Harvard Alum Appointed Governor General of Canada

Canadian academic David L. Johnston '63 will take the seat of governor general on October 1 to serve as the de facto head of state and representative of the Queen.

Johnston, who will succeed Michaëlle Jean as governor general of Canada, currently serves as president of the University of Waterloo and was the only chair on the Board of Overseers—the University's second-highest governing board—to not hold a U.S. citizenship.

As governor general, Johnston will be entrusted with many of the Queen’s constitutional and ceremonial duties, and has the power to summon parliament and grant Royal Assent on the Queen’s behalf.

“As the representative of the Queen of Canada, who is our country’s head of state, I pledge to be a stalwart defender of our Canadian heritage,” Johnston said in a statement.


Johnston, a specialist in securities regulation and corporation law who has authored numerous books, is no stranger to the world of academia. Educated at Harvard and later at Cambridge and Queen's Universities, Johnston began to work as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Law at Queen's University in 1966 and would go on to hold positions at the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario. Before assuming the presidency at Waterloo, Johnston served as the principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University.

Johnston has also chaired various scientific and public policy committees, such as the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the National Task Force on High Speed Broadband Access, and Ontario's Infertility and Adoption Review Panel.

“Mr. Johnston has a strong record of public service, a broad base of support and an impressive list of achievements,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a news release, adding that Johnston "represents the best of Canada."

But Johnston’s work has not been without controversy. His impartiality was called into question upon his work as an independent adviser in the public inquiry into the Airbus affair, a scandal that involved Prime Minister Brian Mulroney—for whom Johnston had once worked.

Before scaling his way to the top of the political scene in Canada, Johnston was a “pretty serious” and “straightforward” undergraduate who struck a rare balance between academics and athletics at Harvard, according to freshman year roommate George R. Finn Jr. ’63.

Johnston, a former Dunster House resident, played as a defenseman for the men's hockey team and was selected twice for the All-American Hockey Team, even earning himself a place in Harvard's Athletic Hall of Fame.

“He was an extraordinary person even then, and he was a great hockey player—an unusual combination,” Finn said. "[His success] would not surprise anyone who knew him. He was a hard worker."

Johnston is reportedly the model for one of the characters in "Love Story," the bestselling novel written by Erich W. Segal ’58, with whom Johnston became friends and running partners during their time at the College.

—Staff writer Amira Abulafi can be reached at


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