The Office of the Principal of Sir George Williams University has its origins in the reorganization of the educational program of the Montreal Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) in the 1920s, culminating in the establishment of a separate branch called the Montreal Y.M.C.A. Schools in 1925. The schools thus became a separate unit in the Montreal Metropolitan Y.M.C.A. organization, under the direction of its own Board of Management (which became the Board of Governors in 1937) and its own executive head, the Principal. In 1926, the Montreal Y.M.C.A.Schools became a coeducational institution and changed its name to Sir George Williams College. The Principal was appointed by the Montreal Y.M.C.A. Metropolitan Board on the advice of the Sir George Williams College Board of Management. A. W. Young was the first Principal; his term of office was 1925-1928. In 1948, Sir George Williams College obtained a university charter. That year a special by-law (art. VII, sect. 11) of the Corporation of Sir George Williams College defined the duties of the Principal as follows:
"The Principal of the College, under the direction of the Board of Governors, shall have charge and general control of the work of the College, and shall attend meetings of the Board of Governors and of Committees of the Board. He shall certify all contracts and all bills for payment. He shall define the duties of all employees of the College, who shall report to him as the Executive Officer of the Board in such manner as he may direct."
In 1959, the College requested that the Quebec Legislature amend its charter, changing its name to Sir George Williams University. In 1974, the University merged with Loyola College to create Concordia University. The Office of the Principal of Sir George Williams University thereafter became the Office of the Rector of Concordia University.
The Office of the Principal of Sir George Williams College and later, University, played a significant leadership role in the development of the institution. The Office of the Principal was occupied not only with day-to-day affairs, but also provided vision and guidance for the development of the fledgling institution. Sir George Williams began as a small institution with an unrecognized program, growing dramatically in the period after World War II and again in the 1960s, when there was a dramatic increase in demand for higher education.
The Principals of Sir George Williams College and University were:
Anson W. Young 1925-1928
Frederick O. Stredder 1928-1935
Kenneth E. Norris 1936-1956
Henry F. Hall 1956-1962
Robert C. Rae 1962-1968
Douglass B. Clarke 1968-1969
John W. O'Brien 1969-1974. (O'Brien became Rector of Concordia University in 1974.)