Queen's University

Meet Dr. Daniel Woolf, 20th Principal of Queen's

Daniel Woolf is a fan of music (especially jazz), a husband, a father of three, and an avid “Tweeter.” He also graduated from Queen’s in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree, making him one of the university’s many proud alumni.

When he learned he would become the 20th principal of his alma mater, he felt a mixture of “shock, elation and a little bit of fear.” It was an honour and a challenge he looked forward to when he began his five-year term in September 2009, and one he thoroughly enjoys.

A historian by trade, Dr. Woolf continues to teach at Queen’s on a part-time basis, which gives him the opportunity to interact with students. He has also continued with his research and writing activities. His love of academia runs in the family; his mother taught English at university, his physician father was a member of a medical school faculty, and his uncle is a historian of modern Europe.

Dr. Woolf transitioned to more administrative roles because of his desire to have an impact on a bigger scale. After teaching for several years, he became associate dean and then acting dean of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University, and later a dean at both McMaster University and the University of Alberta. The chance to return to Queen’s, and to Kingston, as the university’s principal, during what was and remains a challenging time for Canadian universities, was one he couldn’t resist. The opportunity to be a faculty member at his alma mater, and in the department in which he was educated, was equally enticing.

Queen’s is bigger now than it was when Dr. Woolf was a student. It’s also more research-intensive and has a more diverse student body.  In the future, he sees the university as a place known for innovation, a place with expanded capacity for research and graduate studies, a place that maintains high-quality undergraduate education, and a destination of choice for an increased number of international students.

  • [Students studying for final exams recently had a surprise cookie delivery from Principal Woolf.]
    Students studying for final exams recently had a surprise cookie delivery from Principal Woolf.
  • [Principal Woolf and Joe Clark]
    Principal Daniel Woolf and the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark speak during Mr. Clark’s visit to campus on March 4 to deliver the Sheila Skelton Menzies Lecture.
  • [Principal Woolf at the Loran Scholars event]
    In Januray 2014, the university hosted a reception to honour the Loran Scholars who attend Queen’s. Principal Daniel Woolf, alumni and Loran Scholar mentors also attended the event.
  • [Principal Woolf at the Loran Scholars event]
    In Januray 2014, the university hosted a reception to honour the Loran Scholars who attend Queen’s. Principal Daniel Woolf, alumni and Loran Scholar mentors also attended the event.
  • [Principal Daniel Woolf with 2013 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award]
    Principal Daniel Woolf and Chancellor David Dodge pose with the 2013 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award. From left to right: Queen's Principal Daniel Daniel Woolf, Alistair MacLean, David Gunsberg, Greg Lessard, Kim Black and Queen's Chancellor David Dodge.
  • [Principal Woolf at the kick-off of the Homecoming Football Game 2013]
    Principal Daniel Woolf, Athletics & Recreation Director Leslie Dal Cin and Board Chair Barbara Palk take the field for the Homecoming game kick-off.
  • [Principal Woolf leading the Homecoming half-time parade]
    Pictured (l-r) leading the Homecoming half-time parade with Principal Woolf, Oct. 5, 2013: Sarah Indewey, Judith Brown, Chacellor Dodge, Board Chair Barbara Palk, Beth McCarthy and Julie Gordon-Woolf
  • [photo of Principal Woolf during Orientation week]
    New students were welcomed to Queen's by Principal Woolf during Orientation Week activities.
  • [photo of Principal Woolf with a student at the SGPS fair]
    Principal Woolf spoke with graduate students during the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) fair welcoming students to Queen's.
  • [Principal Woolf greeting new students in residence]
    Principal Woolf greeted new students as they moved in residence to begin the 2013/2014 school year.
  • [Principal Woolf with actress and humanitarian Glenn Close, honorary Doctorate of Laws degree recipient].
    Principal Woolf hosted actress and humanitarian Glenn Close on campus June 13, 2013. Ms. Close gave a lecture on mental health and received an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree.
  • [Chancellor Dodge, Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, Principal Woolf and Vice-Provost Brenda Brouwer]
    Former United States President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn received honourary degrees presented by Chancellor Dodge and Principal Woolf at fall convocation, 2012.
  • {Principal Woolf with Catherine Andre]
    Principal Woolf visited with Catherine Andre, a participant at the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship Presentation celebrating student achievement.
  • [Principal Woolf visits with vendors at the Engineering Technology Career Fair for fall 2012.]
    Principal Woolf visits with vendors at the Engineering Technology Career Fair for fall 2012.
  • [Daniel Woolf talking to alumni in Ottawa at the National Gallery of Canada.]
    Alumni celebrated the launch of the Initiative Campaign with Daniel Woolf in Ottawa at the National Gallery of Canada in October, 2012.
  • [Principal Woolf with studentsat the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Queen's School of English.]
    Principal Woolf joined students in taking an English test at the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Queen's School of English in 2012.
  • [Principal Woolf participating in Shinerama activities]
    Principal Woolf participated in Shinerama activities in downtown Kingston during Frosh Week 2012.
  • [Daniel Woolf at Orentation Week BBQ]
    Daniel Woolf served up some food to new students at the Orientation Week 2012 BBQ on the Summerhill lawn
  • [Daniel Woolf meets Brandon Price]
    On Move-In day 2012, Daniel Woolf found first-year Arts student Brandon Pryce moving into the Brockington House residence room he lived in the '70s
  • [Principal Woolf with his son Sam at Spring Convocation 2012]
    Principal Woolf with his son Sam at Spring Convocation 2012
  • [Daniel Woolf in a car being developed by Queen's Formula SAE Team]
    Queen's Formula SAE Team showed Daniel Woolf what they are working on at the campus community launch event for the Initiative Campaign, September 2012.
  • [Principal Woolf addressing faculty, staff and students at the campus community launch of the Initiative Campaign in September.]
    Principal Woolf addressed faculty, staff and students at the campus community launch of the Initiative Campaign in September 2012.
  • [Principal Woolf welcoming His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, to campus in October.]
    Principal Woolf proudly welcomed His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, to campus in October 2012.
  • [Principal Woolf with graduate student Paul Bradley and his friend Melissa McKay chatted with Daniel Woolf between classes. ]
    Principal Woolf spent the day with graduate student Paul Bradley, in October 2012. Paul and his friend Melissa McKay chatted with Daniel Woolf between classes.
  • [Daniel Woolf, with medical students and Education Minister John Molloy, on a tour of the simulation lab in the new School of Medicine building]
    Daniel Woolf, with medical students and Education Minister John Molloy, on a tour of the simulation lab in the new School of Medicine building in 2011
  • [Principal Woolf poses with the Winnipeg women's curling team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kingston]
    Principal Woolf poses with the Winnipeg women's curling team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kingston in February 2013. Queen's was a proud sponsor of the curling championships.
  • [Principal Woolf welcomes Kingston businesses to the Live & Work in Kingston Fair at Grant Hall]
    Principal Woolf welcomes Kingston businesses to the Live & Work in Kingston Fair at Grant Hall. The fair connects students with job opportunities in Kingston.
  • [Principal Daniel Woolf, Provost Alan Harrison and MPP for Kingston and the Islands John Gerretsen, show Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges & Univiersities around campus during his April 2nd visit.]
    Principal Daniel Woolf, Provost Alan Harrison and MPP for Kingston and the Islands John Gerretsen, show Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges & Univiersities around campus during his April 2, 2013 visit.

