Hitchcock named 18th Principal

Dr. Karen Hitchcock, left, walks down Union Street with Chancellor Charles Baillie on Saturday morning, after being named the University's new principal.
Dr. Karen Hitchcock, left, walks down Union Street with Chancellor Charles Baillie on Saturday morning, after being named the University's new principal.

At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, Dr. Karen Hitchcock, the newly selected 18th principal of Queen’s University, walked into the policy studies conference room to a standing ovation by the members of the Board of Trustees.

At the Board meeting Hitchcock said she was honoured to be the new principal.

“This is a very exciting moment for me,” she said.

She is the first woman to ever hold the position of principal at the University, as well as the first American. She said her appointment speaks to the evolution of higher education, but—more importantly—to the fact that she was the right fit for the University.

“Any institution is looking for the best fit ... if that fit is the first woman, so be it. If it’s the first man, so be it,” she said.

The search for a new principal began in the fall of 2002 when current principal Bill Leggett announced he would be retiring in 2004. Hitchcock will officially take over from Leggett on July 1.

Chancellor Charles Baillie said the principal search committee made their decision soon after meeting Hitchcock.

“We first met Dr. Hitchcock less then a month ago and the committee was overwhelmed by her and we are announcing [her appointment] within a relatively short time of having first met her,” he said.

Hitchcock said she was attracted to Queen’s because of its role as a leader amongst post-secondary institutions.

Kelly Steele, AMS vice president of operations, said the executive is looking forward to working with the new principal.

“After meeting with Dr. Hitchcock this weekend we are extremely excited to work with her in the upcoming year,” she said. “We heard a lot about what Dr. Hitchcock has accomplished, especially at [the University of Albany] and in light of the upcoming changes the University faces we believe Dr. Hitchcock will have a fresh perspective in some challenging situations.”

Hitchcock said she is looking forward to working with the executive and she believes
students are the core of any educational institution.

“Students are not only here to learn, but to teach,” she said adding she would like to get to know students not only on a formal basis but informal as well.

“On the playing fields, concerts, theatre, the art gallery, all over,” she said. “I can get a sense therefore of what our students need.”

Prior to coming to Queen’s, Hitchcock served as President at the University of Albany at State University of New York, a position to which she was also the first female appointed in the school’s history.

During her tenure at the University of Albany, Hitchcock helped to raise the profile of the school and its surrounding community by developing partnerships with businesses—especially in the high tech industry —which resulted in millions of new investment dollars or New York State.

Hitchcock also convinced the New York Giants to hold their summer training at the University of Albany.

By the end of her term as President, average student SAT scores went up by more than 20 points and the school’s sports teams moved from Division Two to Division One standing in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).

Hitchcock has lived and worked primarily in the United States and admits she has a lot to learn about Canada.

“There is much I have to learn and [I’m] looking to learn about the very distinctive labour and higher education in Canada,” she said.

Lack of funding for higher education is a problem on both sides of the border, Hitchcock said, adding that Queen’s can be a leader in dealing with these issues.

“The issue of funding of higher education is the key ... we all have to be open to new approaches,” she said. She added her support for the provincial government’s outlook on higher education.

“I applaud the provincial government decision and the Premier to look at the larger view to look at the issues surrounding the support of post-secondary education in the Province.”

Hitchcock’s appointment also includes a full professorship at the department of cell biology and anatomy. She received her B.S. in biology from St. Lawrence University in New York and a Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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