This Lecture Series honours Tom Plunkett, who served as Director of the School of Public Administration at Queen’s University from 1977 to 1984 and 1990 to 1992.
Born in Northern Ireland in 1921, Tom grew up in Montreal. Following service with the Air Force during World War II, he completed high school, an undergraduate degree from Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) and a Master’s degree from McGill University.
With an interest in public administration inspired by his studies, Tom embarked on a sterling career in local government, sharing his expertise with municipalities all across Canada, Singapore, Guyana and even China, and serving as principal advisor to the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Toronto in the mid-1960s and chief advisor on the unification of Winnipeg and surrounding municipalities in the early 1970s. His growing reputation in city administration brought him to Queen’s University as director of the Institute of Local Government in 1972. He became director of the School of Public Administration in 1977, where he nurtured two young graduate programs--the full-time MPA program founded in 1970 and the new part-time Professional MPA program established in 1976--to national prominence, and returned as acting director for two years in 1989, prior to the merger of the Schools of Public Administration and Policy Studies.
As a practitioner, Tom shared his experience of local government administration with his students; as a scholar, he shared his research with professional administrators as well as students and academic colleagues. He was the author (or co-author) of more than six books on urban government in Canada and numerous articles, reports and case studies that may still be found on university reading lists today. He was awarded the Vanier Medal, by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada in 1983 as a mark of distinction and exceptional achievement to a person who has shown distinctive leadership in public administration and public service in Canada, or who, by his/her writings or other endeavours, has made a significant contribution in the field of public administration or public service in Canada.
The Thomas Plunkett Lecture Series is supported by the Thomas Plunkett Executive-in-Residence Endowment Fund. Established by family and friends, with support from his students, the Endowment Fund supports the participation of distinguished senior practitioners in municipal government or the broader public sector, in the School’s scholarly activities.
Past lectures in this series:
2022: Naheed Nenshi, former Mayor, Calgary, Alberta
"Urban Issues are Human Issues: Cities in a post-pandemic world"
Naheed K. Nenshi served as Calgary’s mayor for three terms between 2010 and 2021. During his time, Calgary became one of the greatest cities in the world, named as the best city in which to live in the Western Hemisphere.
His leadership saw an unprecedented investment in quality of life including transit, roads, recreation centres and libraries including the magnificent Central Library, while keeping taxes the lowest in Canada. His time as mayor also saw the City of Calgary through four states of emergency, including devastating flooding in 2013 floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. He also became an international voice on urban issues, with audiences across Canada and around the world, including the World Economic Forum in Davos. Nenshi was awarded the World Mayor Prize as the best mayor in the world in 2014 by The City Mayors Foundation. He also has received the President’s Award from the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Humanitarian Award from the Canadian Psychological Association for his contribution to community mental health. Maclean’s magazine once called him the second-most influential person in Canada, after the Prime Minister.
2017: Peter Wallace, City Manager, City of Toronto
2013: Karen Stintz, Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission