Meet Dr. Daniel Woolf, 20th Principal of Queen's
- Principal and Vice-Chancellor
- Professor, Department of History
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.
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.
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.