Select a name below to view UVic's previous presidents' biographies. The eight previous presidents (including acting presidents) are listed in reverse chronological order. For the current president, visit the Office of the President's website to view Dr. David H. Turpin's biography.
Dr. David F. Strong served as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Victoria from 1990 to 2000. Prior to that, he held positions as professor of geology, University Research Professor, and Vice-President Academic at Memorial University of Newfoundland, during which time he was a leading researcher in metallogeny and orogenesis.
UVic's Scope Expands
Over his tenure, UVic emerged as a university of international scope and significance—a reflection of Strong’s priorities. The university’s international connections grew from a handful of academic agreements to formal links with 118 institutions in 27 countries.
Under Strong’s leadership, interdisciplinary research and teaching became a defining characteristic of UVic, with 10 new interdisciplinary centres (for a total of 13) established in areas including aging, Asia-Pacific initiatives, forest biology, advanced materials and related technology, global studies and religion and society.
UVic’s Innovation and Development Corporation was created early in his first term to develop the commercial potential of UVic research. The Centre for Innovative Teaching (now the Hickman Building) was built to foster the development of more effective teaching practices in postsecondary education. A significant new academic initiative championed by Strong was the establishment of UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences in 1991, which helped lay the groundwork for the development of the university’s leadership in ocean and climate research.
An Informal President
Strong was known for his informal approach, his one-on-one people skills and a wicked sense of humour. He was also known as someone who was not particularly concerned about taking personal credit for getting things done. When pushed, he cited the preservation of the Mystic Vale ecological reserve, the acquisition of the UVic Gordon Head recreation complex (now the Ian Stewart Complex) and the university’s success to convince the Commonwealth Games Society to invest in an athletes’ village that now serves as student residences. Nearly 26,000 students graduated during Strong’s presidency, and he oversaw the strengthening of links between UVic and its alumni.
“Universities never have the resources we need to do all the good things we could and should do,” he said. “There will never be enough because knowledge is infinite and the opportunities are endless…but the most exciting part of the job is to be able to say you’ve managed to do at least some things right.”
Strong went on to become founding president and vice-chancellor of University Canada West, Canada’s first private for-profit university.
Credit: Content written by Robie Liscomb.
Petch on being UVic president: “It’s a wonderful experience working at the university. It’s the best job in the world.”
On July 1, 1975, Dr. Howard E. Petch became President and Vice-Chancellor as well as Professor of Physics of the University of Victoria. Petch went on to lead the university for fifteen years, earning a contemporary record as the longest-serving president.
A Distinguished Physicist
Petch was born in Agincourt, Ontario. After service with the Royal Canadian Air Force, Petch completed a Bachelor of Science from McMaster University and earned his PhD in Physics from the University of British Columbia.
Petch brought impressive experience in teaching, research and academic leadership to UVic. At McMaster University, he taught in the Physics Department, served as the Chair of the Metallurgical Engineering Department and held the post of Director of Research. At Hamilton College, Petch served as the Principal. At the University of Waterloo, Petch held the positions of Vice-President (academic) and Professor of Physics.
Fifteen Years of Presidency
For the first few months of his UVic leadership, President Petch lived in the student residences. There he gained a useful perspective on the student experience, which partly inspired his commitment towards developing a strong UVic athletics program.
Petch’s guiding leadership of fifteen years saw many milestones in UVic’s history, too numerous to list, including the university’s 25th anniversary (read Petch’s anniversary address). The university expanded with new programs including Health Information Science, Medieval Studies, Women’s Studies; new Schools of Child Care, Social Welfare, Environmental Studies Nursing and Public Administration; and new Faculties of Law and Engineering. Another life-long contribution to UVic was Petch’s introduction of the co-operative education program.
During Petch’s presidency, UVic physically developed with the construction of the Interfaith Chapel, McKinnon sports complex, University Centre, Fine Arts complex, a new Science & Engineering building, Begbie building, three new residences and a new Faculty Club.
