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Dalhousie University’s first Board of Governors was based on the Board of Trustees formed by Lord Dalhousie in 1818 to oversee the building and establishment of his new college. Consisting of members from the Nova Scotia government and local religious leaders, these trustees formed the basis of the seven member Board of Governors incorporated in 1821.
Today’s Governors continue to act as trustees. The Board of Governors’ sphere of responsibility encompasses the entire university although it is primarily concerned with the university’s mission, assets, and advocacy. Although the Board of Governors is the university’s senior governing body, it works with the Senate and President of Dalhousie to manage university affairs. The Senate is responsible for the internal regulation and policies of the university while the President manages the general administration of the university.
Since its incorporation, the administrative structure of the Board has undergone many changes. For example, the original Board was dissolved in 1840 and reformed to facilitate the growth of the new college; further changes were made in 1848. In 1863, an “Act for the Regulation and Support of Dalhousie College” replaced all earlier statutes regarding the Board. Significant changes to the Board were also made under the 1935 Dalhousie Act which changed the way members of the Board were appointed. This Act also attempted to create a closer working relationship between the Senate and the Board of Governors.
Today, the Board of Governors has a membership of twenty-six people; they serve three year terms and meet on a monthly basis. The President of Dalhousie, the Mayor of Halifax, and the Chair of the Senate are ex-officio members of the Board. Students, alumni, and faculty are also allocated seats on the Board. The Board of Governors has eleven internal committees dedicated to specific areas of university affairs ranging in subject matter from staff relations to pension investments. In 1935 an Executive Committee was formed which has the power to act as the Board, in most regards, between meetings. The Steering Committee of the Board of Governors consists of the Chair, the Vice-Chair(s), the President, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer, and any other member appointed by the Board.
Past chairs of the Board of Governors include Lord Dalhousie (1818-1820); James Kempt (1820-1826); M. Wallace (1826-1836); Sir Colin Campbell (1836-1840); Lord Falkland (1840-1848); Sir William Young (1848-1885); Sir Adams G. Archibald (1885-1893); John Doull (1893-1900); John F. Stairs (1900-1905); Thomas Ritchie (1905-1908); George S. Campbell (1908-1929); G. Fred Pearson (1929-1932); Hector McInnes (1932-1938); James McG. Stewart (1938-1942); Lieutenant-Colonel K.C. Laurie (1942-1957); Brigadier H.V.D. Laing (1957-1959); Donald McInnes (1959-1968); A.G. Archibald (1981-1986); W. Struan Robertson (1986-1991); George C. Piercy (1991-1993); Allan C. Shaw (1993-2001); and James S. Cowan (2001-)
Over the years Dalhousie University’s Board of Governors has included many notable Nova Scotians including Joseph Howe, Charles Tupper, R.B. Bennet, and W.S. Fielding.
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Dalhousie University Archives
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