Dr Kelvin Ogilvie ('63)
During the presidency of Dr. Kevin Ogilvie (’63), Acadia became one of the most high-tech and innovative campuses in North America. Even the Smithsonian Institution acknowledged the pioneering role played by the small school, making Acadia a laureate of the prestigious organization for its Acadia Advantage program. Once short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Dr. Ogilvie’s vision for the campus was bold and sometimes controversial, but it put the Valley school on the cutting edge and captured the attention of the academic world.
“I very much enjoyed being President of Acadia University and actually taking on the challenge of building the University. The Acadia Advantage program was an extraordinary achievement in the annals of university development. In the last three years of my presidency we were running a surplus of about a million dollars a year and, of course, the University can’t really show a surplus. We were putting that back into the university community in scholarships, bursaries and investments in teaching and research facilities – for example, the renovation of the old pool to become the kinesiology laboratories was done with surplus money.
“We were doing this in spite of what the university world thought was an impossibly expensive program, the Acadia Advantage program. It not only paid for itself, but was generating revenue for the University. The students that came out of those first years and until it ended under my successor got jobs that were cutting edge. I got letters from all over telling me that their degree had led to a certain career opportunity and it was due to Acadia Advantage. They were so far advanced relative to other university graduates in the instinctive use of the technology. It was never the technology itself; it was the way you used it to acquire and use knowledge. That’s why we transformed the learning environment, the classrooms, and set up the Acadia Centre for supporting faculty, training them to adapt to this new learning environment.
“The presidency was an enormously important part of my life. I’m very proud of what was done in the years that I was President and some of the things we were able to achieve. Having the University recognized in the Smithsonian Institution is an amazing thing for a university our size, but most important were the testimonials from students over the years.
“When I came back to Acadia as Vice-President and then President I wanted the academic community to be rejuvenated. That’s one of the major reasons for the Acadia Advantage. I was an early adapter of technology in my research at McGill and could see where it was going in terms of access to information. I came back to Acadia as Vice-President and said, ‘How can I provide access to information for the students and faculty at Acadia?’ Even at McGill in those days, it was all paper. How was little Acadia possibly able to give its undergrads and faculty access to the information they needed to challenge themselves in this world? Even if we had the money, where would we put all those books?
“Electronically, I could give Acadia students and faculty access to the world’s information and they didn’t need to have a building full of books. Electronically, they could browse all the great resources of the world. It was phenomenal going into one of the anthropology classes or one of the classics courses and seeing them actually inside one of the great museums of the world looking at the object instead of passing the book around the classroom. It gave me the learning foundation I wanted for future generations. The irony was that universities were trying to resist it, but couldn’t. Every two weeks, 50 to 100 people from all over the world arrived for us to take them through the Acadia Advantage story. It was enormously satisfying.
“I really think the character of Acadia has remained true to itself and has evolved based on its founding principles. It is a progressive, socially conscious place with historic character. Time is present at Acadia. The future is present at Acadia.”