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Working Toward Inclusion: Listening to LGBTQI2S+ Student Voices in Medicine

David Messenger is an emergency and intensive care physician and head of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

This guest blog, written by Dr. David Messenger, an emergency and intensive care physician and head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Queen’s University, was first published on the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Blog.

Recently, I took part in a panel discussion organized by Queen’s medical students. A small group of faculty and resident physicians came together to speak about our individual experiences as LGBTQI2S+ persons in medical school, residency training and early practice. As the oldest panelist, I looked forward to learning how different becoming an LGBTQI2S+ doctor must be now compared to my own experience. 

When I started medical school at Queen’s in 1998, the landscape looked much different than it does today. Sexual orientation had only just been added to the Canadian Human Rights Act; same-sex marriage rights were still seven years away. At 21, I had yet to come out to my family and many friends, and I had just started my first gay relationship (with my now-husband). I was keenly aware of a need to tread very carefully as I took my first tentative steps out of a meticulously-constructed closet.

As a gay medical student, I felt relatively isolated. Rather than seek community with the tiny group of visible LGBTQI2S+ med students, I avoided associations that might result in my being “outed”. I felt certain that coming out would be a liability to any number of my ambitions in medicine, particularly matching to a competitive specialty residency program. I worried about how I’d be viewed and treated by preceptors, colleagues, and by patients if I presented as anything other than the norm that was modeled for me in medicine. Gay clinical faculty exemplars or mentors? None were visible to me through my decade of training at Queen’s. Normalization of LGBTQI2S+ patients in the curriculum? Other than being taught to ask “do you have sex with men, women, or both?” when taking a sexual history, and discussions about gay patients in the context of HIV, I don’t recall much explicit reassurance that medicine welcomed the inclusion of the LGBTQI2S+ experience in its ranks.

Despite a sense of isolation, my actual lived experience at Queen’s has been mostly positive. My coming out has been a gradual and continuing experience that started during residency. I feel immensely grateful for the acceptance and support that I’ve received from many peers and mentors here who have proved to be committed allies as I’ve become more open with my identity. But my experience has always felt more like good luck than it has deliberate institutional culture.

Two decades later, it’s clear that much has changed. Listening to the contemporary stories and experiences of my co-panelists and others revealed that LGBTQI2S+ students are more comfortable living that identity openly among their peers today. A more visible and supportive LGBTQI2S+ medical student community exists for those who seek it out. This community is finding a voice that is helping to promote the inclusion of more diversity in the curriculum.

But, even now, LGBTQI2S+ students describe considerable apprehension about if and how to be themselves when applying for residency training. They search for subtle signals during electives and interviews that prospective programs are safe to join. They consider redacting their CVs to exclude activities that brand them as “too political” (code for “too gay”). They speak of ruling out entire disciplines from their career choices because of worry that as LGBTQI2S+, they won’t fit with the culture of the specialty. Despite unique individual experiences, many learners describe being victim to assumptions, misunderstandings, and a hidden curriculum that can make them feel like outsiders within their disciplines. And finally, they expose an ongoing scarcity of accessible and visible LGBTQI2S+ mentors and role models within Queen’s Medicine.

June is Pride month – among other things, a celebration of diversity. At Queen’s, we often discuss a need to foster diversity and inclusion in medicine, but the stories of our LGBTQI2S+ students and trainees bring to light how much work remains for diversity and inclusion to become lived values.

An inclusive medical school welcomes and normalizes as many different populations of students as possible. An inclusive medical school does not explicitly or implicitly marginalize people or label them as “other”, including the patients our graduates will go on to care for. As one of a small number of gay faculty members in a position of leadership, my visibility and accessibility to students is an important contribution I can make to help us be a more inclusive community. I have a tendency to shelter behind my ability to visibly “blend into the crowd” and to obscure my identity – some habits die hard – and that tendency might be sending the wrong message to my students and colleagues.

Change begins with recognition. We all need to pay attention to the stories of LGBTQI2S+ students, stories as diverse as the individuals who tell them. We can and must do better as allies, and this starts by listening to, learning from, and advocating for our students and colleagues’ experiences in medicine at Queen’s.

A new group of leaders emerges

A program for Queen's staff members is training the next generation of campus leaders.

