James Alexander Corry was Queen's 13th Principal (1961-1968) and one of Canada's most distinguished professors of politics and law.
Born in Millbank, Ontario, he was educated at the University of Saskatchewan (LLB 1923) and Oxford University (BCL 1927), which he attended on a Rhodes Scholarship.
Corry taught law at the University of Saskatchewan (1927-1936) and then came to Queen's to become the Hardy Professor of Political Science. James Corry wrote many influential books, among them Democratic Government and Politics, which became a standard on academic bookshelves and introduced thousands of students in Canada and the United States to political studies. He was also involved in the Kingston community through organizations like the Kingston General Hospital.
Corry was Vice-Principal from 1951 to 1961, during which time he played a leading role in the founding of Queen's Faculty of Law.
He was selected Principal in 1961 when Principal Mackintosh stepped down from the position. Mackintosh was worried that Corry might be lured away to the University of Saskatchewan, which wanted him as its Principal. Mackintosh's worries were unfounded, however, because even before he found out that he was to become Principal of Queen's, Corry had turned down Saskatchewan's offer and opted to stay in Kingston.
Corry's term coincided with the great demographic boom of the 1960s, the rapid growth of Canadian universities, and far-reaching changes at Queen's.
The growth that had characterised the Principalship of Mackintosh continued during Corry's time as Principal. During the seven years he held the position, enrolment increased by 80 per cent and more than 10 buildings were constructed, renovated, or enlarged. As well, Queen's Faculty of Education was founded on the university's new west campus, the School of Rehabilitation Therapy was opened, and the Department of Computing Science was established.
As Queen's grew, Corry realized the Principal could not maintain his traditional personal involvement in all the aspects of day-to-day administration. He handed the various faculties and departments a considerable degree of independence, most notably in the area of staffing. Corry retired in 1968, leaving behind a legacy of stability and good management, but he declared at that time that he had been "more of a caretaker than an innovating educator."
James Corry was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and received honorary degrees from 14 universities, including Queen's.
He wrote and taught actively throughout his retirement, and was a visiting professor at several universities. From 1968-1970 he was a consultant to the Department of Justice, analysing proposed changes to Canada's Constitution.
When he won The Royal Bank Award in 1973 for his contributions to Canadian education, it came with a medal and $50,000. He kept the medal and gave a good portion of the money to Queen's to set up the Corry Lectureship, proving his dedication once again.
He died in Kingston and is buried in the Cataraqui Cemetery. His personal papers are held at Queen's Archives.
Mackintosh-Corry Hall is named after Principal Corry and his predecessor, Principal William Mackintosh.