Past Presidents of the University of British Columbia are listed below. Where available, a link to annual reports issued during that president’s tenure have been provided (the reports are located on the UBC Library Archives Web site in Adobe Acrobat format; requires the free reader).
- Santa J. Ono (15th President, 2016-2022)
- Martha C. Piper (14th President, 2015-2016)
- Arvind Gupta (13th President, 2014-2015)
- Stephen J. Toope (12th President, 2006-2014)
- Martha C. Piper (11th President, 1997-2006)
- David W. Strangway (10th President, 1985-1997)
- Robert H. T. Smith (9th President, 1985)
- K. George Pedersen (8th President, 1983-1985)
- Douglas T. Kenny (7th President, 1975-1983)
- Walter H. Gage (6th President, 1969-1975)
- F. Kenneth Hare (5th President, 1968-1969)
- John B. Macdonald (4th President, 1962-1967)
- Norman A.M. MacKenzie (3rd President, 1944-1962)
- Leonard S. Klinck (2nd President, 1919-1944)
- Frank F. Wesbrook (1st President, 1913-1918)
Santa J. Ono (15th President, 2016-2022)
Prior to his appointment as President and Vice-Chancellor of UBC, Dr. Ono served as the 28th President of the University of Cincinnati and Senior Vice-Provost and Deputy to the Provost at Emory University.
A molecular immunologist educated at the University of Chicago and McGill, Dr. Ono has taught at Johns Hopkins, Harvard University and University College London.
He holds Honorary Doctorates from Chiba University and the Vancouver School of Theology and is a recipient of the Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education, the Professional Achievement Award from University of Chicago, a Grand Challenges Hero Award from UCLA and the NAAAP 100 Award from the National Association of Asian American Professionals. In 2022 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In October 2022, Ono assumed the presidency of the University of Michigan.
Martha C. Piper (14th President, 2015-2016)
Dr. Martha C. Piper, a native of Lorain, Ohio, received her B.Sc. degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Michigan, her M.A. degree from the University of Connecticut, and her PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McGill University.
From 1997 to 2006, she served as UBC’s 11th President. She then returned to lead the university as Interim President and Vice Chancellor from September 2015 to June 2016.
The recipient of 17 honorary degrees, Dr. Piper is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia. She was named Educator of the Year by the Learning Partnership in 2004, was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Merton College, Oxford University in 2007 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2008.
Arvind Gupta (13th President, 2014-2015)
Dr. Arvind Gupta earned his MSc and PhD from the University of Toronto, and a BSc in Mathematics from McMaster University. Prior to becoming the President and Vice Chancellor of UBC, Dr. Gupta was the CEO and scientific director of Mitacs, a national organization with headquarters at UBC. He has been a UBC professor of computer science since 2009.
Professor Toope earned his PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge, (1987), his degrees in common law (LLB) and civil law (BCL) with honours from McGill University (1983), and graduated magna cum laude with his AB in History and Literature from Harvard University (1979). Prior to joining UBC, Professor Toope was President of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, a position he held since 2002. He has written, lectured and consulted extensively in the areas of public international law, legal theory, human rights, international dispute resolution, and family law.
During his eight years as President and Vice-Chancellor of UBC, Professor Toope made a number of instrumental changes, including the development of the Place and Promise strategic plan and launching the start an evolution campaign, which has resulted in $1.3 billion in funds for the university. Professor Toope is currently Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.
Dr. Martha C. Piper received her B.Sc. in Physical Therapy from the University of Michigan, M.A. in Child Development from the University of Connecticut, and Ph.D. (1979) in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from McGill University.
Prior to arrival at UBC, Dr. Piper served as Vice President of Research and External Affairs at the University of Alberta.
Her tenure at UBC was marked by highly effective national advocacy for support of university research.
Dr. David W. Strangway earned his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Toronto in 1960. During his 12-year tenure at UBC, Dr. Strangway worked extensively to position the University as a world-class academic institution.
Previous to his presidency at UBC, Dr. Strangway was with the University of Toronto from 1973-1985, where he held a number of positions including Acting President, Vice-President, and Chairman, Geology Department. In addition, he has also worked with the UN, NASA, and for a number of leading world companies.
After leaving UBC, in 1998 he became the President and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation and is the Founder and President of Quest University Canada in Squamish, BC.
Robert H. T. Smith (9th President, 1985)
Dr. Robert H. T. Smith, an Australian-Canadian academic, was UBC president pro tem in 1985. A professor of geography and environmental studies, Dr. Smith was educated at Australian National University, the University of New England, and Northwestern University.
