Announcing the University of Alberta’s 14th President

Bill Flanagan has been named the 14th president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta, effective July 1, 2020.

U of A President Bill Flanagan

To the University of Alberta Community:

It is my honour and privilege to announce that Bill Flanagan has been named the 14th president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta, effective July 1, 2020.

A week ago, I planned to share this exciting news with you today in person, but the rapid response to COVID-19 led to a quick and necessary change in plans. As board chair, I have been proud of our community’s response and want to thank all of you for your extraordinary efforts. Just as teaching, learning and working have moved to remote delivery, so has this major announcement moved online. I now have the pleasure of introducing you to our next president through The Quad.

When the Presidential Search Committee began its work last June, we recognized that the University of Alberta is at a critical juncture. We are being called to respond to dramatic changes, not only in immediate reaction to COVID-19, but also to longer-term shifts — shifts in the post-secondary landscape in Alberta, to provincial and national economies undergoing rapid change and diversification, and to the essential role that comprehensive research-intensive universities must continue to play in the knowledge-economies of the future. The decisions and solutions we reach today will set the trajectory of this university for years and decades to come.

After an extensive international search and careful consideration of many outstanding candidates, we are proud to select Bill Flanagan — an outstanding academic leader and innovator — to guide that trajectory and position the University of Alberta to excel.

Born and raised in Alberta, Bill Flanagan joins the University of Alberta from Queen’s University, where he served as the dean of law for 14 years from 2005 to 2019. He holds a BA (English and Philosophy) from Carleton University, a JD from the University of Toronto, a DEA in International Economic Law from Université Paris I-Sorbonne, and an LLM from Columbia University. His scholarly work spans property law, corporate law and international trade law.

Strategic and entrepreneurial, President-elect Flanagan has a proven ability to identify opportunities for growth to the benefit of the research and teaching mission of the whole university. In a period of constraint and declining public funding, under his leadership faculty numbers and programming expanded, and fundraising success increased fivefold. With added resources, the school’s reputation for research and teaching excellence deepened, and students’ learning experience was enriched by a larger range of learning opportunities and fully renovated learning environments.

President-elect Flanagan led these changes as a creative, inspiring, and unifying leader. He re-envisioned what legal education can be — before, during, and after law school. Under his decanal leadership, the Faculty of Law established its PhD program and the Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace. As dean, he opened up legal studies to undergraduates and spearheaded postgraduate programs for practising lawyers. At the institutional level, he was closely involved in the implementation of a new budget model at Queen’s, the development of its University Strategic Framework (2014–2019), and a comprehensive overhaul of the university’s Student Code of Conduct.

A lifetime commitment to diversity and inclusion also marks Bill Flanagan’s leadership. Deepening the diversity of both the student body and legal profession has been a constant goal. In 2019–20, the school reached record enrolment of self-identified Indigenous students, as a result of the school’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the school’s demonstrated commitment to the incorporation of Indigenous legal knowledge.

A talented, influential communicator and connector, President-elect Flanagan has developed extensive national networks of business and community leaders, legal professionals, and academic colleagues, as well as alumni and donors. He was president of the Council of Canadian of Law Deans from 2011 to 2014, and served on the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.

He currently serves as chair of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research’s National Working Group and has served as board chair of the AIDS Committee of Toronto — Canada’s largest community-based HIV service organization — as well as on the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and Canada AIDS Russia Project. In recognition of his community service, he was named to the Honour Roll of the Ontario AIDS Network in 2011.

President-elect Flanagan’s passion for the University of Alberta is apparent in his vision for the university’s future as a global leader addressing the world’s critical challenges. Although he is not able to be with us in person for the announcement, he has sent a video message to the community. I invite you to watch that video here.

I want to extend my sincere gratitude to vice-chair Carrie Smith and the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their time, effort, and guidance. Together we have selected a president who will serve the University of Alberta with passion, integrity, and sound judgment. Under his leadership, we will continue to build one of the world’s great public universities.

Please join me in welcoming President-elect Bill Flanagan.

Kate Chisholm, QC
Chair, University of Alberta Board of Governors