Indira Samarasekera Bonnie Patterson

June 6, 2017

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Indira V. Samarasekera, former President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta, and Prof. Bonnie M. Patterson, former President and Vice Chancellor of Trent University have joined the Academic Advisory Council for Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette, one of Canada’s leading academic executive search firms.

Prof. Patterson and Dr. Samarasekera will join the other members of our Academic Advisory Council:

  • Dr. Ross Paul – former President, Laurentian University, former President, University of Windsor and author of Leadership Under Fire: The Challenging Role of the Canadian University President
  • Dr. David Marshall – former President, Mount Royal University and former President, Nipissing University
  • Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair – former President, Nova Scotia Community College

The opportunity to lead one of Canada's post-secondary institutions is an experience shared by a select few. Those who succeed in this challenging role gain important insights for future leaders and those who want to ensure their success.

The knowledge, networks, and experience of our Academic Advisory Council has proven invaluable in deepening our understanding of academic leadership, in providing advice to our clients, and in supporting the success of new leaders. In addition to the aforementioned former presidents, we have benefitted from perspective of former advisors, Dr. Robert Gordon, President Emeritus of Humber College, and the late Dr. Peter George, former President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University.

Dr. Samarasekera and Prof. Patterson are well respected and proven university leaders. Both former presidents were the first women to lead their respective institutions and did so for more than a decade making their perspective all the more rare and invaluable.

Over the past 40 years Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette has established an extensive record of experience in executive search within the academic sector. In the past few months alone, we have completed searches for MacEwan University’s President (Dr. Deborah Saucier), Wilfred Laurier University’s President and Vice-Chancellor (Deborah MacLatchy), Acadia University’s President and Vice-Chancellor (Dr. Peter J. Ricketts), as well as Chief Librarians for Ryerson University and UOIT and numerous Decanal roles.

Independently owned and operated, Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette is the national academic executive search practice for partner firm, LHH Knightsbridge, one of Canada’s largest human capital solutions firms. In addition to operating offices in Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Moncton and St. John’s with over 60 professionals, our firm achieves international reach through the Amrop Knightsbridge and LHH Knightsbridge with over 300 offices in more than 60 countries, including 29 offices across Canada.

To further discuss how our Academic Advisory Council supports our approach to search and the onboarding of new leaders, please contact Anna Stuart, Managing Partner.

Indira V. Samarasekera, PhD, FRSC, FCAE, DSc, OC

Dr. Indira V. Samarasekera served as the 12th President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta, from 2005-2015, one of Canada’s most respected research-intensive universities. She was Vice-President (research) at the University of British Columbia and held the Dofasco Chair in Advanced Steel Processing.

The first woman and first engineer to serve as U of A president, Dr. Samarasekera has devoted her career to advancing innovation in higher education and the private sector, providing national and international leadership through invited lectures and participation on national and international boards and councils. 

A metallurgical engineer with a doctorate from the University of British Columbia, she has specialized in materials process engineering and consulted for over a hundred steel companies around the world.

Dr. Samarasekera is currently a corporate director and Senior Advisor for Bennett Jones LLP. She serves on the Boards of the Bank of Nova Scotia, Magna International and TransCanada. She is a federal member on the Independent Advisory Panel for Senate Appointments, the Rideau Hall Foundation, the Asia Pacific Foundation and the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics.

Dr. Samarasekera has received honorary degrees from the University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Toronto, University of Montreal, University of Waterloo, Western University in Canada, and Queen's University in Belfast. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 2002 for outstanding contributions to steel process engineering. In 2014 she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in the US as a foreign associate, the professions highest honour.

Bonnie M. Patterson CM, OOnt, MLS LL.D, ICD.D

Bonnie M. Patterson is an experienced President and CEO with over four decades of leadership in the higher education sector. She has been recognized for a series of “firsts” in her highly successful academic and administrative leadership career.

