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Queen’s remembers Principal Emeritus Karen Hitchcock

First woman to serve as principal and vice-chancellor of Queen's University died July 10 at her home near Albany, N.Y.

  • Principal Emeritus Karen Hitchcock
    Principal Emeritus Karen Hitchcock, the first woman to serve as Queen's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, passed away on July 10, 2019.
  • Principal Emeritus Karen Hitchcock
    Principal and vice-chancellor Karen Hitchcock speaks at a reception held in her honour on May 21, 2008.
  • Professor Emeritus Karen Hitchcock
    Principal and vice-chancellor Karen Hitchcock helps out with the groundbreaking ceremony for the Athletics and Recreation Centre.

Karen Hitchcock, the 18th principal and vice-chancellor of Queen’s University, died Wednesday, July 10 following an extended illness. She was 76.

Dr. Hitchcock was the first woman to serve as Queen’s principal and the first American. She held the office from July 2004 until April 2008.

“Principal Emeritus Hitchcock served Queen’s with great commitment and warmth,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “During her time in office, work began on the Athletics and Recreation Centre and explorations were undertaken that would eventually lead to the building of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. I was fortunate enough to work with her during those years, and I know that many colleagues will also remember her fondly for her openness, her ambitious vision, and her collegiality.”

During her time at Queen’s, Dr. Hitchcock initiated a strategic plan to help define the university’s directions and goals over the following decade. Work began on the Athletics and Recreation Centre, the student life and athletics facility on campus, in 2007. Shortly afterwards the university acquired land along the shore of Lake Ontario for what would become the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.  

In the summer of 2008, Dr. Hitchcock oversaw the opening of Innovation Park, a facility bringing together innovators and specialists from academia, industry, government, and not-for-profits.

Before arriving at Queen’s Dr. Hitchcock was appointed president of the University at Albany, State University of New York in April 1996, once again the first woman to hold the position. She served in the position until 2003.

In 1964 Dr. Hitchcock received a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., and a PhD in anatomy in 1969 from the University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry.

During her academic career Dr. Hitchcock held positions at Tufts University in Boston, Texas Tech and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

After leaving Queens’ Dr. Hitchcock returned to the Albany area and became a special adviser for lobbying and consulting firm Park Strategies. She also served on the boards of PBS public television and NPR classical radio station WMHT, Albany Pro Musica, and the Doane Stuart School, and chaired the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Economic Growth. She also co-hosted the WAMC National Public Radio program “Best of Our Knowledge.”

Flags on campus have been lowered in honour of Dr. Hitchcock. Funeral arrangements will be shared when available.