[Emerging Leaders talking]
Participants in the Emerging Leaders Program discuss what they have learned over the past seven months

Karen Zuliniak loves the work that she does as Program Manager of the MBA at Smith School of Business, and she had recently been looking to prepare herself to take on greater responsibilities at work. When applications opened for the Emerging Leaders Program last fall, she knew that she wanted to pursue the opportunity.

Along with the rest of her cohort, Zuliniak graduated from the seven-month Emerging Leaders Program on Friday, June 14. Looking back on the program, she believes that she got exactly what she wanted out of it.

“I learned very practical management skills that I will be able to apply as my career moves forward. It was also great to work with other aspiring leaders on campus and learn about our different approaches to similar challenges,” Zuliniak says. “I really value the opportunities that Queen’s provides to continue to learn and grow as a professional. It’s fantastic to have this level of support.”  

The Emerging Leaders Program is one of a number of different courses offered by Human Resources that staff members can take part in to expand their skill sets and develop their careers. The course is designed for new and future managers who would like to build skills, such as communication, collaboration, coaching, and relationship building, that will help them develop into effective supervisors.

Over a period of seven months, starting last November, the participants in the program took seven full-day training sessions that were broken into three different modules. The first module, “Managing Self,” helps participants to identify their leadership styles and introduces the essential skills required for management. In the second module, “Managing Relationships,” participants learn how to manage both conflict and change. Finally, the third module focuses on the theme of “Managing the Organization,” and it teaches skills such as managing within the frameworks of the Human Rights Code and employee and labour relations standards.

In addition to these day-long sessions, participants in the Emerging Leaders Program are also paired with a mentor. These mentors are all graduates of the Foundational Leadership Program, which is also offered by Queen’s Human Resources. Over the course of the program, mentors meet with their mentees at least once a month to provide informal feedback and help them work on the practical application of the skills they are learning in the program.

Shannon Hill, Learning and Development Specialist in Human Resources, is one of the organizers of the program.

“Each year, I am astounded by the energy and creativity of all of our participants,” she says. “The people who take this course will be helping Queen’s fulfil a wide range of its goals – everything from advancing financial sustainability to improving equity, diversity, and inclusion – and I think the Emerging Leaders program is setting up participants to succeed, no matter what area of the university they work in.”

Applications for the next cohort of the Emerging Leaders Program will be available in the fall, and they will be posted to the Learning and Development website. Queen’s employees interested in the program need to secure the support of their direct supervisor in order to apply. Through the office of Learning and Development, Queen’s employees have access to a variety of resources, including the Tuition Assistance Program and the Lending Library

Distinguished Service Award recipients announced

This year’s recipients of the Distinguished Service Awards are a group of faculty and staff members who have made a lasting impact throughout their outstanding careers at Queen’s University.

The 2019 recipients of the Distinguished Service Awards are:

Sue Blake: Queen’s alumna, dedicated staff member since 1975, current Assistant Dean (Studies) in the Faculty of Arts and Science, and tireless advocate for students.

Yolande Chan: Multifaceted Smith School of Business Professor and Associate Dean (Research, PhD and MSc Programs), distinguished researcher, and champion of equity, diversity, and inclusion at the university.

Merv Daub: Queen’s alumnus, former Trustee and University Councillor, dedicated football coach, historian and Gaels expert, and Professor Emeritus in the Smith School of Business.

Tom Harris: Queen’s alumnus, dedicated educator and senior administrator, oversaw the most successful fundraising campaign in Queen’s history.

Janean Sergeant: Queen’s alumna, retired Manager of High Performance Sport Operations with 38 years of service at the university, influential leader in provincial and national interuniversity sport, and devoted to student-athlete success.

Chris Tabor: Long-serving Manager of the Queen’s Campus Bookstore, committed to providing accessible and cost-effective course materials to students, innovator and leader within the bookstore industry.

The Distinguished Service Awards will be presented at a special evening reception on Friday, Nov. 1. Ticket information will be available in late summer.

Inaugurated by the Executive Committee of the University Council in 1974, the Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have made the university a better place through their exemplary service and extraordinary contributions. The University Council was established by statute in 1874. It is one of the three governing bodies of the university and all elective members are elected by and from Queen’s alumni. The University Council serves as both an advisory and an ambassadorial body to the university as a whole and is responsible for the election of the chancellor.

Questions about the Distinguished Service Awards can be directed to the University Secretariat at ucouncil@queensu.ca or 613-533-6095.  

