Board of Governors



The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning and the Board of Governors were originally two separate bodies. The R.I.A.L. was composed of ex officio and other members appointed by the Governor-General and included the Anglican Bishop of Quebec, the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, the Chief Justices of Upper and Lower Canada and of the Court of King's Bench at Montreal, and the Speakers of the Legislative Council and of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. Jacob Mountain, Anglican Bishop of Quebec, was named President, and the Rev. Joseph Langley Mills Secretary. The Board of Governors was established by the Charter of 1821 and had as its members the Bishop of Quebec, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Lower Canada, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, the Chief Justices of Montreal and Upper Canada, and the Principal. Until 1852, the Royal Institution was the College's Visitor. The first Principal was Archdeacon George Jehoshaphat Mountain and the business of the Governors was carried out by a Secretary, Registrar and Bursar. These three positions were held for many years by the same person, with the Rev. Joseph Abbott being the first (1844-1852). By the amended McGill College Charter of 1852, the members of the Royal Institution were made the Governors of McGill. One group of men formed de jure the two corporate bodies. The separate minutes of the Royal Institution cease in 1856 and their acts thereafter are reported in the Governors' minutes. The terms "Board of Governors" and "Royal Institution" are now used interchangeably.

The President of the Royal Institution was also the Chancellor of McGill University from 1864 to 1970 when the two offices were separated. The President of the Royal Institution has also usually served as the Chairman of the Board of Governors.

In the nineteenth century the Secretary also served as Bursar and Registrar. In 1902 two offices were created: (1) The Registrar (2) the Secretary and Bursar. The Secretary and Bursar continued as secretary to the Board of Governors and attended to the financial affairs of the university; the Registrar performed the administrative functions directly connected with education. In 1929 the Assistant Bursar was named Comptroller. In 1947 the duties of the Bursar and of the Comptroller were redefined. In addition to his executive function with the Board of Governors, the Bursar was responsible for building and real estate management, scholarships, staff records, pensions and life and hospitalization insurance; the Comptroller was responsible for business operations of the University, accounting, budgets and insurance. In 1957 the title "Bursar" was changed to "Secretary to the Board of Governors".


1818-1825 Jacob Mountain

1825-1826 Jonathan Sewell

1826-1835 Charles James Stewart

1835-1837 Andrew William Cochran

1838-1845 George Jehoshaphat Mountain

1845-1847 Richard Alexander Tucker

1847-1852 James Ferrier

1852-1884 Charles Dewey Day

1884-1888 James Ferrier

1889-1914 Donald Alexander Smith

1914-1917 William Christopher Macdonald

1918-1920 Robert Laird Borden

1921-1943 Edward Wentworth Beatty

1943-1946 Morris Watson Wilson

1947-1952 Orville Sievewright Tyndale

1952-1957 Bertie Charles Gardner

1957-1964 Ray Edwin Powell

1964-1969 Howard Irwin Ross

1970-1975 Stuart Milner Finlayson

1976-1978 William Robert Eakin

1978-1982 Alan Bernard Gold

1982- Hugh G. Hallward

LEGAL RECORDS, 1820-1977

James McGill's Will, 1811, 50 cm (c.187-c.189, c.437-c.438)

Notarized copies, 1821 and ca 1820-1840, of James McGill's will as well as various legal documents relating to the execution of the will. A photocopy of the original will at the Archives Nationales du Québec, Montréal is also held.

Charter of 1821 (c.302)

Two certified copies made in 1833 and ca 1830s of the Charter of 1821.

Charter of 1852 (c.303)

Original of the amended 1852 Charter under which the University has since operated.

Published Statutes, ca 1883-1974 (c.461; Printed Collection)

Copies of the various collections and revisions of the University's statutes. The chief editions are those of 1883, 1886, 1923, 1935, 1939, 1972, 1974.

