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Meet Chancellor Wade MacLauchlan, UNB’s ‘Volunteer in Chief’

Author: Mark Leger

Posted on Oct 11, 2023

Category: UNB Saint John

Wade MacLauchlan

Wade MacLauchlan has a long history at the University of New Brunswick (UNB): student, fundraiser, faculty member, dean of law and now chancellor. And the symbol of that continuity is a humble coffee cup given to him at a university fundraising meeting at the Hoyt fire hall decades ago and something he still drinks from to this day.

“Carl Tompkins (the dean of science at the Saint John campus at the time) was the vice chair of the committee, and we were very close,” says MacLauchlan. “And when the campaign was over, we were happy with what we'd gotten done. He presented me with a coffee cup from Hoyt Search and Rescue. It’s a tangible reminder of the fun we had accomplishing something together.”

In the last 20 years, MacLauchlan is best known for his leadership roles in his home province of Prince Edward Island (PEI). He was the president of the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) from 1999-2011 and premier of the province from 2015-2019. In 2022 and again this year, he chaired the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada nominations.

But his roots run deep at UNB. He attended UNB law as a Beaverbrook Scholar and received the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal when he graduated in 1981. “My best friends are from those days,” he says.

MacLauchlan was awarded a clerkship at the Supreme Court of Canada and began his academic career as an assistant and associate professor at Dalhousie University.

He returned to UNB in 1991 and served as dean of law until 1996. He was also an active fundraiser at UNB in the 1990s. As dean, he led the establishment of the $1.5 million Heritage Fund, which is still providing benefits to UNB law students to this day.

In 1993–94, MacLauchlan was chair of the university-wide faculty-staff component of UNB's Venture Campaign, launching a successful $40-million initiative. It was at the end of this campaign that he was given the mug.

MacLauchlan’s work didn’t stop there, however. From 1997 to 1999, he served as founding director of UNB's multi-disciplinary Centre for Property Studies.

He left UNB to join UPEI in 1999 and became premier in 2015.

MacLauchlan happily accepted the role of chancellor at UNB when approached with the idea late last year. “It was such an honour to be asked, and an unexpected honour,” he says. “I'm very happy to take on the role and see how I can help.”

He assumed the chancellor role when Allison McCain finished his second five-year term at the end of June.

MacLauchlan brings a depth of experience to the role. Having served as president and vice-chancellor at UPEI, he knows how to best support UNB president Paul Mazerolle and the Board of Governors.

“The number one job of the chancellor is to be what I call the volunteer in chief, and I do that happily,” he says. “And I know you can only be effective in that way if a lot of other people are involved. I will support the university's priorities, the priorities of President Mazerolle, and work with people throughout the university and the extended community in ways that can make a difference.”

MacLauchlan, the university plays an important role in developing the region’s economy and culture. He says the province is going through a period of growth, which presents a unique opportunity and responsibility for the university as a leading institution in the region.

“There is momentum here. It's a very special moment for New Brunswick and for a regional university like ours, a university with national and global impact,” says MacLauchlan.

“The population is growing; the economy is trending well. If you look back over the last couple of centuries since UNB was established, we haven't had many decades of growth like this and the promise that it can be sustainable. The path toward sustainability absolutely must include our leading universities, which must find ways to partner with the community to help chart the path forward.”

MacLauchlan says UNB must leverage the opportunity of having campuses in two of the largest cities in Atlantic Canada. He says the Master of Business Administration (MBA) building in uptown Saint John and the recently announced move of UNB Law into the Justice Building in downtown Fredericton are the kinds of initiatives that will attract more students.

“One of the assets both campuses have is the urban environment of Saint John and Fredericton,” he says. “These are gems that the rest of the world will come to appreciate more and more. It attracts more students and it builds culture. Environmentally and in terms of urban development, it both preserves and moves forward.”

MacLauchlan says building community partnerships is critical to moving the province forward. He says the Integrated Health Initiative (IHI) and the McKenna Institute are examples of UNB-led collaborations tackling important public health and economic issues.

“There are many gems on both campuses doing important work, whether it's solitary or in major collaborations, and above all, teaching and learning,” he says. “This is a time when people see the impact, you might even say the magic, of what it means to have a great university.”