StFX president Kent MacDonald announces that he will leave position after five-year term
StFX is a place I consider home. My parents walked this campus in the 1950s. I met my wife, Mary-Ellen, here in the 1980s, and all four of our children have had the privilege of attending StFX over the past decade. In 2014, then Board Chair, Mr. Mark Wallace and the Board of Governors offered me a five-year contract, and the honour of returning to my alma mater as its 18th president, something I can only define as my dream job.
Over the past five years, I have been fortunate to work alongside many committed colleagues while serving an incredibly dedicated volunteer Board of Governors. Together, we have significantly advanced the academic mission of this wonderful institution in a relatively short period of time. I am very proud to have been president during a time when we launched new and exciting academic programs -- the lifeblood of any educational institution -- and have raised millions of dollars to help underwrite critical university priorities.
There have been many personal highlights during my time as president; too many to mention all of them. I will forever carry with me the experience of witnessing the first cohort of students to receive scholarships and bursaries from the Jeannine Deveau Educational Equity Endowment Fund. I was honoured to have helped our nursing faculty and staff move into the Elizabeth and Tom Rankin School of Nursing, and to work closely with donors and our student union to begin the creation of the Amelia and Lino Saputo Centre for Healthy Living for the benefit of our community. The opportunity to host our President’s Colloquium series in our residences opened our eyes to new opportunities to extend the academic experience into our residences, making them more than just places to sleep. Perhaps most importantly, after years of effort, we were able to secure a multi-million annual increase to our operating budget from the Province of Nova Scotia. This annual increase in funding is equivalent to a $100 million endowment, and has allowed us to balance our budget for the first time in many years. StFX is now on solid footing as it moves closer to its 175th anniversary.
However, my proudest achievement during my time at StFX was the creation of the Xaverian Fund, a $50 million endowment for StFX student scholarships and bursaries. Five years ago, that goal was unimaginable. Yet we dared ourselves to dream big. Today, we have almost achieved our goal. Many have given in support of our students, yet I hope more will continue to do so; access to StFX’s quality education and outstanding learning environment changes lives and communities.
The best news is that these milestones are just the beginning. The $110 million Xaverian Commons project is well underway. This project is the result of many generous donors and to each of them, I say thank you for supporting St. Francis Xavier University. This fall, the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and Mulroney Hall will officially open on campus, offering new classrooms, labs, offices and gathering places for our community. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to publicly thank the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney ’59, for all of his contributions to this project – a magnificent addition to the post-secondary landscape in Canada, and a differentiator for StFX. The Xaverian Community will be forever grateful to Prime Minister Mulroney and his family. With all of these successes, over the past several months I have taken the time to reflect upon what it would mean if I were to commit to another multi-year term to serve our university. As many of you know, my area of research interest is presidential leadership. In this regard, I know how critical it is for a university president to be aware of when the time has come to pass the torch to the next leader. To that end, after many conversations with Mary-Ellen over the past several months, and many nights of deep personal reflection, I have concluded that this is exactly the right time for someone else to step forward and lead our university. Earlier this month I informed StFX Board of Governors Chair, Mike Boyd, that now is the right time for a new leader for our beloved university. This was perhaps the most difficult decision I have ever made, yet I believe it is the correct one to help propel St. Francis Xavier University into the next phase of growth. While we have collectively accomplished much over five years, I believe it is now time for a new president to build on our momentum, bringing innovation and fresh perspectives to the discussions. It has been an honour to serve the Board of Governors, the students, staff and faculty of my alma mater. I want to thank all members of the Xaverian community for your kindness and support over the past five years. I am grateful to the members of the university executive, president’s council and leadership council. It was never lost on me that you are the ones who continue to lead the university forward. I could not have worked with a more professional and competent group of colleagues. To the faculty who proudly support StFX and who put the university first in all they do, I offer a most sincere thanks. Throughout my time at StFX I have continuously shared many stories of your deep commitment to our students and to your professional practice. I have always admired how you are able to remain active researchers, ensuring our students learn new knowledge and perspectives, while balancing busy teaching and service schedules. To our incredibly dedicated staff, I am humbled by your commitment to our students. Your dedication to the Xaverian experience is simply unmatched. In the years ahead, I will think back fondly of your continuous efforts to go beyond the call of duty in support of our students. You are the bedrock of the university and I admire you greatly.
To our students, you are an incredible lot. You are academically-focused and sociallyengaged; exactly what I believe society needs in a university graduate. As our current students, you represent the same values of the thousands who have come before you, in that you think beyond yourselves and look outward on our community. Over my time at StFX, I have witnessed your commitment to making a difference in the world. I welcomed the opportunity to shake your hand on your first day on campus. To the graduating class, I look forward to shaking it once more at graduation and welcoming you into the alumni family. Speaking of alumni, I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to meet thousands of you during my time at StFX. As I leave the presidency, I am reminded that StFX relies on all of us to attract the best students and to help provide resources to the university to support our faculty and staff. Please continue to give back to the university whether it be your time, talent or treasure. I am forever grateful for the unwavering support and wise counsel of the Hon. Frank McKenna, ‘70 and also, of our Chancellor, John Peacock ‘63. I will miss working closely with John and his wife Adrienne ‘63, yet I know the university is in wonderful hands under his leadership and generosity. StFX is a historic and humble university. Its foundation was built by the priests and nuns who led us in our early days. Over the years, those dedicated individuals were joined by lay faculty and staff who continued to reflect the 2000-year-old Catholic intellectual tradition in the classroom, across the campus and through the community. Today, StFX is a modern university that continues to instill the same values as those who have come before us; a belief in the value of the liberal arts tradition, a commitment to inclusion, service to others and the development of reflective, discerning students. I want to recognize Bishop Brian Dunn, Vicar of the Founder, and thank him for his commitment to support StFX in a time of tremendous change. Finally, I wish to specifically thank our current Board Chair, my friend and colleague, Mr. Mike Boyd ‘85. Mike is one of the country’s most respected financial leaders. His leadership and guidance have provided a tremendous resource to me during my tenure and his counsel over the past several weeks are deeply appreciated. I have made this decision to leave StFX as president with a sense of pride, knowing I have done my very best to serve my alma mater to the best of my abilities. I look forward to exploring new challenges in the future, but for now there is much work to finish before my departure this summer. Today, my message is a simple one. I want to say thank you to the entire Xaverian community.
Hail and Health,
Kent MacDonald ‘86 President and Vice Chancellor