Shortly after serving as the Chair for Ryerson University’s School of Administration and Information Management, and the Special Advisor to the President during Ryerson’s transformation to full university status, Prof. Patterson went on to become the first woman Dean of Business in Canada, the first woman President of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) (1995-1998), the first woman President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent University (1998-2009), and the first woman to Chair the Board of Universities Canada (then the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada). After 11 years leading Trent, she returned to lead the COU as President and CEO for an additional 6 years.

An experienced board chair and director, and consultant on governance practices, Professor Patterson has contributed to the success of numerous boards over the years. She is currently a member of the Board of Metrolinx, is Board Chair of The Roberta Bondar Foundation and trustee with the Canadian Associates of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

Professor Patterson has received honorary degrees from Carleton University, Lakehead University, Ryerson University, Western University and York University. She has been appointed to the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, was named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by WXN, and was the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond and Jubilee medals as well as the David C. Smith Award for outstanding contributions to innovative policy development in teaching and research in higher education.

Ross Paul, CM, PhD, MA, BA

Dr. Ross Paul was the fifth President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Windsor. He completed his term of office as President on June 30, 2008.

A bilingual native of Montreal, Dr. Ross H. Paul came to the University of Windsor as President early in 1998 immediately after serving almost seven years as President of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.

Dr. Paul holds a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics from Bishops University (1964), an M.A. in Educational Administration from McGill University (1968). He also graduated from the University of London (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, 1965 and Ph.D., 1973).

He started his career as a teacher at Montreal’s Lower Canada College (1965–67, 1968–69). After two years at Bishop’s University where he was Alumni Secretary and Lecturer in the Graduate School of Education (1969–71) and following completion of his doctorate in London, he spent seven years at Dawson College in Montreal where he held the positions of Dean of Arts and Academic Dean. Beginning in 1980, Dr. Paul spent eleven years at Alberta’s Athabasca University, ten as Vice-President Academic and one as Acting President before assuming the Presidency of Laurentian University in 1991.

Dr. Paul’s research interests include the sociology of organizations and the management of higher education. He is the published author of “Open Learning and Open Management: Leadership and Integrity in Distance Education” and “Leadership Under Fire: The Challenging Role of the Canadian University President.”

He has been appointed a Member of the Order of Canada and is the recipient of the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal

David Marshall PhD, MEd, BSc

Dr. David Marshall was Mount Royal College’s eighth president and the first president of Mount Royal University.

Previous to his Mount Royal appointment, Dr. Marshall was president of Nipissing University from 1990 to 2003, where he led Nipissing into full undergraduate university status. Prior to that, he was the University’s Dean of Education from 1985 to 1990.

Dr. Marshall has had a long and varied career in education. He started as a high school teacher in Collingwood and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He has worked on Baffin Island and was the Director of Curriculum for the Island of St. Lucia. He was also professor at the University of Manitoba. Along the way he received numerous academic, professional and community awards including a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, Citizen of the Year for North Bay, Ontario, a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of service to university education and most recently a Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education Sheffield Award for his “Differentiation by Degrees” article published in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

Dr. Marshall has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Western Ontario, two graduate degrees from the University of Alberta. 


Joan McArthur-Blair, EdD, MEd, BA

Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, Co-President, Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, is an inspirational writer, speaker and facilitator. After more than 25 years of institutionally based work as an educator she has returned to her loves of writing, speaking and facilitating, and works with groups of all kinds to make a positive difference. Joan specializes in the use of Appreciative Inquiry to foster leadership, strategic planning and innovative strategies for organizational development. She also provides short term leadership through executive-to-go services.

Joan has fulfilled faculty, department head, dean, vice president and president roles over her career at four diverse Canadian Colleges. In her life as an educator from faculty to president she cared most deeply about learners, their access to higher education and their success when there.

Joan has a BA in English from the University of Western Ontario, the British Columbia Instructor’s Diploma, a MEd from Simon Fraser University and an EdD from the University of British Columbia and is an Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Trainer. She was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013.



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Anna Stuart
Anna Stuart , MBA, FCPA, FCMA, FCMC
Managing Partner
Katherine Frank
Katherine Frank , BA, CPHR
Partner, KBRS
Beverley Evans
Beverley Evans , FCPA, FCA, ICD.D
Partner, KBRS