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Although Dalhousie was established in 1818 by George Ramsay, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie, it did not function as a college until 20 years later. The first president was Rev. Thomas McCulloch, whose term was from 1838 to 1843. He was a graduate of Glasgow University; a Scottish divine (Presbyterian); founder of Pictou Academy; and taught logic, Greek, political economy and natural philosophy.
After Dr. McCulloch’s death in 1843, Dalhousie closed its doors for 20 years. When it reopened, Rev. James Ross served as president from 1863 to 1885. A pupil of McCulloch’s at Pictou, Ross was also a Presbyterian minister. He joined Dalhousie as a professor; under his presidency, women were admitted to the university.
Although the first President was appointed in 1838, it wasn’t until 1945 that the Board of Governors determined the specific responsibilities of the position within the structure of the university. In 1945, the Board determined that the President should be responsible for the general supervision of the university, encompassing all areas from the academic program to the student body.
This supervisory role continues today. The President of Dalhousie acts as the Chief Executive Officer of the university and is responsible for implementing the policies put forth by Senate and the Board of Governors. To do this, the President works with both agencies. The Board of Governors is responsible for the overarching direction of the university, its assets, and its mission, while the Senate oversees the internal regulation of the university. The President of the university is responsible to both parties and is an ex-officio member of both groups.
The Office of the President includes the President as well as support staff and other senior administration. Five Vice-Presidents oversee various aspects of university administration and serve as advisors to the President. Members of this senior administrative group include the Vice President Academic and Provost, Vice President (Finance and Administration), Vice President (Student Services), Vice President (Research), and Vice President, External.
Dr. Richard Florizone became the 11th president of Dalhousie in 2013. Other presidents were:
Rev. John Forrest; 1885 to 1911. Known as “Lord John,” he was the first George Munro professor of history and political economy, joining Dalhousie in 1880.
Dr. Arthur Stanley MacKenzie, 1911 to 1931. The first non-cleric and a Dalhousie graduate of 1885, he taught physics at John Hopkins University and Dalhousie (1905-1910).
Dr. Carleton Wellesley Stanley, 1931 to 1945. A University of Toronto and Oxford graduate, he taught English at Toronto and Greek at McGill. He was also a Canadian correspondent of the Manchester Guardian (1913 to 1916);
Dr. Alexander Enoch Kerr served as President from 1945 to 1963. He was the second Dalhousie graduate to become president. Born in Louisbourg, he was the third Presbyterian minister, and principal of Pine Hill Divinity Hall (1939 to 1945).
Dr. Henry Davies Hicks was Dalhousie’s leader from 1963 to 1980. A Rhodes Scholar, lawyer, politician, Premier and first Minister of Education of Nova Scotia in the 1950s, he is the only Dalhousie president (to date) to become a Senator of Canada.
Dr. William Andrew MacKay, 1980 to 1986. Born in Halifax; former law professor, Dean of Law, and vice-president, Dalhousie; first law professor and former law school administrator and the fourth Dalhousie graduate to become president; former Ombudsman of Nova Scotia. Dr. MacKay went on to become a judge of the Federal Court of Canada.
Dr. Howard C. Clark, 1986-1995. Born in New Zealand; taught chemistry and held administrative posts at the Universities of Western Ontario, British Columbia, Auckland and Guelph. While at Guelph he held a position as vice-president.
Dr. Tom Traves, 1995-2013. As president, Dr. Traves oversaw mergers with the Technical University of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, and spearheaded the $280 million Bold Ambitions Fundraising campaign. Dr. Traves also presided over a significant reshaping of campus, including the addition of new buildings and student spaces.
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