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The recent appointment of the University of British Columbia's new president drew cheers from Point Grey to Peel Street as McGill alumnus and former law dean Stephen Toope was named the head of Vancouver's landmark university. Known for his energy and intellectual acuity, Toope has distinguished himself with his work on human rights and international law. Following a successful tenure as professor and dean at the Faculty of Law, Toope left McGill in 2002 to become the founding president of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
"If one of the cardinal qualities of a university president is to inspire others to work to a common goal, UBC has done wonderfully well in appointing Stephen Toope," said current law dean Nicholas Kasirer. "I think the appointment is superb news for UBC and for McGill, which has a new partner on the West Coast."
Kasirer also praised Toope's imagination and a leadership style that allowed professors and students at McGill to successfully create one of the most ambitious and forward-looking programs of legal education in the country.
So what does Toope have in store for UBC? His immediate plans are to consolidate the school's recent positioning efforts by driving the school's vision to faculty and departmental levels.
"UBC has strong linkages locally and a strong international focus. I would like to build on that and also enhance the experience of both undergraduate and graduate students."
Asked by the Reporter if he thinks his new post will provide opportunities for closer collaboration between UBC and McGill, Toope was enthusiastic.
"I sure hope so. I'll have to talk with the Principal of McGill about that. She's already been extremely welcoming. Both UBC and McGill have an outward focus in everything they do and for that reason, there's lots of opportunities to work together," he said.
During his time at McGill, Toope was known for an energetic and engaged manner that made him popular among both students and colleagues. That energy also made him an effective fund-raiser for the Faculty of Law, where he rallied donors to construct the Nahum Gelber Law Library. Toope is also remembered at McGill for the tremendous fortitude he showed in the face of a family tragedy during the first year of his deanship.
Toope succeeds UBC President Martha Piper, also a McGill graduate and former professor at McGill. But the ties between the two universities go much deeper than that.
It was in 1899 that the legislature of British Columbia created an affiliation between McGill and Vancouver High School. The arrangement allowed the high school to extend its curriculum to include the first two years of a BA. Students were then expected to attend McGill to complete their degree. Seven years later, the BC government created the McGill University College of British Columbia, which expanded the existing curriculum and provided for McGill to help establish a permanent institute of higher education in Vancouver. When UBC opened its first campus in 1915, the formal partnership between the two schools finally came to an end. Today, though, there is an enduring affinity between McGill and UBC as the two schools continue to share research, networks and friendships.