Principal Bernard Shapiro

During his tenure as Principal of McGill from 1994 to 2002, Bernard Shapiro (BA’56, LLD’88) led the University through a period of unparalleled renewal – both academic and physical.

Despite limited government funding, Shapiro made a commitment partway through his mandate that irrespective of budget restraints, McGill would hire 100 new faculty every year. “That’s not a comment on the previous faculty,” said Shapiro in a 2021 interview. “It’s a comment on the need for new blood in any kind of living institution.”

Under Shapiro’s watch, McGill also saw the construction and inauguration of the William and Mary Brown Student Services Building (1999), the M.H. Wong Building (1997) and the Nahum Gelber Law Library (1998). By the end of his mandate, construction on the Lorne M. Trottier Building was in full swing, the Montreal Genomics and Proteomics Centre was near completion, and plans were in place for the Francesco Bellini Life Sciences Building and the New Music Building, now called the Elizabeth Wirth Building.

Shapiro was also Principal for the inauguration of the shuttle bus linking downtown and Macdonald Campus. According to Deborah Buszard, then-Dean of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, “Bernard brought the Macdonald Campus closer to the rest of McGill than ever before by supporting the inter-campus shuttle bus – truly a wonderful initiative. It’s revolutionized students’ academic program choices, making it possible to study on both campuses.”

Shapiro was born and raised in Montreal, receiving a Bachelor of Arts at McGill, graduating as the top student in the Faculty of Arts, and earning the Alan Oliver Gold Medal. After receiving a Doctorate in Education from Harvard University in 1967, Shapiro pursued a career in higher education, working at Boston University, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Toronto and McGill.

He also was a public servant, serving as: Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Education; Deputy Minister of Skills Development; Deputy Secretary of Cabinet; Deputy Minister and Secretary of Management Board; and Deputy Minister of Colleges and Universities. In 2004, Shapiro was appointed the first Ethics Commissioner of Canada.