After an international search, Kevin Hall has been chosen to succeed Jamie Cassels as president of the University of Victoria.
The 63-year-old Hall, whose academic area is civil engineering, will be UVic’s eighth president in its 57-year history. He begins his five-year term on Nov. 1.
He is currently in a senior leadership position at Australia’s University of Newcastle, where he serves as vice-president and senior deputy vice-chancellor of global engagement and partnerships.
Hall was born in Brighton, England, and moved to Canada with his family at the age of seven. He has two grown children.
Hall’s selection to the UVic post, announced Thursday, follows a year-long effort by a committee that included representatives from the university’s board of governors, faculty members, and graduate and undergraduate students.
He said in a phone interview from Newcastle that he is excited to have been selected to serve at UVic, which he called one of Canada’s leading universities.
Having worked at Queens University and the University of Guelph, where he was vice-president of research, he said that he is well aware of UVic’s qualities.
“What I know about UVic, what’s attracted me, is its deep sense of commitment to the community, the engagement with both the local community in Victoria and across the Island,” he said.
Hall said he also admires UVic’s work on Indigenous issues and the focus they receive on campus, along with the university’s attention to sustainability.
“I’ve spent my career really aligned to trying to make a change to the environment, from the time I was at Queens when I set up the Centre for Water and the Environment.”
Coming into his job in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic poses certain challenges, Hall said.
“I think for universities, I think we all realize — whether it’s in Australia or Canada — it’s not going to be business as usual,” he said.
Finding a “happy blend” between online and face-to-face learning is one issue, Hall said.
“I think the main thing is universities have to remain that pillar of the community that really helps to drive social change, environmental change, help rebuild the economy,” he said. “This has been a huge economic hit and I think universities have a great role to play in training the future leaders to pull us through in times like this.”
Cathy McIntyre, chairwoman of the university’s board of governors, said Hall is “exactly the right choice” to lead UVic.
“Dr. Hall has the research and executive experience to advance UVic’s global reputation and stature it all its activities,” she said.
Growing up, academics were important in Hall’s family — all four children received university degrees, and his mother earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the age of 66.
“She had a lifelong thirst for education,” Hall said.
Outside of academic life, he has devoted his time to the arts and to athletics, earning a number of age-group selections to represent Canada at the World Triathlon Championships.
He also spent time on the boards of the Guelph Art Gallery and the Guelph Jazz Festival.
Cassels turns over the job after seven years, having started as president in July 2013. He has been a faculty member at UVic for close to 40 years and was UVic’s dean of law from 1999 to 2001.
He announced last year that he would be stepping down as president three years before the end of his second five-year term, which was set to end in 2023. At the time, he said he was looking forward to get back to his academic roots in law.
“It’s been a real honour and a highlight to lead the university these past seven years,” Cassels said Thursday. “I am truly delighted Kevin will be assuming leadership of the university this fall.
“His international focus and ability to form strong community connections will be very important for our university at this time and into the future.”
Cassels had been due to finish his tenure June 30. He stayed on past his original departure date to help deal with issues around COVID-19.