Order of the Ancient Commoner

About the Awards

The Order of the Ancient Commoner recognizes an alum or friend of the college who has given significant support to the College or to the Alumni Association above and beyond his or her position or affiliation.

The original Ancient Commoner, in the world of King’s lore, was an undergraduate student who, by choice, never graduated, and instead retreated to the cupola overlooking the quad. This student grew old and became the venerable guardian of all things King’s (lore, traditions, etc) and is also highly critical of King’s activities. Since the Ancient Commoner only looks favourably on those he considers to have made a significant contribution without regard for personal gain, the name of the award is apt.

The Order of the Ancient Commoner will next be awarded in 2024, when we gather for the Alumni Brunch on Saturday, June 1.



Paul Mackay

Paul McKay stands holding a pile of books in the King's Co-op BookstoreWhen Paul Mackay was hired to manage the King’s Co-op Bookstore in 2018, the store was on the brink of financial collapse. Paul recognized that the King’s Co-op Bookstore, and the King’s community in general, was very special. Leaving a stable management job at Chapters, Paul came to King’s to see if he could make a difference.

Within three years Paul had all former debts settled and the accounting back on track. Building on the strong connections he had with publishing houses across Canada and the United States, he put the King’s Co-op Bookstore on the map, turning it into a nationally and internationally recognized and respected independent bookstore in the eyes of authors, publishing houses and consumers alike. He ships books to alumni around the world and has secured loyal repeat customers within the greater Halifax community and beyond. This is in part because of his personal touch. Every book he ships is accompanied by a receipt with a hand-written expression of gratitude from Paul.

In addition to his business savvy and strong relationship building skills, Paul understands the power of social media. His funny, clever, and interesting posts have attracted followers from around the world, including some famous followers like Neil Gaiman and John Lurie. Beyond the impact on the bookstore itself, this power to reach greater audiences has made a valuable contribution to King’s brand awareness as a whole. Prospective students and their families on a campus tour often seek Paul out to meet the person behind the posts.

Paul’s contribution to King’s goes further still. He has leveraged his role to promote equity, diversity and inclusion, routinely promoting books written by underrepresented authors and supporting local writers such as El Jones and Daniel Paul, alongside international superstars like Angela Davis and Desmond Cole.

Paul is well loved by King’s students and he, in turn, sees and understands them exceptionally well, caring for them with the heart and passion of a student services professional. The books he stocks are a true representation of the variety of lived experiences on campus, and the events he hosts and promotes reflect the values the students hold dear. When the global pandemic hit, the King’s Co-op Bookstore was the only bookstore that remained open during those first months. He delivered course books and gift-wrapped birthday presents from families to lonely students in their greatest time of need. He did this on his bicycle, attracting media attention and putting King’s on the map yet again. Using every ounce of his time and savvy, he kept that bookstore thriving and audiences engaged during a time of incredible economic and social devastation.

Paul, like the Ancient Commoner himself, is a silent partner in the success of the College. Always listening from the sidelines, he supports and elevates the causes and values of the King’s community.


The Ancient Commoner sits in the cupola overlooking the quad, self-isolating as he has done for years. The campus is empty these days but the old student who, according to lore climbed to his perch to keep a watchful eye on King’s and to guard its traditions, knows the spirit of the College is as vibrant as ever. And as he does every year when the spring flowers bloom in the quad he chooses up to three members of the world-wide King’s community to be inducted into the Order of the Ancient Commoner. They are people who go above and beyond to support King’s or the Alumni Association.

With physical distancing it would have been easier for the Ancient Commoner to spot these three, but they would stand out in any crowd.

Kate MacKeigan

Kate MacKeigan, BA’09, took full advantage of all King’s had to offer her as a student and now, as an alum, she is paying it forward.

Kate was an athlete–playing on both the women’s rugby and badminton teams. She was also a member of the Haliburton Society and a volunteer with King’s Tutoring Program at St. Agnes Junior High.

Volunteerism must be encoded in Kate’s DNA. When she moved to Ottawa in 2013 Kate volunteered her time as secretary to the Ottawa Branch of the King’s Alumni Association. She and fellow committee members reached out to alumni living in Ottawa to help foster the ties begun at King’s. Kate was also one of the co-organizers and the King’s representative for the Atlantic University Pub Night events held annually in Canada’s capitol.

If all that wasn’t enough Kate worked to encourage the next generation of King’s students. She attended the Ottawa King’s Faculty Lecture Tours and Meet & Greets. She mixed and mingled with prospective students and their parents while sharing stories of her time at King’s to help with the vital job of recruitment.

When she moved back to Halifax Kate continued her commitment to King’s. She organized a Worldwide Alumni Celebration (WAC) event in her home in 2018 and again in 2019. Kate continues to be involved with recruitment efforts attending the Halifax Meet & Greets.

John Adams

It’s a good question—does King’s attract volunteers or create them? It is probably both. Like Kate, John Adams, BA (Hons)’10, is a tireless promoter and volunteer on behalf of the university.

As an undergrad John played significant roles on campus. He sat on Student Council and he was a member the King’s Theatrical Society (KTS). Wanting to help his fellow students stay active and get involved John was the CUBE (intramurals) Coordinator. He was a good athlete himself, winning Rookie of the Year award on the Blue Devils rugby team.

John graduated in 2010 but his time with King’s was far from over. He came back to work for the King’s Student Union (KSU) as Internal Coordinator—a venerable guardian of all things King’s … and also highly critical of King’s activities. Both are attributes of the Ancient Commoner.

With his playing days behind him, John coached the men’s rugby team, receiving the Rod Shoveller Award (Coach of the Year) in 2013. He was also voted Honorary Class President by the graduating class of 2013.

John went to Ottawa to purse an MBA, and then moved to Vancouver to work for MetaLab. Despite how busy his job keeps him, working with top tier companies such as Apple, Disney and Google, John still finds time to volunteer for King’s. He was instrumental in starting the Vancouver Alumni Branch, has hosted three WAC events. He attends King’s Faculty Lecture Tour and Meet & Greet events in Vancouver–supporting recruitment efforts of the university, sharing stories of his time at King’s and encouraging other young people as they consider coming to King’s.

Céline Beland

There is more than one generation of King’s students who considered Céline Beland their mom-away-from-home.

Céline came to King’s in 2004 as General Manager with Sodexo. When Chartwells was awarded the food service in 2017, much to King’s delight, Celine and many of her staff decided to stay at King’s.

Céline’s dedication to and compassion for King’s students is legendary. From accommodating dietary needs and restrictions to sleeping in her office to ensure uninterrupted service on a storm day, Céline and her staff always had the students needs top of mind.

Céline spent countless volunteer hours and her own resources to bring just the right touch to important special occasions at King’s: from black-tie dinners at Encaenia, presidential installations to multi-day celebrations such as King’s 225th Anniversary. During the 225th weekend celebration Celine was on hand at King’s largest alumni gathering welcoming hundreds of graduates back to campus, greeting them by name. She was instrumental in helping to create an atmosphere that encouraged alumni to celebrate their university days, reconnect with old classmates, and create new friendships and memories.

Her time at King’s has been filled with growth, friendships and a sense of community. Céline’s thoughtfulness and personal flair were always apparent. Her cheerful, friendly and warm-hearted disposition made her a priceless asset to the King’s community.

Céline retired as Food Services Director in April 2020. A job well done, a retirement well earned.