Queen’s welcomes new University Archivist and Associate University Librarian

Queen’s University is welcoming Ken Hernden as the new University Archivist and Associate University Librarian starting July 1. Coming to Queen’s from Algoma University, Hernden brings tremendous experience in library leadership, archival work, and collaboration with Indigenous communities to preserve Indigenous knowledge and records related to residential schools in Canada.

Ken Hernden
Ken Hernden arrives at Queen's as the new University Archivist and Associate University Librarian.

“We are very pleased to have Ken joining us in the Queen’s Archives,” says Michael Vandenburg, Acting Vice-Provost (Digital Planning) and University Librarian. “Ken brings with him considerable expertise, with a particular focus on Indigenous records and building inclusive collections, and I am certain he will be a key player in enhancing the work we are doing here in the Queen’s Library and in our role as a cultural heritage organization.”

As one of the oldest research libraries in Canada, Queen’s University Library is distinguished by archives that document the rich history and culture of the region and the university, by remarkable special collections and rare books, and by strong historical collections across the disciplines. The library and its passionate experts contribute to a network of cultural heritage institutions – galleries, libraries, archives and museums – that spans Queen’s campus, connects with the local community, and advances national heritage strategies.

“I am very excited to join Queen’s University Library, and to work with the university’s world-class collections and colleagues who hold a wealth of knowledge in different areas,” Hernden says. “I am energized by this fresh opportunity and the chance to blend my previous experience into this new work at Queen’s.”

Hernden was a member of Algoma University’s senior management team for more than a decade, as library director and later as university librarian. He served on numerous academic and administrative committees, as a director and past executive member of the Ontario Council of University Libraries, and as a voting member of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network.

While at Algoma, Hernden was responsible for creating the university’s first archives, from previously unorganized records and gifts of private papers and rare books that had accumulated for more than 40 years. Working with a small staff, he focused on establishing physical control of Algoma’s holdings and making records available online as much as possible. This led to the acquisition of important regional records, such as the Anglican Diocese of Algoma’s archives, which later complemented the university’s archival work concerning residential schools.

During his time at Algoma, Hernden secured significant funding that enabled the university and its partners to digitize tens of thousands of photographs and documents concerning the Shingwauk Indian Residential School (Algoma now operates on the site of the former school), as well as those of most of the residential schools across Canada. The rapid digitization of these records, starting in 2010, occurred at a critical moment in time when residential school survivors, the federal government, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada all needed access to these materials.

In 2017, Hernden was seconded from Algoma University to its Aboriginal Institute partner, Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, which was creating a “Teaching Wigwam” with an overall goal of providing education to Anishinaabe students. While there, Hernden secured funding for and developed the National Chiefs’ Library, a combined library, archives, and gallery that is now the official repository for the records of the National Chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations.

“I’ve always approached the work with a community-based focus – essentially saying, we’re here, we have this expertise, is there anything we do that is of use to you, and what can we do that blends naturally with what you are already doing,” Hernden says, of his work at Algoma. “We were not taking anything from anybody, and I was always very clear that if records were shared with us that we would only do things with those records that the community wanted done with them.”

Prior to his time at Algoma, Hernden held archivist positions at the Anglican Diocese of Huron, the University of Huron College, Rush University, and York University, and was head of reference and information systems at the North Bay Public Library.

“I would like to thank Paul Banfield for his many years of service to the Queen’s Library as University Archivist,” says Vandenburg. “His dedication and diligent work has provided a strong foundation for the Archives, and with Ken’s new position overseeing Archives as well as the W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Rare Books Library, we will build on that foundation and grow in new directions.”

Making time for learning

Queen’s supports employees in attending Indigenous celebrations on national day of recognition.

In striving to promote a deeper understanding of Indigenous histories, knowledge systems, and experiences, Queen’s is affording time off for employees to attend National Indigenous Peoples Day events.  The new Human Resources initiative will grant employees up to four hours of paid time off, should they choose to join in local gatherings marking the annual day of recognition.

Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day falls on June 21 annually, and celebrates the heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people across the country.

“Providing time for Queen’s employees to attend National Indigenous Peoples Day events is a positive way to encourage the campus community to learn about the cultures and past experiences of Indigenous peoples in a welcoming environment,” says Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice- Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation). “Joining in ceremonies and celebrations can offer new perspectives, and reveal ways we can all continue to learn and grow together.”

