Honouring Principal Watts

Honouring Principal Watts

October 30, 2015


Dr. Ronald Watts was born March 10, 1929 in Karuizawa, Japan, to Canadian Anglican missionary parents. He commenced his education in that country, subsequently moving to Trinity College School in Port Hope and then Trinity College at the University of Toronto. Receiving a Rhodes Scholarship in 1952, he continued his studies at Oriel and Nuffield Colleges at Oxford University, from which he received a BA (1954) and a DPhil (1963) in Political Studies. He and Donna Paisley married in 1954, establishing a lifelong partnership that sustained their extensive educational, scholarly and policy-oriented activities.

Dr. Watts’s career at Queen’s University began in 1955, when he became a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy, moving six years later to Political Studies. Shortly thereafter, he became first an assistant dean and then dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, and then, from 1974 to 1984, principal and vice-chancellor.

While in Political Studies, he pioneered the study of British Dominions and emerged as a leading international scholar of federalism, playing decisive roles throughout the world in organizations concerned with intergovernmental relations. 

In 1989, he assumed the directorship of the Queen’s Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, and, as a fellow, was continuously involved with the institute until his death. His expertise was enlisted at the highest levels by Canadian federal and provincial governments, and by a multiplicity of countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, Yugoslavia, Pakistan and India.

He had a lifelong interest in and an encyclopaedic knowledge of aviation and aviation history. Dr. Watts, a long-time member of the Kingston Yacht Club, was a fiercely competitive sailor who competed with considerable success at national and international levels. He owned and carefully tended several boats during his sailing career, including Viking 1 & 2, Blue Peters, Cats Wiskers and Zest.

A prolific and respected scholar, his immense contributions both to academe and society at large were recognized with five honorary degrees, his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979, and his promotion to Companion in 2000, and with his fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Watts is survived by his loving wife Donna (nee Paisley), brother Hugh (Sharon), sisters Barbara Sibbald (John), Margaret Webb (Stephen), brother-in-law Hugh (Joan) and sisters-in-law Arden Collins (Alex), Judith Paisley and Carol Paisley. He will be missed by many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. He is predeceased by his parents, Bishop Horace and Ruth Watts, sister Alison Watts, and brothers-in-law Ian and Keith Paisley.

As expressions of sympathy, donations to the J.A. Corry Memorial Fund (Intergovernmental Relations) at Queen’s University in memory of Dr. Watts would be appreciated by the family.