Petch brought unique administrative policies to UVic; the two most fondly remembered procedures were colloquially named “Petch Peeves” and “Petch Procedures.” “Petch Peeves,” a weekly occurrence, gave all employees the opportunity to bring their concerns directly to the president. Read Eric W. Sager’s and John Lutz’s memories of the “Petch Procedures.”
Public Service and Honours
Throughout his career, Petch was a member of many National Science bodies and committees. His membership among civic bodies includes the British Columbia Arts Board and the Arts, Science and Technology Centre. In 1966 Petch was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1990 Petch received the Order of British Columbia.
UVic gave Petch the title of President Emeritus upon his retirement in 1990. The Petch building and Petch fountain were named in his honour. There are several scholarships in his name including the Howard E. Petch Research Scholarship and the Howard and Linda Petch Scholarship. In 2006 he was inducted into the Vikes Hall of Fame.
View Howard Petch’s own great moment from his time as UVic President.
Dr. Stephen Arthur Jennings (1915-1979) served as acting president of the University of Victoria in 1974.
Early Life and Studies: The Youngest Appointed Professor in Canada
Born in Walthamstow, England, Jennings immigrated to Toronto with his family in 1928, where he finished first in his class at Jarvis Street Collegiate before entering University College in Toronto. He completed his dissertation, "On The Structure Of The Group Ring Of A P-Group Over A Modular Field," and received his PhD from the University of Toronto in 1939. Jennings soon became the youngest appointed professor in Canada. Jennings was appointed Second Lieutenant in the Canadian Army in 1944, prior to moving to Vancouver to teach at the University of British Columbia. During his time in Vancouver, Jennings and his wife, Dorothy Freeda Rintoul, had two children, Judith Anne and James Stephen.
Academic Achievements: Mathematical Breakthroughs and Publications
At the University of Victoria, Jennings served as the Dean of Graduate Studies and the head of the mathematics department. As a leading mathematician, Jennings made significant contributions to the study of modular representation theory and was regarded as an expert in actuarial calculations. His work was published in several prominent mathematical journals, including Canadian Journal of Mathematics, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, and Duke Mathematical Journal. He also served as an editor of Mathematics Magazine, the bimonthly publication of the Mathematical Association of America.
UVic Leadership and Legacy
Later in his career, Jennings was the Vice President and, in 1974, the acting President of the University. Jennings' legacy continues at the University of Victoria through the Stephen A. Jennings Memorial Scholarship awarded annually to outstanding third or fourth year honors students in the mathematics and statistics department.
Dr. Hugh Ernest Farquhar (1910-1984) served as UVic’s president from 1972 to 1974. Born in Truro, Nova Scotia, Farquhar’s family moved to Victoria where he was educated at Victoria Provincial Normal School (1930-1931) and Victoria College (1933-1934). Studying part-time, Hugh Farquhar received his BA and MA at UBC and his PhD from the University of Alberta. After teaching in elementary and secondary schools, Hugh Farquhar taught at Victoria Normal School and at Victoria College's Faculty of Education. Farquhar married Jean MacIntosh and together they had three sons, Robin, Don and Michael.
Farquhar and UVic
Farquhar was deeply involved with UVic from the university's very first days. In 1960, he was appointed to the Victoria College University Development Board and he also chaired the committee on the Academic Future of the University of Victoria. When the University officially opened its doors in 1963, Farquhar served as a professor in the new Faculty of Education. After an early retirement, he was asked to return as the Dean of Education in 1971.
A People-Oriented President
In 1972, UVic asked Farquhar to take over the role of President. During his two years as President, Hugh Farquhar brought direction and stability to the young university, focusing on the introduction of people-oriented disciplines such as law, child care and public administration. One of President Farquhar's most visible contributions to UVic was the planning and development of the University Centre and auditorium. Farquhar’s work made a valuable contribution towards UVic's current status as a leading comprehensive university.
Following his time as UVic’s president, Farquhar also served as Acting President of Notre Dame University in Nelson, B.C. The Farquhar Auditorium was named for Farquhar as a tribute to his dedication to establishing the University Centre and auditorium. Additionally, the Hugh Farquhar Memorial Scholarship is awarded to outstanding students enrolled in a B.Ed. program.