Aligning with recommendations from the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Task Force, the support for employee time off expands on the university’s ongoing efforts to build campus-wide awareness and understanding of Indigenous history, cultures, and perspectives. Employees will receive up to four hours of paid time to attend events during work hours, and can arrange with their respective managers for lieu, flex, or vacation, should additional time be required. Employees must provide as much notice as possible of such plans so managers can ensure operational needs are met.

The new initiative arrives following discussions held in late May at the inaugural meeting of a committee created by the university and USW, Local 2010 to discuss the recognition of Indigenous Peoples in the Collective Agreement. The committee which includes Indigenous representatives from both the bargaining unit and management, was struck to formulate how best to include this recognition.

“I’m very pleased to share this important initiative with Queen’s employees, as it allows each of us time to pursue a wider knowledge of the country in which we live, and to build stronger ties within our community,” says Steven Millan, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources). “I want to thank the joint committee for bringing this suggestion forward.”

The new arrangement aligns with the University’s Observed Holidays Policy with respect to time off for attending Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Among events Queen’s employees could attend in Kingston, is a National Indigenous Peoples Day event at Confederation Basin; the Enlightening Learning Event: Indigenous Medicine Knowledge by Tim Yearington, Indigenous Curricular Innovation Coordinator in the Faculty of Health Sciences; and a screening at the Tett Centre of acclaimed film The Grizzlies.

Learn more about the array of Indigenous supports available on campus.

Final week for Campus Wellness Project survey

Queen's students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to participate online by June 24th.

Launched in fall 2018, the Campus Wellness Project aims to advance, encourage, and support a culture of wellbeing for all who live, learn, and work at Queen’s.

Consultations with students, staff, and faculty, across campus and online, have taken place over the past five months. To date, more than 1,700 voices – half of them students – have contributed comments and ideas related to health and wellbeing at Queen’s. The project has received input about policies, procedures, practices, programs, resources, culture, opportunities, and challenges.

The online survey for the Campus Wellness Project will soon close to allow for review and analysis of information by the Campus Wellness Council and the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Wellness, as part of the development of a campus-wide wellness framework.

Students, staff, and faculty are invited to contribute their ideas online until 5 p.m. on June 24th. For more information and to complete the short survey, visit queensu.ca/campuswellnessproject.

Rethinking the way that we create positive spaces for our LGBTQI2S+ patients

Kathryn Allwright
In her research, Kathryn Allwright, right, seen here during convocation with Katie Goldie, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, looked into how humility can be more effective than competency in making positive health care spaces for people from LGBTQI2S+ community. (Supplied Photo)

This article was first published on the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Blog.

We live in an era where it is increasingly important for health care practitioners to create safe spaces for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, intersex and two-spirit (LGBTQI2S+) patients.

Discrimination and marginalization are huge barriers to healthcare for people of diverse sexual or gender identities. Not feeling welcome or understood hinders the therapeutic relationship and affects how people access care, or whether they access care at all. And we know that working towards positive spaces is a way to foster safer health care environments for patients from LGBTQI2S+ communities; studies confirm this again and again.

So how do we create those positive spaces for both practitioners and patients? The traditional approach is through cultural competency training. The tools in such training focus on the provider developing a set of attitudes, knowledge, and skills that will support them in caring for and showing respect for clients of different cultures.

And yet even for the most well-meaning, creating those safe spaces and experiences isn’t as simple as relying on knowledge gained from prior trainings, such as an introduction to LGBTQI2S+ terminology.  

Kathryn Allwright, who recently graduated from Queen’s Master of Nursing Science (MNSc), explored this simple yet striking nuance: humility can be more effective than competency in making positive health care spaces for people from LGBTQI2S+ community.

According to Kathryn and her research, humility requires a different approach than competency.

Rather than aiming to have health care practitioners ‘know’ the issues and concerns faced by their colleagues and patients from LGBTQI2S+ communities, humility aims to have practitioners understand that knowing is a process, rather than a destination. Each person has a unique lived experience; if we can resist assumptions and instead seek to understand each individual and their unique situation, we can shift to a state of constant learning -- and act accordingly.

