principal and vice-chancellor on Nov. 12.

Since 1841, Queen’s has installed a new principal only 20 times. Tuesday, Nov. 12, then, will be a significant moment in the history of Queen’s, as Patrick Deane will be formally installed as the 21st principal and vice-chancellor.

This will be the first installation ceremony in 10 years, and so will be the first opportunity in that timespan for the Queen’s community to experience the traditions that come with installing a new principal and vice-chancellor. At the same time, it is also an opportunity for the community to experience Principal Deane’s new additions to the traditions of installation. Most notably, Principal Deane has changed the celebration that follows the ceremony. In the past, the ceremony has usually been followed by a small formal dinner. To make the celebration more inclusive of the Queen’s community, Principal Deane has decided instead to hold a reception in Ban Righ Hall that all are welcome to attend.

Dr. Deane is not the first principal to add new touches to installation. William C. Leggett, for example, decided to hold his 1994 installation ceremony in Jock Harty Arena instead of Grant Hall, where the event is usually held.

“The ceremony is a mixture of veneration of past traditions – bands, Gaelic regalia, Grant Hall’s splendour, the Queen’s chant – and usually a hint of things to come,” says Duncan MacDowall, University Historian and Adjunct Professor of History at Queen’s. “The challenge to an incoming principal is to send a message that shows respect for durable past values, but at the same time acknowledges present challenges and opportunities.”

While every new principal usually takes the opportunity to put their own stamp on the event, each installation ceremony shares several common features. The ceremony always takes place during fall convocation, when Queen’s tradition is already in the air. After the academic procession into Grant Hall, the chancellor leads the new principal through a pledge, in which they promise to “uphold the traditions and maintain the principles and purposes of Queen’s.” This pledge is followed by a brief robing ceremony, during which the new principal removes his personal academic gown and puts on the official regalia of the Queen’s principal. The newly-installed principal then gives a formal address to all those in attendance. Often this speech outlines their vision for the university and what they hope to achieve in their term as principal. 

Whenever Queen’s has the chance to install a new principal, it is always a momentous occasion. When George Monro Grant was installed in 1877, Sir John A. Macdonald was in attendance and the installation was greeted with “tremendous cheering, such as only students can give,” according to a contemporary account in the Queen’s Journal. Seen as significant addresses, the speeches that several principals have given upon installation have been published in the Queen’s Journal, broadcast by CFRC, and recorded on video. Principal Deane’s ceremony will be the first to be streamed live on Facebook.

Throughout Queen’s history, installation ceremonies have provided a chance for the university community to reflect on the school’s past and the significance of the role of principal. The program for the installation ceremony of James Alexander Corry opens with a page-long essay on the history of Queen’s from 1841-1961, focusing on how Queen’s had both grown significantly while also remaining true to its original values. Upon the installation of Ronald Lampman Watts in 1974, the university put up pictures of the previous principals around the campus accompanied by quotations from them.

Author Margaret Atwood speaking at a symposium accompanying David Smith's installation in 1984. (Queen's Archives.)

Installations have also been an occasion to start a conversation about the university’s future, sometimes in the company of influential public intellectuals. John James Deutsch and David Chadwick Smith both hosted symposiums to accompany their installations that were highlighted by prominent thinkers discussing pressing issues in higher education. Deutsch arranged for author Arthur Koestler and economist John Kenneth Galbraith to speak about “the ethics of change” in the context of the 1960s. And in 1984 Smith brought in author Margaret Atwood and scholar Jill Conway to debate the mission of the university. The Queen’s Archives, which holds a variety of material connected with past installations, has a full video of Atwood’s speech that can be viewed on their website.

The installation of Patrick Deane begins at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 12. All members of the community are invited to watch a livestream of the ceremony on the Queen’s University Facebook page.