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U of A Announces New President

Manjot Parhar (3L)

On November 14, 2014, Dr. David Turpin was named the 13th president of the University of Alberta (U of A). His term begins on July 1, 2015. Turpin succeeds President Indira Samarasekara who has served two terms as university president.

Samarasekara was pleased with the announcement: “It is rare to find a leader who has had the academic leadership achievements in combination with the administrative experience—as a president, provost, dean, and scholar. In fact, I cannot think of another Canadian who has the combination of administrative achievements and scholarly accomplishments.”

University of Victoria (UVic) President, Jamie Cassels, also offered his congratulations to Turpin on behalf of the university: “David Turpin is a distinguished scholar, and clearly one of this country’s finest academic leaders. He will be an outstanding president for the University of Alberta—bringing intelligence, passion, and vision to bear to advance the mission of that fine university, but also to further enhance the role of post-secondary education and research nationally.”

Born on July 14, 1956, Turpin holds a Bachelor of Science in cell biology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), which he received in 1977. He also holds a PHD in botany and oceanography from the same university. Turpin is a noted plant biologist and author of several papers on topics including plant photosynthesis.

Turpin served as president of UVic from 2000 to 2013. Under his leadership, UVic flourished into a world-class institution with a reputation for stellar research and scholarship. In particular, it increased its graduate enrolment and the number of graduate programs offered. Turpin is also credited with increasing indigenous student enrolment during his term. Fewer than 100 indigenous students attended UVic when Turpin arrived. In contrast, nearly 1,000 indigenous students attended the university when he left in 2013.

Prior to becoming UVic president, Turpin was a professor in the Biology Department of Queen’s University from 1981 to 1991. Thereafter, he became head of the Department of Botany at UBC. In 1993, Turpin was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s University. Then, from 1995 to 2000, he served as Vice-Principal (Academic) at Queen’s University.

Turpin is the recipient of several awards and honours. He is a member of the Order of Canada and the Royal Society of Canada. He has also received the Queen’s Diamond and Golden Jubilee Medals. Moreover, he was named an NSERC Steacie Memorial Fellow in 1989 and is one of a select group of Canadian researchers on the Highly Cited Researchers list.

In an interview, Turpin explained what drew him to the U of A: “The opportunity to lead a university that has, for more than a century, been committed to ‘uplifting the whole people’ draws me here. The U of A has a real sense of purpose, a real excitement for what’s next, at this university, in this province, and in our country.”

Turpin joins the U of A at a difficult time. As a result of the budget cuts in 2013, the University is attempting to secure more funding from private donors. There are also growing concerns relating to potential tuition increases. Specifically, the faculties of law, pharmacy, and business are seeking government approval for market modifiers which would increase tuition by more than fifty percent in some cases.

Turpin stated that it was too soon for him to comment on the proposed market modifiers. Nevertheless, he maintained that it is important for public institutions to remain accessible.

The U of A is in need of a strong leader at this time. Given his wealth of knowledge and experience, we can only hope Turpin lives up to the task.