Dr. Woolf is motivated by the students at Queen’s — their energetic spirit, bright minds and dedication to making a difference in the world. He occasionally has the opportunity to shadow a student for a day — to attend classes and chat over a meal. The experience allows him to connect and glean insight into what students are thinking and feeling. He also engages regularly through Twitter and his blog.

What he loves most about Queen’s are the people — students, faculty and staff — who make it tick, who transform the beautiful residential campus environment into a living, thriving learning environment where people are inspired to do great things.

Principal Woolf was reappointed for a second term on March 18, 2013. The term of reappointment will be effective July 1, 2014 and will conclude on June 30, 2019. Learn more about the reappointment...


Favourite music: Virtually any type of jazz; female vocalists (especially on the folk/indie side); classic rock of the late ’60s and ’70s - Steely Dan and The Moody Blues

Top 10 movies: The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2); Twelve Angry Men; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Spartacus; The Enforcer; Guns of Navarone; From Russia with Love; The Empire Strikes Back; North by Northwest

Favourite TV show as a kid: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-68)

Pastimes: Reading, music, astronomy, and classic model kits from the ’60s.

Collectables: Fountain pens; antiquarian books (especially 17th century)

Recreational reading: Detective novels/mysteries—I have read pretty much everything by Sara Paretsky, P. D. James, Michael Connelly, John Sandford and Dennis Lehane, and anything by Tolstoy. I’ve read War and Peace twice and plan to read it a third time later in life.

Favourite quotation: My email signature contains a line from the 17th-century lawyer and scholar John Selden, who was someone I studied for my doctoral thesis at Oxford.

It is said that all isles and continents ... are so seated, that there is non, but that, from some shore of it, another may be discovered ... Certainly the severed parts of good arts and learning, have that kind of site ... Every one hath so much relation to some other, that it hath not only use often of the aide of what is next to it, but, through that, also of what is out of ken to it.

[Daniel Woolf]

This, to me, captures the close relation of all fields of knowledge — he was a prophet of interdisciplinary study before disciplines even existed.

Favourite Queen’s memory: I always get a kick out of orientation week because it reminds me of my own arrival, as a rather apprehensive 17-year-old. The first week of classes was especially exciting in a slightly scary kind of way. Being a residence desk clerk in my upper years was an interesting introduction to administrative life at Queen’s. I also have great memories from my second stint at Queen’s (1984-86) as a postdoctoral fellow in History, and the wonderful students I had in the two courses I taught.