Jurisprudence, Minutes, and Correspondence relating to Statutes, ca 1821-1977 20 cm (c.306)

These consist of jurisprudence and reports assembled by the University solicitor, together with his opinion in 1977 on the constitutional status of the University. There are also copies of records relating to the dispute between the McGill Board of Governors and the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning over their respective jurisdictions. The originals are at the Public Archives of Canada.

Desrivieres vs. R.I.A.L., 1820-1836, 10 cm (c.437)

Originals and copies of petitions, notices, judgements and other records arising from the contestation by François Desrivières and James McGill Desrivières of aspects of James McGill's bequest to R.I.A.L. The Desrivières were related to James McGill's wife Charlotte.

Grant of Arms, 1922-1957 (c.299-c.301)

Original documents relating to the granting of arms to McGill University and posthumously to James McGill.


Minute Books of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, 1837-1856, 2 vols, 10cm, 1 reel (c.1-c.2) (See Microform Inventory)

These minute books record the R.I.A.L.'s dual role as administrator of McGill College and of a school system in Lower Canada (Quebec). They are concerned with schoolmasters' appointments, school business, the Desrivières contestation of James McGill's bequest and charters, statutes, buildings and lands of McGill College. They are not indexed.

Minute Books of the Board of Governors of McGill University, 1829-1983, 15 vols, 3 m, 23 reels (c.3-c.18, c.31-c.37, c.486-c.490) (See Microform Inventory) PARTS RESTRICTED

The minutes are the official statements of the Board's decisions as the chief authority in non-academic matters and relate to charters, statutes, finances, buildings, staff appointments, salaries, and gifts received. Indexes are available for the period 1829-1960. From 1968 the minutes are divided into two series: open and confidential sessions.

Minutes and Records of Committees of the Board of Governors, 1869-1984, 2.8 m, 15 reels (c.20-c.37, c.289-c.293, c.433, c.476-c.477, c.483-c.485) (See Microform Inventory) PARTS RESTRICTED

These records consist mainly of minutes of meetings of various committees of the Board of Governors which were established to expedite matters in certain areas of the Board's jurisdiction. Some committees, notably the Executive and Finance Committees, have a more or less permanent status while others were created to deal with specific questions or mandates. The oldest and most important standing committee began as the Estate Committee, 1869-1908, (c.289) became the Finance Committee, 1908-1938, (c.289, c.20-c.21) combined with the newly-formed Executive Committee, 1935-1938 (c.22) to become the Executive and Finance Committee, 1939-1960 (c.23, c.25-c.27). There are also draft minutes with correspondence and memoranda for 1962-1972 when the title becomes simply Executive Committee (c.31-c.37, c.443) and minutes of the Executive Committee, 1962-1983 (c.483-c.485). This committee has been particularly concerned with finances, budget estimates, and mortgage loans to staff. Listed. The minutes and files of other committees are as follows:

Investment Committee, 1932-1979, 2 vols (c.28, c.443)

Real Estate Committee, 1932-1972, 2 vols (c.290, c.443)

Building Committee, 1936-1977, 3 vols (c.290, c.443)

Royal Victoria College Committee, 1900, 1 vol (c.291)

Committee on University Needs, 1948, 1 vol (292)

Athletics Committee, 1951-1952, 1 vol (c.292)

Committee of the School of Commercial Studies, 1916-1932, 1 vol (c.293)

Development Committees, 1949-1963, 1 vol (c.24)

Pensions Committee, 1948-1978, 2 vols (c.443)

Minutes of the Governors of Royal Victoria College, 1922-1938, 1 vol, 3 cm (c.291)

By the Charter of 1924, the membership of the Governors of R.V.C. is the same as that of McGill University. From 1922 to 1938 separate minutes were kept when the Governors met on matters relating specifically to R.V.C.

Minutes of Committees of the Board of Governors of Royal Victoria

College, 1900, 1923-1935, 2 vols, 3 cm (c.291)

These are limited to the minutes of the Finance Committee of the Board of R.V.C., 1923-1935.

Minutes of Statutory or Joint Committees, 1962-1984, 60 cm (c.304-c.305) RESTRICTED

Minutes and other records of the Statutory Committees to nominate

Principals and Chancellors and to review their positions.