Exactly how humility might be embedded into nursing practice was the focus of Kathryn’s thesis. In her initial research, Kathryn found literature demonstrating that public health nurses could make public health unit spaces safer for sexually and/or gender diverse people through a cultural humility approach. However, she found something was missing. There was no way to measure this. Public health nurses needed to be able to assess whether they were in fact using a cultural humility approach and creating positive spaces.

So, she set out to validate the effectiveness of existing self and workplace assessment tools made available by the Ontario Public Health Association. “Despite these tools being used in practice, I was unable to find any psychometric testing to support that these were valid and reliable measures for positive spaces,” Kathryn explained.

In the end, Kathryn set her sights on testing modified version of the tools that reflected cultural humility rather than competence “A cultural humility approach encompasses critical self-reflection, a commitment to lifelong learning, and a recognition of power imbalances. It was important to ensure that these components were reflected in the positive space tools” Kathryn shared. Her work yielded a 40-item self-assessment tool with 15 underlying dimensions and a 38-item workplace tool with 10 underlying dimensions.

“This Exploratory Factor Analysis is a step in the direction toward having validated and reliable tools,” Kathryn said. The next step is testing the tools with different samples to assess generalizability of the results.”

Although Kathryn has now graduated, this won’t be the end of her work on LGBTQI2S+ healthcare topics. Kathryn, alongside project partners, have launched a podcast series on trans health care topics called TransForming Rounds. You can find all episodes of TransForming Rounds.

Seeing the important work that Kathryn is doing to support diversity and inclusion is not just inspiring but brave and thought-provoking. I hope that it inspires those of you reading – whether you are a nurse, doctor, rehabilitation therapist, trainee, staff member or working outside the healthcare field altogether.

How are you incorporating humility and the idea of building safe spaces into the work that you do? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Or better yet, please stop by the Macklem House: my door is always open.

Queen’s University offers positive space training through its Positive Space Program. Find out more at: queensu.ca/positivespace.

Pride flag to fly on campus

Flag to welcome Queen's community back to campus following parade weekend.

This time last year, Historica Canada debuted a new Heritage Minute focused on LGBTQ+ history in Canada. Queen’s researcher, Steven Maynard – a social historian specializing in the history of sexuality – worked with Historica Canada for over a year to help accurately and respectfully develop the piece. Read more about that project and watch the heritage minute now.

The Pride flag will fly on campus on Monday, June 17, in solidarity and celebration with the LGBTQ+ community across Queen’s, Kingston, Canada, and the globe.

“Queen’s is a community that welcomes and celebrates sexual and gender diversity, and strives for an equitable and inclusive future,” says Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion). “I want to wish our campus community a happy Pride ahead of this weekend’s festivities in Kingston, and encourage faculty, staff, and students to explore the variety of programs and groups here on campus working to bring us all closer together.”

The Inclusive Queen’s website brings together information on a variety of initiatives aimed at building a campus environment in which everyone feels engaged, respected, and safe – including resources working to positively advance inclusivity and equity as they relate to gender and sexuality.

Among those resources are the Positive Space Program, counselling services for LGBTQ+ students, the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP), and the soon-to-re-launch Queen’s University Association for Queer Employees (QUAQE).

Barbecue celebrates faculty and staff

Daniel Woolf hosts his last staff appreciation event as Queen’s Principal.

  • Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon Woolf handing out dessert at the annual faculty and staff appreciation event.
    Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf and Julie Gordon Woolf handing out dessert at the annual faculty and staff appreciation event.
  • Staff and faculty enjoying meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue at Grant Hall.
    Staff and faculty enjoying meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue at Grant Hall.
  • Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies helps serve meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue.
    Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies helps serve meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue.
  • Staff and faculty enjoying meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue at Grant Hall.
    Staff and faculty enjoying meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue at Grant Hall.
  • Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), greeting staff and faculty at the Queen's Summer Barbecue.
    Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), greeting staff and faculty at the Queen's Summer Barbecue.
  • Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation) serving meals at the staff appreciation event.
    Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation) serving meals at the staff appreciation event.
  • Staff and faculty enjoying meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue at Grant Hall.
    Staff and faculty enjoying meals at the Queen's Summer Barbecue at Grant Hall.
  • John Witjes, Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities), serves food to staff and faculty at the annual employee appreciation event.
    John Witjes, Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities), serves food to staff and faculty at the annual employee appreciation event.

