David Johnston, an academic of lengthy credentials who is president of the University of Waterloo, will succeed Michaëlle Jean as governor-general. Mr. Johnston spoke to reporters at a news conference after Thursday morning after the announcement was made official.
"My wife and I have always believed that service, whether it is to family, community, university or country, is our highest calling. And so we are proud to have this opportunity to serve Canada and our fellow citizens," he said in the Senate foyer.
"During my time at Waterloo and McGill I have had the great fortune to witness Canadians' creativity and ingenuity, our strong ties to our communities and to the world and well as our diversity and our vitality. The opportunity to see values at work across the country means a great deal to me."
Mr. Johnston had stayed out of the public eye since he became the odds-on favourite for the vice-regal position several weeks ago.
His appointment came at the end of a lengthy search process, officials said.
Mr. Johnston's installation, which will take place on Oct. 1, marks a change in direction for the post of governor-general which has, through the term of Ms. Jean and her predecessor Adrienne Clarkson, been served by captivating female former journalists, both of whom were immigrants.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is said to have wanted a man in the role this time, but insisted the candidate be fluent in both official languages, which ruled out several prominent aboriginal contenders.
Mr. Harper, who was touring flood-ravaged sections of the Prairies on Thursday, indicated that he would not be speaking publicly about the appointment.
But, in a statement, he said: "David Johnston represents the best of Canada. He represents hard work, dedication, public service and humility. I am confident he will continue to embody these traits in his new role as the Crown's representative in Canada."
Mr. Johnston has been a law professor for a number of Canadian universities. He is the author of two-dozen books, holds honourary doctorates from over a dozen universities and has been awarded the Order of Canada.
While at Harvard, he was twice elected to the All-American Hockey Team and is a member of Harvard's Athletic Hall of Fame.
The 69-year-old was chosen by a special committee appointed by Mr. Harper and led by Kevin MacLeod, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen and Usher of the Black Rod for the Senate - considered to be Parliament's top protocol posting.
Mr. Johnston was likely chosen for his constitutional knowledge and level-headedness, observers say. The committee reportedly nixed candidates from the sports, entertainment and art worlds, preferring someone who is well versed in the inner workings of federal government.
The Sudbury, Ont., native became a highly respected legal expert after studying at Harvard, Cambridge and Queen's University. He captained the hockey team at Harvard, nabbing a spot as a minor character in a novel his dorm mate was writing at the time. Erich Segal's Love Story became a pop-culture icon in the early 1970s.
Before becoming president of the University of Waterloo, Mr. Johnston spent 15 years as the principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University.
His legal work dipped into the political realms, and he was lauded for being non-partisan, having worked for both Liberal and Conservative governments.
He has worked with the Conservative government most recently, when Mr. Harper asked to help write the terms of reference for the Oliphant inquiry, which probed the business transactions between former prime minister Brian Mulroney and German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.
Mr. Johnston is married to Sharon Johnston who has a PhD from McGill University in rehabilitation science. She is currently enrolled in a creative writing program at Humber College in Toronto and is writing a historical fiction novel. They have five daughters.
With a report from Sarah Boesveld