Memorial Books, 1933, 1945, 2 vols, 2 cm (c.294)

One volume on the death of Principal Currie and another listing contributors to the War Memorial.


Correspondence, 1819-ca 1925

Incoming Correspondence, 1820-ca 1925, 15 m (c.38-c.99)

For the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s, many of the letters, reports, and lists relate to R.I.A.L. schools and schoolmasters. McGill College material for this period relates to charters, finances, major and minor expenditures, internal disputes, property, the Arts Building, staff appointments and the High School Department. The correspondence is addressed variously to members of the R.I.A.L. and increasingly after 1840 to McGill Governors and to the Secretary and Bursar. After 1850, most of the records arise from McGill College business and relate to a growing amount of investments, property management, donations and endowments, the R.J. Wicksteed estate (1871-1913), affiliations, and the daily transactions of the Secretary-Bursar's office, such as banking and purchases. Most records for 1820-1889 are arranged chronologically, except for a large group of subject files placed at the end (c.38-c.72). Correspondence from 1890 to ca 1925 is arranged alphabetically in chronological blocks varying from 6 months to 4 years, with a section of correspondence with staff members, ca 1900-1920, arranged alphabetically (c.73-c.99).

R.I.A.L. Letterbooks, 1820-1858, 6 vols, 26 cm (c.100-c.102)

The correspondence in these volumes details the activities of the R.I.A.L. with respect to school regulations, discipline, finances, and appointment of school masters. It also includes many records of McGill College affairs among which are finances, charters, property, the Desrivières litigation and the construction of the Arts Building. The arrangement is chronological but the volumes are not indexed.

Secretary's Letterbooks, 1819-1847, 1843-1852, 1871-1919, 77 vols, 4 m (c.103-c.180)

The volumes contain copies of letters concerning James McGill's estate, statutes, the Desrivières litigation, the R.I.A.L., finances and staff appointments. After 1871, many relate to daily expenditures, student fees, and supplies. The arrangement is chronological and the letterbooks contain indexes. For the period 1819-ca 1902, the letterbooks contain letters from the Registrar and Bursar as well as the Secretary since the offices were combined and held by the same person, who signed according to which of the three functions he was fulfilling.

Secretary's Letterbooks, 1882-1899, 1903-1905, 6 vols, 26 cm (c.181-c.186)

This additional series of letterbooks contains copies of letters concerning University finances, property, investments, insurance policies, some daily expenditures, and mortgages. It was originally titled Secretary, Treasurer and Solicitor Letterbooks.

Administrative Records, 1766-1980

Special Files, 1766-1970, 1 m (c.187-c.189, c.295-c.298, c.437-c.438)

The files contain petitions, reports, correspondence, memoranda, accounts, property plans and extracts of minutes, assembled by the Secretary of McGill College. They document both major administrative policies and minor financial transactions including the College's charters, statutes, Visitorship, the Desrivières litigation, the sale and leasing of college property,

affiliations, the removal of James McGill's remains to campus, schools of Royal Foundation (c.295, c.296), the R.V.C. charter (c.295) and the Seigneurie de Champlain (c.297-c.298). Most of the documents were created between 1830 and 1880. Also included are copies of records at the Public Archives of Canada and at the Public Records Office, London, relating to R.I.A.L. and McGill College, 1826-1862.

General Administrative Records, 1912-1984, 12 m (c.190-c.225, c.293-c.294, c.434, c.449-c.451, c.453-c.455, c.458-c.459, c.463-c.469, c.478-c.480) RESTRICTED

The correspondence, memoranda and reports in these records document a wide variety of subjects, including use of McGill buildings, student loans, University departments and relations with external organizations. A few smaller blocks of records cover special occasions, or subjects, such as the Stanley Grey arbitration, briefs submitted by McGill to Royal Commissions, and the Brace Research Institute. There is also a series of minutes of committees including those for Libraries, 1946-1972; Continuing Education, 1956-1976; the McGill Advancement Program and the Principal's Advisory Group. Listed.