Senior university administrators helped serve up a feast at the annual Queen’s Summer Barbecue held in recognition of staff and faculty. Hundreds of guests flocked to Grant Hall on June 14 to enjoy great food, socialize, and to celebrate the past year’s achievements.

This year’s barbecue marked Daniel Woolf’s last as Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor and he used the time to connect with friend and colleagues before June 30, 2019, when he leaves the role after 10 years of service.

“It has been a distinct privilege and honour to serve as Queen’s Principal for the past ten years and it would not have been possible without you,” he wrote in a year-end message to Queen’s employees ahead of the festivities. “I wish you all a wonderful summer and hope you enjoy some time with family and friends partaking in your favourite warm weather activities.”

Barbecue guests also brought along non-perishable food items for donation to the AMS Food Bank – a reliable and confidential food service that aims to support Queen’s community members.

Remembering the early years of Queen's

New plinth features book that celebrates "unsung heroes" of Queen's.

Daniel Woolf and Christopher Markwell standing with the new plinth
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf and Christopher Markwell, Chair of the Baird of Bute Society, standing with the newly-unveiled plinth.

People walking around the Queen’s campus will have a new way to feel more connected to the past of this historic institution now that Principal Daniel Woolf has unveiled the fourth installation of the Queen’s Remembers initiative. This new commemorative plinth in front of Summerhill tells the story of the first five principals of the university.

“While the principals who followed have received a great deal of recognition, the first five are relatively unsung heroes,” says Principal Woolf. “But they made formative contributions in a time of hardship and uncertainty for the university.”

Previous plinths have been dedicated to the Indigenous Peoples upon whose land Queen’s was built, the 5th Field Company, and the Nobel Prize-winning research discoveries led by Arthur B. McDonald.

As the eight-page book featured on this new plinth describes, the first five principals all had to take great pains to ensure the survival of Queen’s. When Reverend Thomas Liddell, the first principal, came to Kingston from Scotland in 1841, Queen’s was not much more than an idea in the Royal Charter that established it. Principal Liddell had to work hard to find both students and funds for the school, and it was not always clear that Queen’s would survive.

The four subsequent principals all faced their own difficulties but found ways to make important contributions to the school. Principal John Machar, for instance, presided over the university’s purchase of Summerhill, and Principal James George helped establish the Faculty of Medicine. Principal John Cook remains the only person to serve as both principal and chancellor of Queen’s. And Principal William Leitch oversaw the creation of the original Faculty of Law at the university while also leading Queen’s to take over management of the local observatory.

The plinth helps make the early years of Queen’s come alive for readers by sharing some colourful details about the early principals. In the page on Principal Leitch, for example, readers can learn that the fifth principal of Queen’s also wrote the first theoretical paper about the potential to use rockets to travel into space. Until recently, Jules Verne, the famous author of novels such as Around the World in Eighty Days, had been commonly credited as the first person to think of this kind of space travel. But Robert Godwin, a historian of space and a special guest at the unveiling, uncovered Leitch’s writing about rockets while conducting research for a biography. Mr. Godwin outlined his findings in the book William Leitch: Presbyterian Scientist and the Concept of Spaceflight, 1854-1864, which was published in 2015.  

Christopher Markwell, another advocate for honouring the contributions of Principal William Leitch, was also present at the ceremony. Mr. Markwell is the Chair of the Baird of Bute Society on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, which is the birthplace of Principal Leitch. In 2017, the society posthumously awarded the Baird of Bute Innovation Award to Principal Leitch in recognition of his innovative ideas on rocket flight. Principal Woolf accepted the award on behalf of his predecessor in a ceremony held at Queen’s. 

As Principal Woolf’s tenure as the twentieth principal of Queen’s draws to a close, he found it particularly meaningful to commemorate the first five people to hold the position. “These first five principals laid the foundation on which every subsequent principal has been able to build,” he says.

As with the three previous installations in the Queen’s Remembers initiative, this plinth offers people a meaningful way to engage with the campus and feel connected to the institution. Members of the campus community and visitors alike can use the plinths to put the campus in context and better understand the history of Queen’s.

“We have a beautiful and historic campus,” Principal Woolf says, “and I hope that these installations will help people enjoy the time they spend here, whether they come here every day or are passing through. I also hope that all of the plinths help people on campus appreciate the rich heritage of Queen’s.”

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