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New presidents for St. Michael's College and Victoria University at U of T

David Mulroney and William Robins take up their positions on Canada Day

William Robins of Victoria University and David Mulroney of St. Michael's College

Foreign affairs expert David Mulroney and English and medieval studies expert William Robins will be the new presidents of St. Michael’s College and Victoria University respectively – two of the federated universities in the wider University of Toronto.

Alumnus Mulroney succeeds Professor Anne Anderson, C.S.J., who served president of St. Michael’s from 2008-2015 and is the first woman to hold that office. Mulroney becomes the seventh president and vice-chancellor of the college July 1, 2015. St. Michael's was founded in 1852 and federated with U of T in 1910.

“I congratulate the collegium [the college's board of governors] on its brilliant choice,” said U of T president Meric Gertler. “St. Michael’s makes a rich and unique contribution to our academic federation. I very much look forward to collaborating with Mr. Mulroney in the years to come.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to offer thanks and best wishes to Professor Anne Anderson, on the completion of her exemplary service as president.”

Robins becomes the 13th president in Victoria’s 179-year history July 1, 2015, succeeding Professor Paul Gooch, president since 2001.

“As a long-standing member of the Vic community, Will Robins lives and breathes our shared values and goals. I believe he will confidently build on Paul Gooch’s very fine legacy and, with his clear vision of where we are going, will lead Victoria into a successful future,” said Wendy Cecil, C.M., chancellor of Victoria and a former chair of U of T's Governing Council.

“I am delighted to hear the news of Will Robins’ appointment as president of Victoria University,” said Gertler. “He brings to the position an outstanding record as a scholar, teacher and academic administrator. I join Victoria’s accomplished and vibrant community of faculty, staff, students and alumni in congratulating and welcoming him.

“On behalf of the wider University of Toronto, I would also like to thank Professor Paul Gooch for his ground-breaking and influential leadership.”

Longstanding members of the U of T community and widely recognized as leaders in their respective fields, the two scholars bring divergent experiences to their new roles. 

Serving  U of T’s Victoria University since 1996
Robins has been a fellow of Victoria College since 1996 when he was appointed to U of T’s Faculty of Arts and Science. He has served as acting principal of Victoria College, acting vice-dean, faculty and academic life, for the Faculty of Arts and Science and director of U of T’s graduate English program – one of the largest graduate humanities programs in Canada. In 2014, Robins received the Outstanding Teaching Award of the Faculty of Arts and Science and, in 2013, was made an affiliated fellow of the American Academy in Rome. 

His primary research focus is vernacular literary texts in 14th-century England and Italy but classical traditions, religious practices, and popular modes of storytelling are all topics that Robins has pursued. His research has been supported by the Fulbright Program and Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. 

Federated with the University of Toronto in 1890, Victoria University comprises U of T’s arts and science college Victoria College and Emmanuel College, a theological college of the United Church of Canada.

“Victoria College has a noble history of understanding how education contributes to human flourishing, while Emmanuel College also imbues the Vic community with the United Church’s abiding concern for social justice,” said Robins. “Victoria University will continue to thrive, largely because of this distinctive vision, its generous alumni support and its place within one of the world’s great research universities.”

Robins is the chair of the provost’s advisory committee on the U of T libraries and also of the humanities panel of the Connaught program of research funding. In 2008 he initiated Canada’s first annual conference on medieval literature, the Canada Chaucer Seminar, which he continues to chair. He also serves on the program committee of the New Chaucer Society, the largest professional body in his field. Robins holds a BA from Brown University, a master’s degree from the University of St. Andrews and a PhD from Princeton University.

“I am confident that with Will’s passion for Vic’s success and his excellent scholarship and engagement with students, staff and alumni,” said John Field, chair of Victoria's Board of Regents, “he will provide outstanding leadership and vision for Vic in the coming years.”

From a career in the foreign service to U of T’s Munk School of Global of Affairs
A distinguished senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs,  Mulroney was a career foreign service officer whose senior appointments culminated in his service as the ambassador of Canada to the People’s Republic of China from 2009-2012. During his time in Beijing, he worked to have education identified as one of a limited number of priorities for Canada-China cooperation, and the Canadian embassy came to be known by Chinese officials as an “education embassy.”

His book about Canada-China relations, Middle Power, Middle Kingdom, was published by Penguin Canada in March, 2015. He was also co-author of Canada’s Asia Challenge: Creating Competence for the Next Generation of Canadians, a report published in 2013 by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. He is a distinguished fellow of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and an honorary fellow of the University of St. Michael’s College.

Before his appointment to Beijing, Mulroney was assigned to the Privy Council Office in Ottawa as the deputy minister responsible for the Afghanistan Task Force, overseeing inter-departmental coordination of all aspects of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan. He also served as secretary to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (“the Manley Panel”). 

Mulroney’s other assignments included serving as associate deputy minister of foreign affairs and, concurrently, as the Prime Minister’s personal representative to the G8 Summit. He has also served as foreign and defence policy advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada. 

“I am deeply honoured and tremendously excited to be leading St. Michael’s, a storied, inspiring and dynamic Catholic institution that sits at the heart of a great global university,” Mulroney said. “I look forward to helping its students prepare for lives of leadership and service in their communities, their countries and the world.”

Mulroney is a distinguished alumnus of St. Michael’s, said Rev. Donald McLeod, C.S.B., chair of the collegium, with “a thorough grasp of the essential characteristics of Catholic higher education andof the critical and important role that it plays in the context of the larger public University, and indeed in society as a whole.”