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Historical Plaque

John Douglas MacLachlan

John Douglas MacLachlan

President, Ontario Agricultural College, 1950-1962
President, Federated Colleges, 1962-1964
President, University of Guelph, 1964-1967

John Douglas MacLachlan was born in 1906 on a dairy farm near Burrit's Rapids, Ontario. After completing his BA in chemistry and biology at Queen's University, he attended Harvard University, receiving an MA in 1933 and a PhD in plant pathology in 1935. He returned to Canada in 1939 to take up the position of assistant professor of botany at the Ontario Agricultural College. An inspiring teacher and a brilliant researcher, MacLachlan rose quickly through the ranks to head the Department of Botany in 1948. In 1950, he was named president of the Ontario Agricultural College.

During MacLachlan's tenure, there was an increased emphasis on rural society, a deepened commitment to science, research and intellectual growth, and growing internationalism. He proposed integration of the Ontario Agricultural College, the Ontario Veterinary College and Macdonald Institute. The Federated Colleges, with MacLachlan as president, were created in 1952, with a dean for each college and a Board of Regents to oversee the federation.

For many years, the government had resisted the pursuit of university status for the Ontario Agricultural College. Finally, in 1964, the government introduced the bill to create the University of Guelph and named MacLachlan its first president. In 1956, the University of Toronto conferred a Doctor of Laws degree on MacLachlan in recognition of his role in directing the founding colleges to university status with wisdom and tact.

The contributions MacLachlan made both as an academic and president were numerous. At his installation as the first president of the University of Guelph, he spoke of the need to balance the traditional role of the founding colleges with the need to be at the forefront of change. MacLachlan's skill and vision in finding this balance assured a strong beginning for the University of Guelph.

MacLachlan Building 1902