Donations, Endowments and Bequests Files, 1857-1982, 18 m, 5 reels (c.226-c.270, c.431-c.433, c.439, c.444-c.445, c.469-c.471, c.503-c.504) (See Microform Inventory) RESTRICTED

These files contain correspondence with donors, deeds, and other documents relating to gifts, grants, bequests, scholarships, bursaries and endowments to the University. There are several blocks of records covering various overlapping periods of time. Each block is arranged alphabetically by the name of the donating individual or organization or by the name of the scholarship. Listed.

Mortgage Files, 1901-1984, 10 m (c.222-c.225, c.274-c.288, c.440-c.442, c.480-c.482) RESTRICTED

Two mortgage ledgers, 1901-1919, give the interest rates and locations of properties on which mortgages had been given by the Board of Governors. They are arranged alphabetically by the name of the mortgagee. There are also paid-off mortgage files, 1920-1970, maintained by the Secretary of the Board of Governors which contain correspondence, financial records, and evaluation of houses. There are several blocks of these files arranged alphabetically by the name of the mortgagee. Listed.

Contracts and Agreements Files, 1916-1980, 1.3 m, 4 reels (c.428-c.430, c.452) (See Microform Inventory) RESTRICTED

These are the Secretariat's financial and other agreements with public and private organizations of which there are two series, one arranged chronologically, one alphabetically. Listed.

Deeds and Papers Files, ca 1880-1980, 3.5 m, 8 reels (c.491-c.502) (See Microform Inventory)

Deeds and other papers relating to properties owned by the University. Listed.


These records relate to Senate or Governors matters, such as promotion, retirement and sabbatical leaves of academic personnel, which are not directly under or administered by the Governors, Senate or their committees. Listed.

Selection of the Principal Records, 1970, 1978, 35 cm (c.460) RESTRICTED

These include minutes of the Committee and correspondence.

Selection Committee Files, pre 1981-1984, 1.5 cm (c.446-c.447, c.475-c.476) RESTRICTED

These records are arranged by department. (c.446-c.447)

Appointments and Leaves Files, 1972-1980, 75 cm (c.448-c.449) RESTRICTED

Records of appointments, sabbatical leaves, staff change lists, resignations, renewals, non-renewals.

Tenure Cohort Records, 1981-1984, 1.5 m (c.454, c.471-c.474) RESTRICTED

Correspondence and evaluations concerning individuals being considered for tenure.

Honorary Degrees Records, ca 1970-1981, 20 cm (c.462) RESTRICTED

These include nomination, correspondence and curriculum vitae of candidates for honorary degrees.


Annual Statements of R.I.A.L., 1901-1978, 6 m (c.307-c.427. c.435)

These volumes of statements are issued under the direction of the R.I.A.L./Governors. The arrangement is chronological. The format varies over the years. All the statements record expenditures by department; in addition, there are auditors' reports and investment accounts, 1901-ca 1950 and separate statements for Macdonald College, 1907-1941 (c.435). Not listed. Other financial records are in R.G. 6.


Annual Reports, 1868-1982, 75 cm (Printed Collection)

The information given in the Annual Reports varies over the years. Generally recorded are statements of income and revenue, departmental reports including lists of staff publications, statistical breakdowns of student registration, and noteworthy events. The texts of Annual Reports before 1868 are found in the Governors' Minutes Books.

Studies, Briefs, Reports, 1856-1977, 30 cm (c.461; Printed Collection)

These include development studies and reports for the University, briefs submitted by McGill to Royal Commissions and other material prepared for Senate.


Administrative Records, 1816-1893, (CH311.S271, Ch93.S111, CH192.S170, CH94.S112, CH390.S354, CH361.S321, CH382.S346)

These include correspondence and drafts, legal papers and other records concerning the establishment of the R.I.A.L., amendments to the Charter, the Burnside property, Bethune's qualifications, financial matters, the Professor of Divinity, and the Desrivières case.