by Mark Ferguson
June 14, 2012, 11:00 pm
The University of Saskatchewan will rename the historic College Building to the Peter MacKinnon Building to honour the outgoing U of S President.
U of S Board of Governor Chair Nancy Hopkins made the naming announcement at a special dinner honouring MacKinnon June 14 at TCU Place.
“As the university’s eighth president, Peter MacKinnon provided a vision for the future of our university by reaching into our past and renewing the dream of our founders, that the University of Saskatchewan should have ‘an honoured place among the best,” said Hopkins.
“The College Building and its restoration became an early and very visible symbol of Peter’s determination. It is fitting, therefore, that the university recognize Peter MacKinnon’s legacy of leadership by renaming the College Building in his honour.”
The university’s Board of Governors approved the name change at the May 2012 meeting. Federal approval was confirmed earlier in the week to allow the U of S to officially change the name of a building that was deemed a National Historic Site in 2001.
Built between 1910 and 1912, the Agriculture Building (as it was then know) was designed by architectural firm Brown and Valance in collegiate gothic style. The importance of this first building was recognized when Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier took a break from his political tour of Saskatchewan during the summer of 1910 to lay the building cornerstone on July 29.
According to U of S Historian Bill Waiser, once classes began on campus in 1912, the Agriculture Building quickly became the hub of a succession of activities and purposes—from milk-testing to extension meetings in Convocation Hall to the basement gymnasium to biology labs to the university library to the first home of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra to the College of Education to the Department of Art and Art History. In time, though, the building gradually became the administrative centre of the university. In fact, during the mid-1970s, thousands of students patiently lined up on the well-worn steps to register in what was then known as the Administration Building.
Unfortunately, the building fell into disrepair and was partially vacated in 1984 when crumbling support pillars caused significant sagging. The deterioration continued and the building was abandoned completely in 1997.
Then, thanks to the large ideas of President MacKinnon and members of the university community, and the skilled work of a number of tradespeople, the College Building was successfully restored to its former beauty and grandeur, reopening officially in 2005.
“Indeed, the building continues to serve as the centrepiece to the bowl and the larger university campus,” said Waiser. “It anchors the best collection of collegiate gothic architecture on any university campus in Canada.”
“I am very honored by this decision,” said MacKinnon. “This building represents historic significance and an exciting future for our university. Helping to see the restoration and re-opening of the College Building is one of the great moments during my term as president.”
MacKinnon joined the College of Law at the U of S in 1975, becoming a full professor in 1983. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990. He went on to serve as assistant dean and dean of law before his appointment as president and vice-chancellor in July 1999.
During his tenure as president, MacKinnon led policy changes to improve the university’s success as a competitive medical-doctoral institution. He oversaw major capital expansion at the university that included restoration of the historic College Building as well as construction and renovation of significant teaching and research facilities.
MacKinnon was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in January 2012 and was recently named the inaugural Prime Minister of Canada Fellow beginning in September 2012. He was a member of the federal Science, Technology and Innovation Council from 2007-2012, overseeing with McGill Principal Heather Munroe Blum the preparation of Council’s State of the Nations Reports. He served as chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada from 2003-2005.
MacKinnon will step down as U of S president June 30, 2012.