OCdts. On Parade

Dr Joel Sokolsky was officially installed as the XII Principal of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), in a Currie Hall ceremony last Friday. 12192 Brigadier-General Tom Lawson, XII Commandant and Vice-Chancellor of RMC, presided over the event.

The installation of a Principal is a long-standing tradition in the academic community and is rich with history and symbolism. In this ceremony, Dr Sokolsky was formally assigned the duties of the office as well as the robes.

Dr Sokolsky has long served RMC as Dean of Arts, Head of the Political Science Department and Director of War Studies before he was appointed Principal. He has also served the Government of Canada as a policy advisor both to the Department of National Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Dr Sokolsky is also an internationally recognized scholar specializing in civil military relations.

“He brings a rich connectivity with the national and international academic community and a strong affection for RMC”, said Brig-Gen Lawson. “Just as importantly, he is has a vision for the future of this remarkable institution and will provide strong and able leadership for our distinguished faculty and in the development and refinement of academic programs”.

Former RMC Principal H24263 Dr John Cowan was in attendance and noted – “The installation of a Principal is a traditional ceremony connecting universities to their medieval roots.”

Dr Cowan went on to add – “Secondly they’re really a bench marking. They’re a public way of saying we’ve moved from one administration to another administration. So it puts a little ceremony around, potentially, a changed agenda.”

Photos courtesy of Mr. Brad Lowe


New principal takes over at RMC

Former dean of arts says school’s civil-military mix ‘excels in practice’

Royal Military College formally Installed its new principal yesterday with the reminder that the college’s unique structure – a military academy in which civilians oversee the educational aspects – is a model fraught with difficulty.

The newly installed principal, Joel Sokolsky, the former dean of arts at the university, said that structure is one the college’s strengths.

“It has been said that every day at RMC is a day filled with civil-military challenges,” said Sokolsky in a self-effacing speech shortly after donning the ceremonial robes during a ceremony at Currie Hall.

“But what should not work in theory does, in fact, work and, in fact, excels in practice.”

Sokolsky is only the 12th principal to lead RMC in the school’s 130-year history, a fact noted by Brig.-Gen. Tom Lawson, who is the commandant of the school and ultimately responsible for the military training of the cadets.

“By comparison, I am the 42nd officer to hold the position of commandant,” said Lawson, who is vice-chancellor of the school and who presented Sokolsky with his black-and-silver robes.

“That tells you a lot about job security in the military,” he joked.

Lawson, a student of the school’s history, noted that there has always been a tension between the principals, who oversee the academic side of the school, and the military staff.

It has never as bad as it was in the 1920s, when the new principal and the commandant clashed over what the principal saw as an excess of military training.

The debate went public and was dragged onto the floor of the House of Commons, where MPs wondered if the country even needed a military college so fraught with internal divisions.

“All hell broke loose,” summarized Lawson, who reminded Sokolsky that, to paraphrase an old political maxim, no light should be seen between the military and civilian authorities at RMC.

“The commandant and the principal had better work closely together or they may wind up threatening the entire institution,” he said.

In his experience, Sokolsky said, the two sides of the college strengthen each other by working together even though their priorities are different. He vowed to strengthen the academic reputation of RMC during his renewable five-year term.

He also promised to enhance the international component of the school, bringing visiting scholars from other countries to RMC for academic terms and conferences, and making it easier for college students and faculty to study abroad.

The school also presented two honorary degrees as part of convocation at the school yesterday.
Louise Frechette, who served as deputy-secretary general of the United Nations and was a longtime Canadian diplomat, was presented with an honorary doctor of laws.

Retired brigadier-general Ken Hague, who is a graduate and former commandant of RMC and who spent more than 28 years with the Canadian Forces in a number of operational deployments in Canada and overseas, was awarded an honorary doctorate of military science.


Photos courtesy of Mr. Brad Lowe

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