H. Arnold Steinberg named McGill’s 18th Chancellor

H. Arnold Steinberg
H. Arnold Steinberg / Photo: Claudio Calligaris

Life-long McGillian vows to “defend, develop” institution he loves

By Neale McDevitt

Little did H. Arnold Steinberg know that his first few moments as a McGill Commerce undergraduate back in the fall of 1950 would be a portent to a momentous day in his life almost 60 years later.

“My very first class happened to be at Moyse Hall. On one side of the face of the wall as you go it are the names of all the Principals and Vice-Chancellors. On the other side are the names of all the Chancellors,” he said. “I remember looking at the impressive names on that list: Lord Strathcona, Sir Edward Beatty, Ray Edwin Powell – I just felt so honoured to be attending a university where all these prestigious people had served. I never, never thought that one day my name would be included there.

“I was just happy to get through that first year,” he said with a chuckle.

Steinberg has had to suspend his disbelief with the announcement today that he will officially become the University’s Chancellor beginning July 1.

Few people are better suited to act as McGill’s ambassador than the eminently personable Steinberg, whose intimate knowledge of the University dates back to his days as a student (he completed his BComm in 1954), a teacher (he taught evening marketing courses for two years after earning his MBA from Harvard in 1957), and a tireless fundraiser and volunteer who, among other duties, spent 19 years as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the McGill University-Montreal Children’s Hospital Research Institute and 10 years on the University’s Board of Governors. His wife, Dr. Blema Steinberg, Professor Emeritus, taught

political science for 41 years at McGill.

“Arnold is a force of uncommon integrity and grace,” said Robert Rabinovitch, Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors. “His loyalty to McGill runs deep and he has been a constant ambassador for the University, an inspiration to us all, as well as a great friend to McGill. His contributions to the wider community have been immense and it is with great pride that we name him to this prestigious position.

Rabinovitch also thanked outgoing Chancellor Richard W. Pound, whose second five-year term ends in June.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the magnificent contributions Richard W. Pound has made as Chancellor of McGill, as he comes to the end of his second term. Dick

has devoted himself tirelessly to McGill over many, many years and we thank him profusely for all he has done.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum also expressed delight at Steinberg’s appointment. “He brings the same level of deep commitment to the University and the broader community that has served our Chancellors so well in the past, including, most recently, Dick Pound and Gretta Chambers. I look forward to working with Mr. Steinberg and I know he will make a major contribution toward maintaining McGill’s tradition of excellence as an integral part of the Montreal community and Quebec and Canadian society.”

A native Montrealer, Steinberg admits to having led a somewhat sheltered life prior to enrolling at McGill. “I had always lived at home, even during my days at McGill and never really traveled until I graduated,” he said. “But coming to McGill was a real eye-opener for me. I was exposed to so many subjects I had never studied before: political science, psychology, economic history – I read Shakespeare and captained the varsity water polo team. It was a real awakening for me and it gave me the confidence to move forward in a way that I couldn’t have had before entering the University.”

Armed with his new-found confidence, Steinberg set out for the “real world” and hasn’t looked back, serving as both a member of the Board of Directors and its Executive Committee of Steinberg Inc., and holding various senior management positions including Executive Vice-President, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Administrative Officer and Chairman of Ivanhoe Inc. During his business career, Steinberg served on the boards of various public companies, including Bell Canada International, Teleglobe Inc., Provigo Inc. and Banque nationale du Canada.

One of his great passions has always been health care. “I got involved almost immediately with the teaching hospitals, particularly the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH),” he said. “I’ve always had lots of interaction with the Deans of Medicine – I think I’ve actually worked with six or seven Deans.”

Steinberg has worked tirelessly for the MCH, beginning with a joint project with Dr. Charles Scriver, working on the addition of Vitamin D to the milk produced and sold in Quebec and evaluating the childhood bone disorder of rickets. He was a senior executive at Steinberg Inc. at the time, and refused to purchase milk for the grocery store chain unless Vitamin D had been added. This relationship led to his co-chairmanship of the Capital Campaign for the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the founding presidency of the National Food Distribution Centre for the Treatment of Metabolic Diseases.

Steinberg is particularly proud of playing a part in establishing the McGill Medical Simulation Centre. “I spent about five or six years helping develop and co-ordinate the project – even though at the beginning I didn’t really know what a medical simulation centre was,” he said with a laugh. “Today it’s such an

extraordinary place and is successful way beyond what anyone could have imagined. We’re kind of bursting at the seams because we’re so proud.”

And “pride” is a word that often comes to mind when Steinberg talks about the University. “McGill is certainly one of the most important institutions in the country. It is difficult to think of any other Montreal institution whose loss would have a greater impact on the well-being of the city,” he said. “I’ve always felt honoured to play any role here. To be appointed Chancellor is beyond anything I could have possibly imagined. I feel truly blessed.”

“I will do everything I can to protect, defend and develop the reputation of the University. It is the institution that has had the greatest impact on my life and I just want to make sure other people will have similar