A campus-wide email sent out by university officials indicated that the eighth president of the U of S would be stepping down, effective June 30, 2012. MacKinnon informed the board of governors of his decision on March 4.
It was unexpected that MacKinnon chose to step down less than two years into his current five-year term.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect time to leave an office like this,” MacKinnon explained via telephone from Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport.
He said his recent appointment by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the Advisory Committee on Public Service did not factor into his departure.
“I’m not stepping down because I have any diminished enthusiasm for the office or for the work. Students represent the future and it’s a privilege to work in postsecondary education. I felt sadness about the prospect but at the same time I felt enormously fortunate,” the president added.
When MacKinnon leaves office, his presidential career will have spanned 13 years. MacKinnon is the second-longest serving president after Walter Murray, who was president for 29 years from 1908 to 1937.
Prior to his presidential appointment, MacKinnon was the university’s dean of law. He joined the U of S faculty in 1975 as an associate professor of law. He was originally from Prince Edward Island and, at 63 years old, has degrees from Queen’s University and the U of S.
MacKinnon’s advance notice gives the president’s office a comfortable transition period and leaves the administration time to find a qualified replacement. A hiring committee to be in place by summer will initiate the preliminary stages of appointing a new president.
MacKinnon acknowledged the increasingly competitive global market in attracting esteemed academics for this position.
“There’s no question about that. It is a highly competitive market. Some of my colleagues don’t like to hear me say that but it is the case,” commented MacKinnon.
“And the competition is not local — it’s national and it’s international. The successes at the University of Saskatchewan depends on us being successful in that global environment.”
Amendments to the current hiring policy integrated on March 4 by the university’s board of governors reflect this. MacKinnon said he would be surprised if no one in the current administration showed interest in the position. However, he also noted the transition is too far away to speculate on potential candidates.
During MacKinnon’s tenure, the U of S has seen unprecedented economic expansion; over $1 billion has been devoted to university infrastructure during this time. He helped bring the Canadian Light Source to Saskatoon. He oversaw construction of the Physical Activity Complex and restoration of the College Building. And the College Quarter project and the unfinished Academic Health Sciences complex are newer initiatives begun under MacKinnon.
Other than continuing to build and promote the university’s global research base, MacKinnon will not undertake any new monumental projects.
“The office requires enormous energy and that does not change with an announcement. I expect to be busy up until my last day in office.”
image: David Stobbe/University of Saskatchewan