|November 13, 1998||Volume 6, Number 6|
At a surprise news conference held in the Agriculture Atrium on October 30, B of G chair Hal Wyatt announced that Professor Peter MacKinnon - who joined the U of S Law faculty in 1975 and served as its dean from 1988 to June of 1998 - will be the institution's 8th president, succeeding Dr. George Ivany on July 1, 1999.
To sustained applause after Wyatt proclaimed the search committee's selection, MacKinnon, who is 50, told the 200 or so employees who had gathered for the event that he accepted the offer "with delight and enthusiasm."
He went on as follows:
"As I look around this atrium and beyond the glass to the campus, I'm reminded of the words of a former mayor of Saskatoon who said that the most productive land in this province is the land at the University of Saskatchewan. And I think that's true.
"I'm reminded now, more than I ever have been over my 23 years at the U of S, of the generations of students, and staff, and of friends of the University who have built this very special place in this wonderful city in this great province.
"To have been asked now to carry forward their building and their dreams for and about this University with you, all of you, is a great honor. And I want you to know that I will strive every day of my time in that office to do the job that they would want me - and that you would want me - to do.
"I'm conscious of course of the fact that when I do take office, I will be the eighth president of this University. It's perhaps a measure of my longevity that I knew three of those who will be and are my predecessors. My immediate predecessor, of course, the seventh president and still very much in office, is Dr. George Ivany. And he has in fundamentally important ways been a great builder of this University. I'm conscious of the magnitude of the task of being his successor.
"I am, however, comforted by knowing that he's going to be around for quite a while to come, because from him, and I know from every one of you, I have a great deal to learn yet about this great place that is the University of Saskatchewan. I look forward to the task. And I thank you all most warmly for being here today."
At that point, the president-to-be answered questions from the floor.
"The [first] question is [he repeated], as the millennium approaches, where do I want to take this University...and, of course, where I think I want to take this University is where all of you want to take this University, too - to help ensure that it remains one of Canada's great universities.
"It has a tremendous number of strengths. Sometimes in the difficulties that we have, we lose sight of that. Naturally, I would want to sustain those things and build upon them. I want to ensure as well that the University continues to be an accessible university. That is a fundamental aspect of the University's place in this province.
"The role of universities in the future will be to help us sustain a civil society. And if we plan to do that...there must be very broad accessibility to this University.
"That I know is an issue for all the students who are here today and for every student on our campus. Affording university is an enormous issue...."
He was then asked what the audience's warm response to the announcement means to him?
"I can tell you," he replied, "that nothing in my recent life has meant as much to me as the expressions of support and interest in my candidacy over the past 18 months. It has meant a great deal to me. An awful lot. Just delighted."
Asked what strengths he brings to the position, he said that, as one who has worked at the U of S for more than 23 years, "...I'm aware of the issues we face in the years to come...[but also] of having an enormous amount to learn about them. But I start with, I think, a bit of an advantage with them as well. What else do I bring? Well, I love this place. Sometimes we don't appreciate the full measure of what a terrific place it is. That kind of concern and feeling for the place is another one of the advantages I bring to the office.
A reporter asked whether being married to the Hon. Janice MacKinnon posed any problem to his accepting the presidency.
A: "As I said to the search committee, my loyalties are to the University of Saskatchewan. I'm very confident that I'll be able to speak directly and fully and thoroughly - and when necessary critically - to the government of Saskatchewan. I happen to believe that the future of this province is inextricably linked to the future of this University. And I will make the case of this University to the province, and everywhere else I'm called upon to make it, with all of the force that I can summon.
Asked how he'll spend the time until he assumes the presidency, he said that he will be "taking advantage of the enormous experience and abilities of not only Dr. Ivany, but also of the senior administration of the University generally, and the faculty - all the members of the faculty. I look forward to learning much from all of them - and all of you, the students. I am, as you know, currently on administrative leave from a previous appointment [as acting vice-president (academic)]. I'm doing some writing projects that I'd love to complete - but in the context also of doing the kind of work that will allow me to take office next July with the necessary knowledge under my belt for at least the first few days.
He was asked, too, about the synchrotron project. He replied, "I think it's a fundamentally important initiative of this University. I will do whatever [I can to assist] those involved with that project, including our president and all the critical committees - whatever they ask me to do. But I'll wait for the signal from them on any particular project including the synchrotron, for the immediate future.
On which direction he will take the University...
"As I said, there are an awful lot of things on the plate right now...We have to deal with the results of the Des Rosiers Report. We have a problem with, as you know, decay...in a number of our buildings, [but] there's a building program that is underway...[and] there are a number of other issues.
"I want to assure you that I'll do whatever is necessary to advance the University's initiatives in those areas. But as far as where to take it, I suppose one returns to issues of value, including accessibility and the service of the University to the province and the country, and ensuring that this University is sustained as a major university and as a very good University."
A native of PEI and a graduate of Dalhousie, Queen's, and the U of S, MacKinnon was admitted to Queen's Counsel in 1990 and has served in a range of academic, professional, and community capacities and received a USSU teaching award in 1992-93.
He has co-edited two books - one with John Courtney, one with David Smith, both of Political Studies - entitled Drawing Boundaries: Legislatures, Courts and Electoral Values (1992) and After Meech Lake (1991), respectively. He has also published a number of articles in the areas of criminal law, evidence, and law and medicine.
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