While other universities were under discussion at the time, the University of King’s College, founded in Windsor, NS, in 1789, was the first university to be established in English Canada. The college was the first to accept and graduate students, to receive a charter, and it is the oldest English-speaking Commonwealth university outside the United Kingdom.

But before the King’s College of Windsor came to be, there had already been one King’s College in the New World. Founded by King George II in New York in 1754, the school’s short life ended with the American Revolution, and the old King’s was later reorganized as Columbia University.


Windsor_King's_College_Campus_1888Anglican Loyalists who moved to Nova Scotia in the wake of the Revolution founded King’s in Windsor. Some among them had strong connections with the old King’s. The college then received its Royal Charter from King George III in 1802, and remained in Windsor until 1920. That year, a fire ravaged King’s, burning its main building to the ground, raising the question of how or if the college was to survive.

King’s was determined to carry on, and so accepted the terms of a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to rebuild, not in Windsor but in Halifax, the capital city of Nova Scotia, entering into association with Dalhousie University. Under this agreement, King’s agreed to pay the salaries of a number of Dalhousie professors, who in turn would help in the management and academic life of King’s College. Students at King’s would also study at Dalhousie and have access to all of the amenities of the larger school, and the academic programs at King’s (except for Divinity) would fold into the College of Arts and Sciences at Dalhousie.
Graduation-March-Pass-by-Anthony-Law-HMCS-King's-WWIIFrom 1941 to 1945, the college’s buildings became His Majesty’s Canadian Ship, HMCS King’s, where officers were trained for the Royal Canadian Navy. The academic life of the college carried on during those years elsewhere in Halifax, aided by Dalhousie University and the United Church’s Pine Hill Divinity Hall.

The face of King’s changed dramatically during the 1970s. In 1971, the King’s Faculty of Divinity was amalgamated into the ecumenical Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax. At the same time as divinity studies were being relocated, two new King’s projects were underway. In 1972, the college introduced its unique Foundation Year Programme, and in 1978, it established the only degree-granting school of journalism in Atlantic Canada. This was the beginning of a long period of academic experimentation and a shift of the college toward a national profile.

King’s has now entered its third century—and the changes have continued. The King’s Contemporary Studies Programme, begun in 1993, has been developed in cooperation with faculty members throughout the joint Dalhousie-King’s campus. Two additional interdisciplinary honours programmes have been added to the King’s experience: the Early Modern Studies Programme (1999) and the History of Science and Technology Programme (2000).

King’s Traditions

Traditions Lecture (pdf) by Henry Roper

Past chancellors and presidents of the college

The Very Rev. Edwin Gilpin, DD, DCL, 1891-1897
Edward Jarvis Hodgson, DCL, 1897-1911
Sir Charles J. Townshend, DCL, 1912-1922
The Most Rev. John Hackenley, DD, 1937-1943
The Hon. Ray Lawson, OBE, LLD, DCnL., DCL, 1948-1956
Lionel Avard Forsyth, QC, DCL, 1956-1958
H. Ray Milner, QC, DCnL, DCL, LLD, 1958-1963
Robert H. Morris, MC, BA, MD, FACS, 1964-1969
Norman H. Gosse, MD, CM, DSc, DCL, LLD, FACS, FRCS(C), 1971-1972
The Honourable Mr. Justice R.A. Ritchie, DCL, LLD, 1974-1988
G. Hamilton Southam, OC, BA, LLD, LLD, DCL, DU, 1988-1996
The Honourable J. Trevor Eyton, OC, QC, BA, LLB, LLD, 1996-2001
The Honourable Michael Arthur Meighen, QC, BA, LLL, LLD 2001-2013
The Honourable Kevin Lynch, PC, OC, LLD, 2013-present

Presidents and vice-chancellors:
The Rev. Dr. William Cochran, 1789-1804
The Rev. Thomas Cox, 1804-1805
The Rev. Dr. Charles Porter, 1805-1836
The Rev. Dr. George McCawley, 1836-1875
The Rev. Dr. John Dart, 1875-1885
The Rev. Dr. Isaac Brock, 1885-1889
The Rev. Dr. Charles Willets, 1889-1904
Dr. Ian Hannah, 1904-1906
The Rev. Dr. C.J. Boulden, 1906-1909
The Rev. Dr. T.W. Powell, 1909-1914
The Rev. Dr. Charles E. Willets, (Acting), 1914-1916
The Rev. Dr. T.S. Boyle, 1916-1924
The Rev. Dr. A.H. Moore, 1924-1937
The Rev. Dr. A. Stanley Walker, 1937-1953
The Rev. Dr. H.L. Puxley, 1954-1963
Dr. H.D. Smith, 1963-1969
Dr. F. Hilton Page, (Acting), 1969-1970
Dr. J. Graham Morgan, 1970-1977
Dr. John F. Godfrey, 1977-1987
Dr. Marion G. Fry, 1987-1993
Dr. Colin J. Starnes, 1993-2003
Dr. William W. Barker, 2003-2011
Dr. Anne Leavitt, 2011 2012
Dr. George Cooper, 2012-2016
Professor William Lahey, 2016-present

Thanks to the University Archives for providing the above historical photos, the first depicting a campus view in 1928, the second, a group of students on the steps of the Windsor campus main building in 1888 and the third, a painting by artist Anthony Law of HMCS King’s during WWII.