Black business leader is new Dalhousie University chancellor

Rustum Southwell

Rustum Southwell, a prominent Nova Scotia community and business leader, has been named the next chancellor of Dalhousie University.

Dalhousie indicated that Southwell is best known as the founding CEO of the Black Business Initiative, which provides programs, supports and training for the Black business community.

“When I was notified I was in the mix, the first thing I thought after total shock was when you do the type of work that we do in community, you don’t know who is noticing you,” Southwell said.

“I’m not the normal chancellor type. This is the ninth appointment and the first person of African descent who has taken on to the role, so it must have taken deep thought in doing that, and I add courageous to that as well.”

Southwell is Dalhousie’s ninth chancellor and will take over from Scott Brison this November for a term of three years. The chancellor oversees spring and fall convocation ceremonies, serves as a member of the board of governors, and advocates for the university across the province, region and country.

“Today it’s time to celebrate the appointment. Tomorrow we will get the work done,” Southwell said.

The news release said Southwell has led the creation and expansion of hundreds of Black-owned businesses, and has championed Black participation in economic development strategies.

“Rustum has been a long-time advocate for the transformative power of education and a great friend and supporter of Dalhousie,” said acting president and vice-chancellor Frank Harvey.

“He knows what it means to help build a supportive community that empowers possibility, and that allows everyone the opportunity to participate to their full potential.”

Originally from the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, Southwell has long been involved with the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia and is past chair of the province’s African Heritage Month committee.

He has served on the boards of several prominent community organizations, including the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, United Way Halifax and Nova Scotia Community College.

Southwell was given an honorary doctor of laws degree from Dalhousie in 2018.