Read our Memories interview with Dr. Robin Farquhar, Hugh Farquhar's son, for a more personal insight into his father’s time at UVic.
Bruce J. Partridge was the president of the University of Victoria from 1969 to1972. Partridge hailed from Syracuse, New York and prior to joining UVic he worked for four years as the Vice-President for Administration and Treasurer of John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
American UVic President
At forty-two years old, Partridge became UVic’s first American president. In October 28, 1969, Partridge’s installation ceremony was noteworthy as he shared the occasion with HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was receiving UVic’s first honorary Doctor of Science degree.
As president, Partridge introduced administrative changes to support the university’s continuing growth. He secured several coups for UVic, such as the hiring of Dr. K. George Pedersen for the position of Dean of Education. The UVic campus physically changed during Partridge’s presidency with the extension of Clearihue building and the construction of Cunningham Biology building. Partridge also helped Special Collections secure the important John Betjeman collection, which includes Betjeman’s letters and works.
Partridge’s time at UVic was fraught with the student resistance and faculty conflict that was relatively common to Canadian university campuses during this period. In 1972, and after a particularly challenging period for both he and the university, Partridge decided to leave his position and study Law.
Partridge went on to attend the University of British Columbia’s School of Law, achieving some of the highest marks ever recorded there and graduating second in his class. Following his graduation from UBC, Partridge worked as general counsel for Cominco Ltd, a mining and smelter company. In 1991, Partridge semi-retired from law and continued to work writing textbooks. He now lives in Victoria.
From 1968 to 1969, Robert (Bob) T. D. Wallace served as UVic’s acting president, during the institution’s early years as a university. During a time of international student unrest, Wallace led the university with successful aplomb. UVic historian Peter Smith noted “no one could fail to appreciate the sane, calm, responsive and conciliatory leadership offered by Bob Wallace, who would have been an unthinkable target for student or faculty attack.”
Wallace (1907-1999) was born in William Head, BC. After attending Victoria High School, he studied at Victoria College and obtained his BA from UBC and his MA from the University of Washington.
Wallace’s life was intertwined with UVic’s history. He attended Victoria College in its early location at Craigdarroch Castle, taught at Victoria College’s Lansdowne campus and then accompanied the move to UVic’s new university location at Gordon Head campus. In fact, Wallace could be called the Everyman of UVic, since he was a student, a faculty member, head of the mathematics department and held nearly every administrative position from chancellor, acting president, vice president, dean of arts and science (twice) to dean of administration and he even filled in, at various times, as registrar and bursar.
For over 47 years, Wallace was involved in secondary education in Victoria. Wallace, as the one-man mathematics department at Victoria College, taught every single student from 1935-1945 due to the college’s mandatory first year math course. A passionate believer in universal education, Wallace introduced the Victoria College evening division in the 1950s, becoming its first Director. This division was the foundation of the current Continuing Studies.
Wallace was popular across Victoria. Former UVic Vice President of Administration, Trevor Matthews, once noted in the National Post that Wallace was so liked that “when you went down the street everyone knew him. If we were going to a meeting we would have to schedule extra time so he could say hello to everybody.” As testament to the esteem in which he was held, Wallace was named the Victoria Man of the Year in 1978. This respect for Wallace came from his empathy and interest in people; as one student of Wallace’s fondly remembers: " if you became a member of one of Bob's classes you became important to Bob."
“The hero of 1954”
Another example of Wallace’s empathy can be found when McCarthyism hysteria found its way to the Victoria library board. Wallace was the only voice on the board to stand against the decision to fire a staff member accused of communist leanings. That staff member, John Wallace, later called Wallace “the hero of 1954.”
In 1994, Wallace was made a Member of the Order of Canada. Wallace’s recollection of this occasion demonstrates his typical modesty: ‘I still do not know how I could have qualified for this great honour … I was just lucky enough to have been able to stay in my home town, do a job that I loved doing, and make some good friends along the way."
After Wallace’s retirement in 1971, UVic granted him an honorary doctor of laws degree. Wallace’s name is also found across campus; for example, in 1978, Wallace Hall, part of the Gordon Head residence complex, was named after him. Wallace was also a keen rugby enthusiast and to honor his dedication to UVic Rugby Club the main rugby field was renamed Wallace Field in March 1992.
