Dr. Colin B. Mackay

Dr. Colin B. MackayColin B. Mackay was President of the University of New Brunswick from 1953 to 1969, and he remained involved in the life of the university throughout his lifetime.  Upon his death in 2003, he left his estate of some $6 million to UNB, including a bequest of approximately $3 million to create an endowment for the Gérard V. La Forest Law Library.  The annual income from the endowment, the largest ever received by the Law Library, goes primarily toward the purchase of law books, journals and other educational materials to enrich the holdings of the Law Library.

Colin Mackay has been described as the most important figure associated with the University of New Brunswick in the 20th century.  In the fall of 2007 the Main Reading Room of the Law Library was named the Colin B. Mackay Reading Room, to honour Dr. Mackay's many contributions to UNB, the Faculty of Law and the Law Library.  The room was renovated and a stained glass portrait of Dr. Mackay, created by Hugh MacKinnon and Edward Bowes of Shades of Light Ltd. of Fredericton, was installed.

Stained glass portrait of Dr. Mackay that hangs in the room bearing his name.Colin B. Mackay was born in Rothesay in 1920.  His grandfather, H.S. Bridges, was a Professor of Classics who lived on the UNB-Fredericton campus, and his mother was born in the Old Arts Building, now known as Sir Howard Douglas Hall.  Colin Mackay graduated from UNB with a degree in history in 1942.  He then joined the Navy, commanding a landing craft on Juno Beach on D-Day. After the war, he obtained a law degree from the University of British Columbia and returned to New Brunswick.  He practiced law with the Saint John law firm of Gilbert & McGloan and was a lecturer in UNB’s Faculty of Law. Over the objections of many, Lord Beaverbrook chose Colin Mackay as President of UNB in 1953.  At the age of 33, he became the youngest university president in Canada at that time. 

During Dr. Mackay's tenure, he presided over a period of unprecedented growth of the university. The total UNB student body rose from 800 to over 5,000 students, and he signed twice as many diplomas as all his predecessors combined.  The Saint John campus was established and in Fredericton, more than 22 new buildings were constructed, including the Law Building. The Law School was moved from Saint John to Fredericton's Somerville House and eventually to the University of New Brunswick.  He was instrumental in the transformation of the Law School into a national institution that is consistently ranked as one of the top five law schools in the country.

After stepping down as UNB President, Dr. Mackay became Executive Director of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.  He also became active in international affairs, serving on several Canadian delegations to the United Nations and working as an adviser to the Canadian International Development Agency.  He helped to foster institutions of higher education in education in five African nations, and in 1980 chaired the evaluation mission of the United Nations Educational and Training Program for Southern Africa. An Officer of the Order of Canada and Queen’s Counsel, he received 13 honourary degrees from various universities in Canada and abroad.  In 1978, he was named UNB's first President Emeritus. In 1980, Dr. Mackay married Mary Ives Anglin of Saint John. He died November 27, 2003, in Saint John, at the age of 83.  He was predeceased by his wife Mary in November 2001.

Click here to view UNB's colourful DVD production entitled THE BUILDER, which illustrates Colin B. Mackay's life and many contributions to the university.