Cooper interim King’s president
George Cooper may have six academic degrees, but at 71, he’s got all the nervous excitement of a frosh student stepping onto campus for the first time.
The lawyer and former Tory MP was named Monday the interim president of the University of King’s College in Halifax.
“This is going to be one of the most stimulating experiences of my life, but wow, it’s all new to me. What am I jumping into here?” he asked, laughing, shortly after hearing the news of his appointment.
Cooper is the past chairman of the board of governors at King’s, was awarded an honorary doctorate of civil law at the university and has two children who are King’s graduates. He is counsel at the law firm, McInnes Cooper, and a former managing trustee of the $425-million Killam Trusts.
John Hamm, the chairman of the university’s board of governors, said King’s is excited about Cooper’s new role.
“If you look at Dr. Cooper, he has remained a great friend of King’s,” Hamm said. “He has a tremendous reputation in the law profession, he has had huge managerial responsibilities within his firm, he has been on the board of a number of influential trusts and companies.
“All in all, he brings an experience that will be of great benefit to the university. At the same time, he brings a knowledge of, and a love of, the university. That’s a pretty good recipe.”
It’s hard to overstate Cooper’s adulation of King’s.
He called the institution’s programs, extracurricular activities, faculty and students “world-class and “in home-run territory.”
“Add all that together and you create a buzz of the heart that, combined with the buzz in the brain, that makes for an all-round excellent, wonderful experience for the students that come here.”
While Cooper was privy to certain aspects of the university during his six-year tenure as chairman of the board at King’s, he said his two-year term as interim president will afford him insight to the inner workings of the school.
“I’m used to standing on the bridge and looking outwards. Now I have to learn how the boiler room works.”
Cooper is certainly poised to receive a crash course in the school’s operations and day-to-day life on campus.
Audits into expenses, salaries and procurements are now underway at the university. The renovation of the president’s lodge has racked up significant cost overruns. A recently formed union for teaching fellows is awaiting the ratification of its first contract. The school’s bursar is on leave after allegations of sexual assault and gross indecency came to light in late March.
And the King’s community is still reeling from the reign and departure of Anne Leavitt, who filled the president’s seat for just 11 months before stepping down suddenly on June 21. Leavitt’s style of leadership alienated some students who felt excluded from decision-making processes at the small school.
While Cooper said he doesn’t “sense any really deep problems” at King’s, he’s not daunted by the challenges that lie ahead.
“You’re not going to make everybody happy all the time. Not the professors, not the students, not the staff, not the board. That’s not the way life is. But you do have to make sure that everybody participates in the decisions that are made.”