Two awards bear Wallace’s name at UVic today. The Robert T. and Norah L. Wallace UVic Scholarship Fund grants five scholarships to outstanding students entering one of the final two years of undergraduate studies. The Robert T. Wallace Shield honours Wallace’s dedication to young people and sport and “recognizes the outstanding student-athlete in his or her first year of competition in intercollegiate sports, but not necessarily the first year at university.”
Malcolm G. Taylor was born in Arrowwood, Alberta on August 31, 1915. Taylor earned his B.A., M.A. and doctorate in political science at the Berkeley campus, University of California. From 1947 to 1960, Taylor taught political economy at the University of Toronto.
In 1960, Taylor was appointed the first principal of the Calgary campus, University of Alberta. Taylor led Calgary through a difficult transition period, when the institution sought independence from the University of Alberta. Whilst principal of Calgary, Taylor continued to contribute to his academic field, as seen in his consultancy work for the Hall Royal Commission on Health Services from 1961 to 1964. Taylor was also an active member of the NCCUC (later called the AUCC) where he played a role in the decision process that led to the creation of the University of Victoria. In 1965, the University of Calgary awarded Taylor an honorary LL.D. in recognition of his key role in the institution’s fight to gain independence.
UVic's First President
When Dr. Harry Hickman stepped down from his role as acting president in 1963, UVic looked for a president who could develop the newly formed university. Together with his experience at Calgary and his strong academic standing, Taylor was an excellent choice. On December 18, 1963, Taylor became the first official president of UVic and he was officially installed on November 14, 1964.
As UVic’s first president, Taylor guided UVic’s campus development and oversaw the eventual transition from the Lansdowne campus to the Gordon Head campus. Taylor led the development of academic programs, attracted world class faculty to UVic, and was an active supporter of the McPherson library. Overall, Taylor provided strong leadership and fostered UVic’s growing status as a university. In February 1968, Taylor resigned his post as president to concentrate on teaching. Later in his career, Taylor moved to Toronto to take on the prestigious position of Professor of Public Administration at York University.
Taylor’s legacy at UVic is seen annually with the awarding of the Faculty of Music’s Taylor scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to at least three deserving music students annually. The scholarship honours Malcolm Taylor and his wife Violet Taylor’s contribution to UVic and their love of music and fine arts.
Dr. W. Harry Hickman (1909 -1997) served as the University of Victoria’s first acting president from 1963 to 1964. In 1932, Hickman began his teaching career at Victoria High School, where he taught French. After earning his doctorate from the Sorbonne, Hickman taught French at Victoria College and also became the college’s president from 1952 until 1963. Hickman was appointed an honorary consul of France after receiving his master's and PhD from the Sorbonne.
Hickman and the Lecture Room
In 1963, when it was announced that Victoria College would become the University of Victoria, Hickman agreed to stay on as the new institution’s acting president but resolved to return, “to his first love, the lecture room,” once a new candidate for presidency was found. From 1964 Hickman became the head of UVic’s modern languages and French departments until his retirement in 1974. In 1981, Hickman was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor from the French ambassador in Ottawa.
UVic's Acting President
Hickman’s role as UVic’s acting president was crucial since he governed the institution during the period of transition from college to university. Hickman’s legacy at UVic is long-lasting; it was Hickman who founded the university art collection which now includes more than 15,000 pieces. The Centre for Innovative Teaching was renamed the Hickman Building in honour of his dedication to teaching and lasting influence at UVic.
After his retirement Hickman served as honorary president of the UVic Alumni Association Board and the Victoria College Craigdarroch Castle Alumni Association. Two awards bear Hickman’s name: the W.H. Hickman Alumni Scholarship and the Harry Hickman Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching. These awards encourage and reward recipients for excellence in teaching and learning.
“His first love was teaching.…When he retired, a UVic colleague asked what he'd keep from his days as a teacher and he said, ‘only my class lists.’ The students were very important to him, so to be perpetually associated with excellence in teaching would have made him extremely happy.”