Remembering President James R.C. Perkin

Acadia’s twelfth President and Vice Chancellor, Rev. Dr. James R.C. “Jim” Perkin passed away peacefully in Kentville on December 13, 2017.

Dr. Perkin was born in Northamptonshire, England, on August 19, 1928 and at age 17 he joined the Royal Air Force and served for three years. He studied at Oxford University and Strasbourg University, France, obtaining the BA, MA, and D.Phil degrees. From 1956 to 1962 he was Minister of the Altrincham Baptist Church in Cheshire and in 1963 he was appointed Lecturer at New College, Edinburgh University, where he was primarily responsible for teaching New Testament Greek. In 1965 he immigrated with his family to Canada and assumed the position of Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario.

In 1969, he was recruited to Acadia University by tenth President Dr. James Beveridge to teach in the new department of Religious Studies. He was a professor and eventually Head of the Department between 1969 and 1977 followed by appointments as Dean of Arts from 1977 to 1980, Vice-President Academic from 1980 to 1981 before being asked by Acadia’s Board of Governors to become President and Vice-Chancellor in 1981, a position he held until his retirement in 1993. Dr. Perkin was the first President of Acadia to rise through the academic ranks to lead the institution.

Beyond Acadia he was Chairman of the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents and active in the Association of Commonwealth Universities. On campus, he led Acadia’s largest fundraising effort to that point in its history; a $20 million campaign that brought necessary investment in scholarships and infrastructure including a new ice rink that opened in 1988. He was well respected for his openness, honesty and consultative approach to community building. He believed strongly in the importance of protecting and enhancing Acadia’s academic reputation. He also believed that Acadia’s most important distinguishing characteristic was the long and positive relationship it enjoys to this day with the Town of Wolfville and its surrounding Annapolis Valley communities.

Dr. Perkin was a visible member of his community. For five years (1994-99) he was Chairman of the Western Regional Health Board and was a member of the Valley Hospice Foundation from its inception in 2000. For more than thirty years, he planned and led services at the Covenanter Church in Grand Pré. An established author, he wrote sixteen books and edited four others, along with approximately five hundred chapters, articles, reviews and reports chiefly in the fields of theology, history, language, biography and health. In 1992 he was awarded the Commemorative Medal for Canada's 125th anniversary, and in 2013 the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. Other awards include an honorary DD from McMaster University and an honorary D.Litt from Acadia.

In the Foreword of the bound copy of Dr. Perkin’s October 1982 Installation address, his friend, the late Alex Colville, Acadia’s third Chancellor, wrote:

“Jim Perkin is a man of substantial intellectual accomplishment, of great energy, and of firm principles; he has also worked for some years as a pastor, and I think he brings to his job as President a deep comprehension of the need for sympathetic attention to all the members of the University community… The long and noble association of learning with courtesy is exemplified, I believe, in Acadia’s new president.“

The words of Alex Colville remind us all of the many contributions made to our community by Dr. Perkin and he will be sincerely missed by all.

Dr. Perkin is survived by his wife of sixty-four years, Dorothy Joan Louise (Bentley); sons, Dr. Russell (Dr. Deborah Kennedy) Halifax; the Reverend John (Dorothy), Sackville, N.B.; and daughter, Anne Louise (the Reverend Timothy McFarland), Wolfville, and grandchildren, Wray and Joanna. A visitation will be held from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, December 17, 2017 in the White Family Funeral Home in Kentville with his funeral service being held at 2:00 p.m. Monday, December 18, 2017 in the Wolfville Baptist Church. A reception will be held following the funeral in the Wu Welcome Centre, Alumni Hall, Acadia University. His obituary can be found here on the website of the White Family Funeral Home.

To make a gift in memory of Dr. J.R.C. Perkin please give to the Kirton Scholarship. Click here to donate. 

The Kirton Scholarship was established in grateful memory of Philip Walter Kirton (1909-84) by Dr. J.R.C. Perkin, President, Acadia University (1982-93). The scholarship is awarded annually to a Canadian undergraduate student entering the second or subsequent year of study at Acadia who has demonstrated academic excellence and the potential for leadership.

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