The Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment was created in 2009 and is an integral and strategic part of Cape Breton University.  The Centre inspires and facilitates commercially useful research and development and fosters related educational and training opportunities in four key areas – An accomplished Advisory Board under Chair, Keith MacLeod, lend their expertise in all research areas. Their proven leadership skills and business acumen will help turn the Verschuren Centre’s vision into reality.


R. Keith MacLeod, P.Eng.

In addition to chairing the VCAB, Keith currently serves as the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. He previously held the positions of Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Sproule and its subsidiaries, until his retirement on June 30, 2014, responsible for overseeing its Canadian, U.S., International, Unconventional and Project Management businesses.  His worldwide experience at Sproule was primarily in the areas of reservoir engineering, oil and gas reserves/resource evaluations, acquisitions and divestitures; securities commission reports, expert witness testimony, investment advice and education. Keith has experience working in 30 countries spanning 6 continents.  Keith lectured at the University of Calgary for many years and presented to industry on oil and gas disclosure related matters and has been an industry advisor to the Alberta Securities Commission (“ASC”). He is active with the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) having served as the Canadian Regional Director on the international board as well as chair of the Canadian Section.  He is also active with the Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers (SPEE) as one of the authors involved in the preparation of the Canadian Oil and Gas Evaluation Handbook and a member of the ASC’s industry taskforce, whose recommendations formed the framework for National Instrument 51-101.
He earned his Diploma in Technology in Mineral Science from what was formerly known as the College of Cape Breton, now Cape Breton University.  He earned a Bachelor of Science (Honors) Engineering from Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology, in Butte, Montana. In 2017, he completed the Director Education Program of the Institute of Corporate Directors.

Hector J. Jacques

O.C., M.Eng. D.Comm. (Hon.), P.Eng. FEIC, D. Law (Hon.)
Mr. Jacques received his general certificate of education from the University of Cambridge, his Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, and his Master’s degree in Engineering from the Technical University of Nova Scotia.  His post graduate research was in the field of soil mechanics under the able direction of Dr. G.G. Meyerhof.  After graduation from the Technical University of Nova Scotia, Mr. Jacques joined Warnock Hersey Int. Ltd. in 1967 in their Halifax office and in 1969 was appointed Manager of the Geotechnical Services Division for the Atlantic Region.
In 1972, along with Mr. Michael Whitford, Hector formed Jacques Whitford and Associates Limited to offer services in the earth sciences disciplines in the Atlantic Region.  Under Mr Jacques guidance as CEO, the firm grew rapidly to 45 offices across North America and internationally with more than 1,700 highly trained professionals worldwide.  The company was sold to Stantec at the retirement of Mr Jacques in 2009.  The last position Mr Jacques held at the firm was Chairman of the Board.  Throughout Mr. Jacques career, he was a recipient of several prestigious awards recognizing his many contributions to industry, community and Canada.   In October 2007, Mr. Jacques was made an officer of the Order of Canada.  He currently serves on several boards.

Heidi Leslie

Vice President, Corporate Strategy Implementation
Emera Inc.
Heidi is the Vice President, Corporate Strategy Implementation for Emera.  She has responsibility for corporate strategy development and execution including vetting and pursuing merger and acquisition opportunities for Emera and supporting each of the Emera affiliates as they formulate and align their implementation plans to Emera’s strategy and priorities.
Prior to this role, Heidi was the Executive Vice President, Legal, Regulatory and Public Affairs at Emera Energy, the marketing and trading subsidiary of Emera.  In this role, Heidi had responsibility for all legal and regulatory aspects of Emera Energy’s existing business and growth strategies, and also had executive responsibility for the Natural Gas Logistics team.
Heidi is a lawyer and prior to joining Emera she worked in law firms in Russia, Ontario, New Zealand and Halifax in the areas of corporate, commercial and energy law.
Heidi holds a BA (Hons) and an LLB both from Dalhousie University. She serves on the Board of Phoenix Youth Programs and is the immediate Past Chair.

