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Stephen Toope (Christinne Muschi For The Globe and Mail)
Stephen Toope (Christinne Muschi For The Globe and Mail)

U of T’s Munk School taps UBC president Stephen Toope Add to ...

It has taken three years, but the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs has found its next director, snapping up Stephen Toope, the soon-to-depart president of the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Toope, 55, announced last spring that he would leave UBC’s top job at the end of June, 2014, two years before his second term as president ends, because he wanted to return to his academic passion for international law and international relations.

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He has found his landing spot as successor to Janice Stein, the Munk School’s long-serving director who has expanded the school’s profile and programming, but has been considering her own exit since 2010. Dr. Toope will assume the role next January, after taking six months off “for a lot of reading” and to “recharge the batteries intellectually.”

“It’s really perfect for what I was looking for for the next phase of life,” Dr. Toope said in an interview. “The Munk School is dedicated, across a wide spectrum of activities, to trying to help people understand the globe and all the challenges that we face. What I love about it is that it’s really interdisciplinary.”

The U of T announced his hiring Wednesday morning, concluding a search that continued on and off since Dr. Stein first announced she planned to step down more than three years ago. At that time, a committee struck to find a suitable successor came up empty-handed, and she stayed on to give the university more time.

It was determined to find someone who could “combine stellar scholarship with incredible spokesperson abilities,” as Dr. Stein has, said Meric Gertler, U of T’s president.

Before joining UBC, Dr. Toope had been dean of law at McGill University and president of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. Other universities reportedly showed interest in him as a candidate for high-profile jobs, including the recently vacant principal’s job at McGill, but he made it clear he wasn’t interested in another presidency. When U of T called last spring about the Munk School, however, he listened.

In his eyes, it is already pre-eminent among similar schools in Canada, and “one of the challenges for the Munk is that it is seen globally as one of the key players,” he said, competing in its fields with the the world’s strongest schools, such as the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. It already has a global reputation, but “there may be some possibilities for greater focus,” he said.

Under Dr. Stein, the school has grown physically and added to its programs, developing a well-known master of global affairs, which has made it an attractive home for leading scholars, Dr. Gertler said. “The place has been bursting at the seams. People want in,” he said.

Dr. Stein, who will take a sabbatical before returning to teach at the Munk School, describes Dr. Toope as a rare combination of scholar, leader and fundraiser who can excite civil society about a university’s work.

“He will take the Munk School forward and grow it as a national resource and as an international centre of excellence,” she said.

In turn, Dr. Toope said he admires Dr. Stein as “a bit of a risk-taker academically,” and someone willing to “go out on a limb, be public about what she thinks.”

Will he also take risks?

“I think so,” he said, adding with a laugh, “calculated risks.”

Follow on Twitter: @jembradshaw

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