In 1964, Dr. Smith was a Guggenheim Fellow. He served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia and the University of New England, and was Executive Director of the Australian Education Office in Washington DC (1994–97). He is a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and a member of the Order of Australia.
Dr. George Pedersen gained his university education at UBC, University of Washington, and the University of Chicago.
In addition to being President of UBC, Dr. Pedersen was President or Vice-President of five other Canadian universities. He is the founding President of Royal Roads University and has been active in community, provincial, national, and international organizations.
No report was issued during his presidency.
Dr. Douglas Kenny received his B.A. and M.A. from UBC before attending the University of Washington for his Ph.D. His academic interests were in teaching and research in the areas of personality and learning, developmental psychology, and patterns of child development.
At UBC, Dr. Kenny was a member of Senate from 1966 to 1983. He assumed the headship of the Department of Psychology in 1964, became Dean of Arts in 1970, and then President and Chair of Senate from 1975-1983.
In addition to his service to UBC, Dr. Kenny was a member of the Governing Board of the Canada Council (1975-1978) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (1978-1983).
Professor Walter Harry Gage, the Dean of Everything, served UBC for more than 50 years. Professor Gage began his career at UBC as a student, graduating with a B.A. in 1925. After earning a M.A. in 1926, he taught mathematics at Victoria College (1927-1933) and also served as registrar for that institution (1929-1933).
He returned to UBC in 1933 and became a Professor of Mathematics in 1943. Professor Gage served as Dean of Administrative and Inter-Faculty Affairs in 1948 and later as Dean of Inter-Faculty and Student Affairs. He served as Acting President for two years ahead of his official acceptance of that office in 1969.
Dr. Fredrick Kenneth Hare received his university education at King’s College, University of London, the University of Montreal, and the University of Manchester. At McGill University he held the position of Geography Professor while earning his Ph.D. as an arctic climatologist. In 1959, he was instrumental in the formation of McGill’s highly successful Department of Meteorology. Dr. Hare was Professor and Dean of Arts and Science at McGill University and Master of Birkbeck College at the University of London.
After leaving UBC, Dr. Hare became Chancellor of Trent University and later went on to chair the national Climate Program Planning Board.
In 1942 Dr. John B. Macdonald graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto. In 1948 he received his M.S. in Bacteriology from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. in the same field from Columbia University in 1953.
In 1963 Dr. Macdonald issued the groundbreaking Report on Higher Education in British Columbia. The ‘Macdonald Report’ advised new organizational structures, more decentralization, and laid the groundwork for the Province’s current higher education system, including the establishment of Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, and British Columbia’s network of community colleges.
After leaving UBC Dr. Macdonald worked with a variety of governments, colleges, and universities across North America; he was CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, and is a Past-President of the Addiction Research Foundation, a research affiliate of the World Health Organization.
In 1913, Professor Norman MacKenzie enrolled at Dalhousie University and two years later joined the Canadian Army. After returning from overseas service, he studied law at Dalhousie, Harvard, and Cambridge universities and rose to prominence as an International Lawyer. He later joined the University of Toronto to teach law, and then was President of the University of New Brunswick before becoming President of UBC in 1944.
During his 18 years as President of UBC, Professor MacKenzie oversaw tremendous growth in enrollment and in the complexity of the University’s operations. After leaving UBC in 1966 Professor MacKenzie became a Canadian Senator.
Professor Leonard Klinck received his first degree at the Ontario Agricultural College in 1903 and continued his studies at Iowa State College (M.S.A., 1905). Professor Klinck then assumed responsibility for the Cereal Husbandry Department at Macdonald College in Quebec.
In 1914 Professor Klinck became the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at UBC and, after the sudden death of President Wesbrook, accepted appointment to that office. Professor Klinck was President during a difficult 25-year period in the University’s history; however he successfully oversaw the building of the Point Grey campus and the formation of a renowned and spirited faculty.
Dr. Frank Wesbrook graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1887 and later received his M.D. in 1890. In 1895 he was appointed Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Minnesota and in 1906 became its first full time Dean of Medicine.
In the fall of 1913, together with the Board of Governors and the Senate, Wesbrook ensured that the University opened on time. Until 1915 UBC’s predecessor, McGill University College of B.C., instructed students at the Fairview site (now occupied by Vancouver General Hospital). The campus was located at the Fairview site until 1925.
In addition to his UBC activities, Wesbrook was Officer Commanding the Officers’ Training Corps. He helped establish the Vancouver Institute, toured British Columbia examining its resources, and was active in the Patriotic Fund Drive in autumn 1915.
No report was issued during his presidency.