Meet Peter MacKinnon

Five things to know about Dalhousie’s new interim president

At the Board of Governors meeting on Nov. 27, outgoing Dalhousie University President Richard Florizone described Peter MacKinnon as “an older and wiser” version of himself.  

MacKinnon is slated to serve as Dal’s interim president from Jan. 15 until June 30. He was unable to accommodate an interview with the Dalhousie Gazette before publication, but we wanted to give students a chance to become acquainted with him before his arrival.  

Here are a few things you might not know about Peter MacKinnon: 

  1. He’s president emeritus of University of Saskatchewan

Peter MacKinnon was the University of Saskatchewan’s Dean of Law before he was appointed as president of the university in 1999. He remained president until June 2012. Upon his departure from the Saskatoon-based institution, the University of Saskatchewan honoured MacKinnon with the renaming of its College Building (previously known as the Agriculture Building) to the Peter MacKinnon Building.  

In 2014, MacKinnon signed on for a one-year term as interim president of the online Athabasca University (AU) based in Alberta, but he later extended his term and stayed on as president until 2016. It’s hard to find much about MacKinnon’s time at AU, besides “Page Not Found.” 

  1. He’s been appointed to the Order of Canada

In 2011, MacKinnon was named an officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to education and research. He was the only Saskatchewan-based appointee for that year. The award recognizes “a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.”  

MacKinnon has received other honours, such as Queen’s Counsel and a Canadian Bar Association Distinguished Service Award. He’s also served on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Advisory Committee on Public Service. 

  1. He may have been a contender for Supreme Court Justice

Full disclosure: this is less of a fact and more of a rumour. But in 2006, the Globe and Mail reported Peter MacKinnon had been shortlisted for the Supreme Court of Canada. In the end, however, it was Justice Marshall Rothstein who took up the mantle, replacing Justice John Major. 

  1. He can’t dance, but he tries

Move over, Dancing Cop. Search “Flash Mob at University of Saskatchewan” on YouTube to see for yourself: MacKinnon can be spotted at the beginning and end of this video, which documents a performance to thank alumni for their donations.  

  1. He’s a published author

MacKinnon has written two books published by the University of Toronto Press: the first, University Leadership and Public Policy in the Twenty-First Century: A President’s Perspective came out in 2014. The book offers an “analysis of the key policy issues affecting Canada’s university sector.”  

MacKinnon’s latest work – University Commons Divided: Exploring Debate and Dissent on Campus – was just published last year. An excerpt can be found on the University of Saskatchewan’s website, in which MacKinnon refers to freedom of expression as “an ‘indispensable condition’ of the university ‘commons.’”  

He writes: “This commons has been tested so often in recent years that it is not hyperbole to describe it as a contemporary battleground over its boundaries.”

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Rebecca Dingwell

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