Richard Pound


New job for Pound

DANIEL McCABE | McGill wanted somebody with a high profile as its next chancellor. Outside of the Pope or Monica Lewinsky, nobody on the planet has a higher profile right now than Richard Pound.

Pound is best known these days as the head of an investigation into shady dealings involving his colleagues on the International Olympic Committee. He handed in his findings to the IOC on Sunday -- as a result, six IOC members were immediately suspended and a new ethics watchdog will likely be created to keep an eye on how IOC members behave in the future.

Pound will become McGill's new chancellor on July 1, taking over from journalist Gretta Chambers, who has been the University's titular head for the past eight years.

Outside of his IOC activities (where he serves as vice-president), Pound is a prominent tax attorney for Stikeman, Elliott, an author and the chair of McGill's board of governors.

"We looked at about 10 names quite seriously, but when we came down to the final decision, the vote was unanimous," says biochemistry professor Edward Meighen, who chaired the selection committee.

Meighen says that Pound stood out for two reasons in particular -- his international stature and his long-standing commitment to serving McGill in a variety of capacities.

"He has always gone the extra step for McGill," says Meighen.

"I think we have selected someone who has demonstrated tremendous dedication and loyalty to McGill for many years," adds Honora Shaughnessy, director of the Alumni Association and another member of the committee that chose Pound.

"Despite his busy schedule, he has always made himself available to McGill. We talked about his IOC responsibilities -- would he have the time to devote to the chancellorship? Then we looked at his track record. When he makes a commitment, he sticks to it," says Shaughnessy.

Sure enough, Pound was on hand to chair Monday's board of governors meeting at the Faculty Club, only a day after presenting his report to the IOC in Switzerland in the full glare of the world's media (in the last few weeks, Pound has been interviewed by 60 Minutes, The Washington Post, ABC's Nightline, The Globe and Mail and a host of other media).

Arriving to loud applause from fellow governors, Pound quipped, "I don't want to talk about it."

What makes Pound devote time to McGill and the IOC?

"I figure I benefited a great deal from the work of volunteers as a student and as an athlete and their example has always guided me to repay at least what I got as a result of their efforts. It may take a lifetime."

"He's a great speaker," says Shaughnessy, noting that Pound has often given presentations to McGill graduates over the years. "Our alumni love listening to him. They love hearing about the IOC and McGill through his eyes."

Speaking about the role of the chancellor, Meighen says, "It's often been largely ceremonial in the past, but it has become more important in recent years. This is a person who does a lot to raise the profile of McGill.

"He's probably one of the best-known [Quebecers] outside the province," says Meighen of Pound. "He is someone who can extend our international contacts."

Different chancellors have been known for different things: Don Hebb reinforced McGill's reputation for academic excellence; Jean de Grandpre built links to the business community; Gretta Chambers has been an active presence on campus and a key liaison with the Quebec government. What kind of chancellor will Pound be?

"Perhaps I can show that McGill graduates can be multi-faceted and active in many levels of the community, at home, nationally and internationally.

"I also suspect that the role evolves as the individual gets into it and the needs of the University change from time to time. I expect I will be quite different from each of my predecessors, but I will try to use the examples of all of them to help guide me."

Pound earned management and law degrees from McGill in the 1960s. One of Canada's best competitive swimmers during this period, he was a double finalist at the Rome Olympic Games and won one gold, two silver and one bronze medal for Canada in the 1962 Commonwealth Games.

Apart from chairing the board of governors, Pound also chairs McGill's Athletics Board. He is a past president of the Graduates' Society of McGill University and a former chair of the Alma Mater Fund and McGill's Fund Council.

"He has a mind of his own and he's not reluctant to speak out," says Meighen. "I've always found him open to new ideas. He listens carefully to people."

Pound's forthrightness often creates headlines -- witness his recent statement that he was once offered a million-dollar bribe in relation to his Olympics work.

In a recent Toronto Star article about Pound, the chancellor-elect's long-time friend, Vice-Principal (Development and Alumni Relations) Derek Drummond commented, "He's so bloody open. He tells it like it is. You can be that way if you keep yourself clean. You can keep cool if you've done nothing wrong."

As the chief negotiator for television and marketing rights to the Olympics, Pound receives the lion's share of the credit for turning the once financially wobbly enterprise into a lucrative, billion-dollar-a-year organization.

Pound drew fire from some professors when, as board chair, he co-wrote a letter with his counterparts at other Quebec universities, asking Premier Lucien Bouchard to consider adopting a mandatory retirement age for faculty.

Pound doesn't think that ought to complicate his relationship with professors now that he is the chancellor-elect.

"The issue is one that comes up constantly, across the whole gamut of society, and the fact of raising it for discussion should not trouble anyone, much less academics, whose role is to question, discuss and explore."

Pound says that McGill's greatest challenge in the years ahead "is to persuade the governments that cutting-edge education, which will benefit the community, if it exists, and bring it gradually to its knees, if it does not, must be properly funded on a basis of reasonable sharing of the costs between society at large and those who benefit directly." Pound adds that he believes the best and most productive universities should receive a greater portion of funding. "I firmly believe in an educational meritocracy and this is simply impossible for governments to espouse in any acknowledged manner."