Elizabeth Parr-Johnston

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Elizabeth Parr-Johnston, C.M.
Dr. Elizabeth Parr-Johnston, C.M.
16th President of the
University of New Brunswick
In office
Succeeded by John D. Mclaughlin
Personal details
Born 1939
New York, New York United States
Spouse(s) Archibald F. Johnston 1982-Present
Children 2
Residence Chester Basin, Nova Scotia
Alma mater B.A.-Wellesley College, 1961
M.A.-Yale University, 1963
PhD - Yale University, 1973
Profession Economic Policy Consultant
Website Biography

Elizabeth Parr-Johnston, CM (born Elizabeth H. Parr in 1939 in New York, NY) is the Managing Partner of Parr-Johnston Consultants, an economic policy consultancy based in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia. Parr-Johnston is a past president of 2 Canadian Universities, a recipient of the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal in 1992, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and the Order of Canada in 2008.

Professional career[edit]

Academia and civil service[edit]

In 1962, after completing her Masters in Economics from Yale University, Parr-Johnston moved to Canada. She taught Economics at the University of Western Ontario, Huron College, the University of British Columbia and Carleton University. Parr-Johnston would relocate to the United States of America briefly in 1971 to teach at her father’s alma mater, Wesleyan University before returning to Canada to join the federal civil service in various capacities over the next 5 years.[1] In 1974, Parr-Johnston completed her doctoral work and earned her PhD in Economics from Yale University.

Private sector[edit]

Parr-Johnston accepted the position of Senior Policy Analyst and Director of Government Affairs at Inco in 1976 where she remained for 3 years. She returned to the private sector in 1980, joining Shell Canada where she held numerous senior positions over her 10-year tenure.[2]

Employment & Immigration Canada[edit]

In 1979, Parr-Johnston won a political appointment as the Chief of Staff to Ron Atkey, the Canadian Minister of Employment and Immigration during the short-lived Conservative minority government. Among her many accomplishments at the Ministry, Parr-Johnston was involved in the secret extraction of six American Embassy workers who escaped to the safety of the Canadian Embassy in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis.[3]

Dr. Parr-Johnston & Hillary Clinton

Mount Saint Vincent University[edit]

In 1991, Parr-Johnston was installed as the 8th President and Vice-Chancellor of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She served a full five-year term, leading Canada’s only university dedicated primarily to the education of women. On June 16, 1995, coinciding with the 21st G7 summit taking place in Halifax, Parr-Johnston awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters to First Lady of the United States of America, Hillary Clinton, a fellow alumna of Wellesley College. The mount has established an endowed scholarship in the name of Parr-Johnston.[4]

Preceded by
Naomi Hersom
President & Vice Chancellor of MSVU
1991 – 1996
Succeeded by
Sheila A. Brown

University of New Brunswick[edit]

Parr-Johnston was installed as the 16th President of the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1996. She completed one full six-year term in office before retiring to Nova Scotia with her husband Archie. In 2004, Parr-Johnston returned to UNB and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters for her contributions to the field of education. UNB named a student residence after Parr-Johnston [5]

Preceded by
Robin L. Armstrong
President & Vice Chancellor of UNB
1996 – 2002
Succeeded by
John D. Mclaughlin

Boards of directors and trustees[edit]

  • Scotiabank[1]
  • Emera Incorporated[6]
  • Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy [7]
  • Millennium Scholarships[8]
  • W.L. Mackenzie King Memorial Scholarships[9]
  • FutureGenerations Canada[10]
  • Sustainable Development Technology Canada[2]
  • National Theater School[11]
  • Council of Canadian Academies[12]
  • Empire Company Limited[13]
  • Chester Golf Club[14]
  • FPI Limited


On March 20, 2005, the Canadian Minister of Finance announced the appointment of Parr-Johnston to the Independent Panel for Equalization and Territorial Formula Financing.[15] The purpose of the panel was to examine the existing system of federal transfer payments to the provinces and to recommend necessary changes to the process. The final report was delivered to the Minister in May 2006 and was adopted in its entirety by the Prime Minister of Canada.

Order of Canada[edit]

On February 22, 2008, Parr-Johnston was installed by the Governor General of Canada as a Member of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour. Parr-Johnston was recognized for her lifetime contributions to the field of education.[16] The Investiture Ceremony programme read as follows:

For decades, Elizabeth Parr-Johnston has made important contributions to the educational and voluntary sectors in Canada. As president of two universities in Atlantic Canada, she was highly respected for creating increased opportunities for women, notably by mentoring female faculty and by making education more accessible to women. Her expertise and wise counsel have been sought by public, private and community boards including those of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and Symphony Nova Scotia. As head of her own consulting company, she continues to contribute to public policy development in Canada.[17]


Liz & Archie Johnston

Personal life[edit]

Parr-Johnston is the oldest child of F. Van S. Parr, Jr. and Helene Parr. Her late father was the Senior Partner of Whitman & Ransom and former National President of the Chi Psi (ΧΨ) Fraternity. Her brother, Dr. Grant V.S. Parr, is the former Chief of Cardiothoracic surgery at Atlantic Health. Her sister, Sally Cerny was an Instructor of Psychology at Rutgers University.

On March 9, 1982, at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Parr-Johnston married Archibald F. Johnston, former Vice President of General Electric. Between them, they have 6 children, all from prior marriages. Archie died on January 23, 2010.[18] Currently, Parr-Johnston resides in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia with her Norwegian Elkhound Magnus.


External links[edit]