From The Gazette

Ste. Anne de Bellevue

New director general appointed at John Abbott College

  • John Abbott College has a new director general.
    John Abbott College has a new director general.
    Photo credit: Photo courtesy of John Abbott College

John Halpin is the new director-general of John Abbott College in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.

The bilingual Quebec City native has 20 years experience in the corporate sector as an engineer and manager and a decade of experience teaching and managing in the CEGEP system. He succeeds Ginette Sheehy, who is retiring after five years at the helm of the English CEGEP during which time she saw the construction of the Anne-Marie Edward Science Building, a $45-million, six-storey state-of-the-art building.

“John Abbott College is an outstanding college with world-class facilities in a beautiful location,” Halpin said Monday.

Halpin was dean of faculty and academic affairs at Champlain College — St. Lawrence in Quebec City for the last five years.

He attended St. Lawrence as a young man and taught mathematics and physics there 30 years ago.

Quebec City roots run deep for the 55-year-old, but he also has sturdy roots in the West Island, where he worked as an engineer for Rolls-Royce Gas Turbines and bought a house in Pointe-Claire in the mid-1980s. At the time, his wife, Margaret Forrest, was working at McGill University.

They never sold the house and for the last eight years their son Greg — a 27-year-old musician — has been looking after the place.

“We thought of it as our retirement home,” Halpin said. “We’re not retiring, but this move does feel a bit like a homecoming.”

Forrest will leave her job as parish manager for St. Patrick’s Church in Quebec City and take a few months off to consider her next move once they are settled in Pointe-Claire. Their daughter, Erin, 30, works as an architect for a Montreal firm.

Halpin’s mother lives in Quebec City, so the couple will hang on to their condo as a pied-à-terre to use for family visits.

Halpin finishes his job in Quebec City on May 2 and starts at John Abbott the following Monday, but he accepted the job on the condition he could still take the first week of June off to go on his annual fishing trip north of Quebec City with eight of his buddies.

“The same group has been going on the annual fishing trip for 35 years,” he said. “No Internet. No telephone. Just fishing.”

Halpin’s first priority is to work on a new strategic plan for 2015-2020.

“We need to work on what the future of CEGEPs might look like,” he said. “We need to create partnerships with the private sector. The government won’t always have the money we need.

“We need to focus on the things Abbott does very well and look at ways to sustain that success.”

Halpin’s passion outside of the office is writing musicals. He began writing 30 years ago and wrote and produced three musicals during his five years at St. Lawrence. It is that hobby that has helped define his management style.

“When you work on a musical in that setting, you are working with volunteers,” Halpin said. “You learn to lead with the heart because those volunteers are doing what they are doing because they love it. I want people I work with to love what they do.”

Packing up and moving is nothing new for Halpin and Forrest. His work as an engineer and manager in the private sector for companies, including General Electric Aircraft Engines, Rolls-Royce Gas Turbines, UTC-Pratt & Whitney and UTC-Carrier, took them from Quebec to the United States to England and back again to Canada.

“This move feels right,” Halpin said.

Halpin completed a BA.Sc. at the University of Toronto and a M.Sc. in mechanical engineering at the Université Laval.

kgreenaway@montrealgazette

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  1. Pingback: New director named at John Abbott College | News Québec

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