School History

by Professors Mervin Daub and P. Bruce Buchan

In The Beginning

Queen's University received its royal charter from Queen Victoria and began operations in Kingston, Ontario in March 1842. Sir John A. Macdonald (Canada's first Prime Minister) was practicing law in Kingston at the time, but it wasn't until the following year that he first held public office as a city alderman. The industrial revolution was just beginning in Britain, steamboats were prevalent on the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, and the railways were just appearing in North America.

The next fifty years would see an explosion in the North American economies, the emergence of the modern corporation - and the need for well-educated managers to run them efficiently.

Goodes Hall Tower

Photo by: Marcus Jeffrey

Queen's School of Business 90 years of excellence

Author Anne Kershaw, in writing this brief history, relied heavily on Getting Down to Business: A History of Business Education at Queen’s (1889-1999) by Mervin Daub and P. Bruce Buchan.

The First Business Degree in Canada

Early in the new century Professor O.D. Skelton was arguing before the Board of Trustees that a School of Commerce should be established at Queen's "because there was much scope for improving the education of people going into business," and "... there were a large group of employees in the banks that could benefit from extension courses in economics."

In 1919 Queen's launched the first Commerce degree program in Canada. In addition to the banking program, which began in 1914, Certified Accountant extension courses were launched in 1921. The strong influence of banking and accounting courses continued in the School through the next fifty years.

The School Expands

In 1963, the School became a separate Faculty within Queen's. The first dean was Lawrence Macpherson, succeeded by Rich Hand in 1966. Dean Hand chartered a course that rapidly expanded the Faculty - measured both by student enrolment and number of faculty members - with a strong emphasis on new, more rigorous subjects such as operations research.

Innovation Drives New Programs

Since that time there have been four new deans - John Gordon, David Anderson, Margot Northey, and our current dean, David Saunders. Each has sensed the changing tenor of the times, leading the School in new directions to take on new challenges. Research output has increased dramatically, stronger ties have been forged with the business community, and new and innovative programs have been launched.

In September 2002, the history of Smith School of Business turned a new page with the opening of Goodes Hall, home of Smith School of Business.

An Extraordinary Gift Brings a New Name

On October 1, 2015, the School began a new chapter in its impressive history. In recognition of the generous gift of $50 million from Queen’s alumnus Stephen Smith, the School has a new name – the Stephen J. R. Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

This extraordinary gift, the largest gift ever made to a Canadian business school, will enable the school to continue to transform business education, enhance the student experience, and attract the best and brightest talent from across Canada and around the world. Learn more

For the complete history of the School, Getting Down to Business: A History of Business Education at Queen's 1889 - 1999, by Professors Mervin Daub & P. Bruce Buchan, may be ordered for $40 (tax included) by calling the Dean's Office at 613-533-2305, or e-mailing