The Principal's Installation

The Principal's Installation McGill University

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Home > McGill News > 2003 > Spring 2003 > The Principal's Installation

The Principal's Installation

The Principal's Installation Photos from the cermony

On March 10, 2003, under the colourful stained glass of Redpath Hall and the portraits of University leaders from close to two centuries, Heather Munroe-Blum was formally installed as the 16th Principal and 12th Vice-Chancellor of McGill University. The ceremony was presided over by Chancellor Richard Pound, BCom'62, BCL'67, in the presence of Canada's Governor General and McGill's Visitor, Adrienne Clarkson, DLitt'01, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and visiting dignitaries from around the world.

The New Principal

It was an historic event, celebrating McGill's past and looking toward its future. The well-wishers in attendance were many, and all eyes were on the woman of the day, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum.

Photo caption follows Heather Munroe-Blum
Photo: Owen Egan

Munroe-Blum succeeds Principal Bernard Shapiro, BA'56, LLD'88, coming to McGill from the University of Toronto, where she was Vice-President, Research and International Relations. While any installation of a new principal is a special occasion, with Munroe-Blum it takes on even more significance, since she is the first woman to hold the position in McGill's 182-year history. The fact has not gone unnoticed by the women graduates and students she has met since starting her term in January: they have surprised her with the strength of their feelings of pride at the appointment.

The choice of Munroe-Blum for the next phase in McGill's history is a wise one, says her former colleague and University of Toronto president Robert Birgeneau. "U of T's loss is clearly McGill's gain," he declared in a speech at the installation ceremony.

While at the University of Toronto, Munroe-Blum oversaw the direction of research and international activities, which grew dramatically during her tenure. As an academic and researcher, she has specialized in psychiatric epidemiology and influenced the development of mental health policies and practices; as an administrator, she was active in public policy, producing a highly regarded report for the Government of Ontario entitled Growing Ontario's Innovation System: The Strategic Role of University Research. Universities are a passion for Munroe-Blum, as she told the Montreal Gazette recently: "I think the cause of higher education is extraordinary. If you look at what makes a difference in how regions prosper...having strong universities with different missions is the greatest predictor of future well-being."

Installation Day

Photo captions follows
Left: Naomar Monteiro de Almeida-Filho from Brazil, the Principal with husband Len Blum and their daughter, Sydney. Right: Members of the symposium panel.
Photos: Owen Egan

The day began with a breakfast reception in the Arts Building, a string quartet made up of McGill students adding a refined touch as guests -- including Munroe-Blum's husband, screenwriter Len Blum, and their daughter, Sydney -- sipped coffee, nibbled croissants, and waited to enter Moyse Hall for a symposium in honour of the new principal. Entitled "Global reach, local impact: The public research university in the 21st century," it featured as guest speakers university leaders from six continents. The speakers addressed issues such as the importance of internationalization in the university milieu, a theme borne out by the different backgrounds and countries from which the participants came -- China, Sweden, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Canada. Munroe-Blum said it was important for faculty to "bump shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues from around the world."

Historic McGill treasures were brought out of archival storage for the day and displayed in the Arts Building, including James McGill's 1813 will, in which he bequeathed his property to establish the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, and the University Charters of 1821 and 1852, the latter bearing the seal of Queen Victoria (memorabilia from installations past can be seen in a special Internet exhibit assembled by University Archives at

The installation of a new principal is often coupled with a convocation, but because Munroe-Blum began her term mid-year, this special ceremony was arranged. While no students graduated, honorary degrees were later awarded to the eight distinguished guests who spoke at the symposium.

After lunch at a nearby hotel, members of the academic procession and other guests walked up McTavish Street in the bracing -15°C March cold. The McTavish gates, normally locked, were swung open for the arrival of the Governor General, and the cupola of the Arts Building flew her Royal Standard as required by McGill tradition whenever the Queen's representative visits. Inside Redpath Hall, 400 guests were treated to a performance by renowned countertenor and McGill graduate Daniel Taylor, LMus'92, accompanied by the McGill Baroque Orchestra, and University Marshall Cathrine Le Maistre, MEd'80, PhD'94, then launched the proceedings.

The Ceremony

Photo caption follows
Munroe-Blum delivers her installation address.
Photo: Nicolas Morin

The academic procession entered the hall to organ music played by former Dean of Music John Grew and included McGill faculty and staff, members of the Senate and Board of Governors, repre-sentatives from other universities and institutions, the Principal, the Chancellor and the Governor General. Music Professor Winston Purdy, BMus'64, sang the University song, "Hail, Alma Mater," a special fanfare composed for the occasion by the Faculty of Music's John Rea was trumpeted, and after greetings from Chancellor Pound, the official installation began.

The Principal with Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.
Photo: Nicolas Morin

With the 1852 Charter at the front of the stage, Munroe-Blum was sworn in by the Chair of the Board of Governors Robert Rabinovitch, BCom'64, the Chancellor and the Governor General, and the principal's academic robe was replaced with one bearing McGill crests on each sleeve. Then followed speeches and greetings from faculty, staff, students and visiting dignitaries, including the federal president of the treasury board and Minister Responsible for Infrastructure, Lucienne Robillard, the speaker of the Quebec National Assembly, Louise Harel, and Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, who congratulated Munroe-Blum, originally a Montrealer, on returning to the city.

The Principal's address celebrated "the history of human achievement that constitutes McGill. If we were prize fighters," she declared, "it might be said that we 'punch above our weight,'" referring to the dispropor-tionate success of McGill faculty, researchers, students and alumni. Her speech acknowledged and quoted some prominent McGill graduates like Sir Wilfred Laurier, BCL1864, and John Ralston Saul, BA'69, DLitt'97, and hinted at some of her plans for the future of the University, including ensuring that we give "our undergraduates...close direct contact with brilliant teachers" and "uniform access to research experience" and "the unique benefits" a research-intensive university like McGill offers.

The Winding Down

Photo captions follow
Left: A cold day for kilts. Right: Students give the Principal a snowy salute.
Photos: Owen Egan, Nicolas Morin

After the conferring of honorary degrees on the international visitors, the installation concluded and guests made their way into the biting cold once again -- to bagpipe music provided by a hardy, kilted Scotsman -- and down to the McCord Museum on Sherbrooke Street for a vin d'honneur reception which capped off a busy day of grand welcomes and a symbolic new beginning for McGill.

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