Kent MacDonald appointed new head of St. FX

Sueann Musick
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ANTIGONISH – It was the changing of the guard at St Francis Xavier University Friday with a former New Glasgow resident taking control of the reins for the post-secondary school. 

Dr. Kent MacDonald, left, the new president of St. Francis Xavier University, stands outside the gates of the university with outgoing president Dr. Sean Riley. MacDonald is formerly from New Glasgow and will take control of the post-secondary school in August. Sueann Musick – The News

Dr. Kent MacDonald, a St. FX alumnus, was appointed the 18th president and vice-chancellor of the Antigonish university during a ceremony yesterday. He will take control of the university from longtime president Dr. Sean Riley.

“I am very passionate about higher education and am a believer in the model of education at my alma mater. St. FX University delivers on a commitment to provide the very best educational experience.  I feel tremendously fortunate to have the opportunity to work closely with exemplary faculty and staff in shaping St. FX’s future,” said MacDonald. 

MacDonald was born in Halifax and raised in New Glasgow. He is a graduate of St. FX with a master of education in 1993, and a bachelor of science, physical education, in 1986. He completed his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania where his research focused on higher education management. He also holds an MBA from Université d'Ottawa. 

MacDonald is currently president and chief executive officer at Algonquin College, an institution with more than 20,000 students and campuses in Ottawa, Perth, Pembroke, Saudi Arabia, and a newly constructed campus in Kuwait that will be opening later this year. He has held increasingly complex roles within higher education, having served as an academic chair; dean, School of Business; executive director, strategy and business development; vice president, student services and development; and vice president academic. He has lectured and addressed audiences in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He brings a deep understanding of higher education enrolment management and the pragmatic application of digital technologies in the learning environment.  

In addition to his post-secondary academic pursuits, Dr. MacDonald has led private sector and not-for-profit organizations in Ontario and has been a teacher in the K-12 system in Canada and New Zealand.

He will officially take on the president’s role in August, but said he would be working closely with Riley during the next few months to learn the ropes at the university.

“Kent is a highly respected national leader in education and well suited to lead the university into the next chapter of its legacy,” said Riley. “His demonstrated leadership abilities will provide an invaluable asset to this institution, especially within a period of a rapidly changing higher education landscape ahead. Based upon my tenure as president, I know he will have a rewarding and fulfilling career here.”

MacDonald was humble in his remarks saying he would never be able to fill the shoes of Riley, but he will continue to follow in his footsteps and bring St. FX to the top of its game.

‘He is legendary across higher education in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “I will try to make my own mark and build on his many successes. I won’t be able to duplicate what Dr. Riley has done.  This is a very different university than when I was here and much of it falls at the feet of this gentlemen and carrying on the good work that he has done.”

MacDonald said when he arrives on August he will meet with faculty and staff to determine the best direction for the university in light of rising costs and looming deficits.

“St. FX is a strong institution and I look forward to navigating our staff through this. Most important part, it's just not up to the president. It is getting staff engaged and identifying where there are opportunities and when I arrive here in August that will be my message to faculty and staff. To sit down and listen and there are a number of ways to do this. There is revenue generation, maintaining costs of the organization and trying to innovative.  Universities around North America are in the same situation as St. FX.”

As for Riley, he said he is going to go enjoy a brief retirement before he looks for other career choices.  

“I am going to take time off but then move off to another career in the private sector or education, but I don’t have a firm plan,” he said, adding he would like to continue to work somewhere for the next five or 10 years. 

Organizations: Algonquin College, Antigonish university, FX University University of Pennsylvania MBA School of Business

Geographic location: Ottawa, North America, Halifax New Glasgow Atlantic Canada Perth Saudi Arabia Kuwait Europe Asia Ontario New Zealand

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