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Allisonian Firsts: Doris Stuart Runciman

A virtual exhibition celebrating the bold Allisonians who became the "firsts" in their field.

Doris Stuart Runciman

First female full professor at Mount Allison University (Head of Home Economics department), 1937

Portrait of Doris Runciman taken from the side.

Doris Stuart Runciman, 1937

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture collection, 2007.07/1561. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Doris Stuart Runciman was born on 26 March 1899 in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. She was the daughter of James Herbert and Annie Eliza (Dargie) Runciman. She came to the Mount Allison Ladies’ College to study at the Massey-Treble School of Home Economics and received her diploma in 1919. Runciman taught Home Economics as a junior instructor at the Ladies’ College from 1921 to 1926 before attending Columbia University. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science from Columbia in 1928, she taught Foods and Nutrition at the Connecticut College for Women in New London from 1928 to 1930. She then returned to Mount Allison as a Professor of Home Economics and Assistant Dean of Women. While teaching, she continued her studies and received a Master of Arts from Columbia in 1934.

In 1937, Runciman was made Head of the Home Economics Department, a position she held until her retirement in 1965. She was Mount Allison’s first female full professor. In her 35 years as Head, the teaching of Home Economics at Mount Allison gained a high reputation both regionally and nationally. On 12 May 1964, Mount Allison recognized Runciman’s contributions by awarding her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 1965 she was named Professor Emeritus.

In addition to her work at Mount Allison, Runciman was heavily involved with organizations related to her profession. In 1938, she served on the International Committee of the American Home Economics Association. She later served as Chair of the Education Commission of both the Canadian Dietetic Association and the Canadian Council of Nutrition. By 1954, she had served as the President of the Canadian, Nova Scotia (1937 – 1939), and New Brunswick Home Economics Associations, as well as Honorary President of the Canadian Dietetic Association. She received the Canadian Home Economics Association Honour Award in 1966.

She died on 7 October 1996 in her home in Ottawa, Ontario, and is buried in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. After her death, Jean H. MacKay, a former student of Runciman who went on to become Professor of Home Economics at the University of Prince Edward Island, published an article in the Canadian Home Economics Journal, remembering her with deep fondness. MacKay wrote:

"Dr. Runciman devoted most of her professional life to Mount Allison and her students there. She earned deep respect and love from all of us. We appreciated her broad knowledge of nutrition and her belief in its importance in human health and well-being. Her enthusiasm was contagious, as with sparkling eyes she extolled the virtues of certain vitamins, minerals, etc. Her outlook was positive and her interest in us genuine as she strove to encourage excellence. She did not talk about professionalism, but by her example she showed us what being a professional means." [1]

Related materials

You can find more information about Doris Runciman and peruse the contents of her fonds (accession no. 9111), on our Descriptions Database. You can access these records by planning a visit to the archives.


[1] MacKay, Jean G. "Remembering Doris Runciman: On the Job." Canadian Home Economics Journal, vol. 47, no. 3, Summer 1997, p. 127.


Image Gallery

Sepia-toned portrait of Doris Runciman wearing a black dress and a pearl necklace.

Doris Stuart Runciman, [ca. 1965]

Mount Allison University Archives. Doris Runciman fonds, 9111/1. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Doris Runciman sitting with ten men in suits.

Mount Allison University faculty, first Marjorie Young Bell Fellows, 1955

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture collection, 2007.07/203. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Doris Runciman standing with Margaret McCain.

Doris Runciman and Chancellor Margaret McCain at an alumni gathering in Ottawa, Ontario, 1989

Mount Allison University. Information Office fonds, 8805/6/5/2/1. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.