George MacDonald

George is Counsel in the Halifax office of Pink Larkin, where he practices commercial litigation that spans securities, defamation, construction, insurance, professional, directors and officers liability, and shareholder disputes.
Both Lexpert Magazine and Best Lawyers in Canada recognize his status as a leading practitioner in each of these commercial litigation fields.  George also works extensively as a mediator and arbitrator and he is a professional engineer.
George is a member of the Canadian Bar Association, the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society and the Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia.  He is a Founding Fellow and past President of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyer and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.  George lectured at Dalhousie University on Engineering law and torts and civil procedure.  He participates frequently in continuing education programs organized by the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society and the Canadian Bar Association.  He has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and the Board of Governors of the Technical University of Nova Scotia, and is a former Member of the Board of Governors at Dalhousie University.

Robert Orr

CEO and Managing Director
Cuna del Mar
Robert Orr is the CEO and Managing Director of Cuna del Mar; a family office, private equity fund, based in the USA which specializes in making investments in environmentally sustainable aquaculture. The fund’s primary objective is to invest in technologies and platforms capable of bringing about a paradigm shift in existing aquaculture practices. Cuna del Mar currently has investments in the USA, Canada, Mexico and Panama.
From 1996 to 2011, Robert Orr was the co-founder, CEO and Chairman of Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited (ONC) the world’s largest ingredient supplier of Omega 3s, made from fish oil, to the Dietary Supplement and Functional Food Industry. ONC was sold to the Dutch company, Royal DSM N.V., for $540 million.
Orr’s management career spans over 30 years at the senior management level in the marine biotech, nutritional ingredient, food retailing, food wholesaling and retail advertising industries. His breadth of experience ranges from creation and management of several startup companies to responsibility for large multi-national corporate division operations with annual revenues in excess of $1 billion.  Robert currently serves on several boards, including Genome Canada, Genome Atlantic, Canada Life Science Advisory Board and the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia.

Dr. Vicky Sharpe

Dr. Sharpe is a long-term champion of integrating the environment and the economy. As the first employee and founding President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (STDC), Vicky built an internationally renowned global cleantech fund. Vicky drives environmentally responsible innovation that has increased productivity, competitiveness and boosted Canadian exports.
Dr. Vicky is helping to shape the Canadian cleantech landscape through strategic advice and leadership. She is a founding member of the Boards of the Alberta Enterprise Corporation and Carbon Management Canada Inc., a national research network focused on carbon management in the fossil energy sector. Dr. Sharpe continues to serve on numerous technology, industry association and government committees, including international advisor on sustainability issues representing the Canadian energy sector at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Forum.
As a widely recognized expert and advocate for SD and technology innovation, Vicky addresses national and international audiences to promote an understanding of the culture shift in values society must make to secure a sustainable future.

Marlene Usher

CEO Port of Sydney Development Corporation
Born and raised in Sydney, Cape Breton, Marlene Usher began working for the accounting firm of KPMG while taking her Chartered Accountant degree, which she completed in 1992. She worked as a senior manager at KPMG for approximately 12 years where she obtained a wealth of experience in private and public sector business and consulting services.
In March of 2007, Marlene was appointed by the Federal Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency as the Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a federal Crown Corporation, ECBC which was charged with economic development where she worked until 2014. In February 2015, Marlene was offered the position of Chief Executive Officer of a newly incorporated Port of Sydney Development Corporation. Marlene oversees the day-to-day operations of the port which include Cruise traffic, industrial traffic, real estate and business development.
Marlene has recently been a member of the Cape Breton University Board of Governors (5 year term) and former Chair of the Board for the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation She is a former spokesperson and champion of the United Way campaign in her community and was on the executive of Destination Cape Breton. Marlene is presently a member of the Board of Governors at Nova Scotia Community College. 

Frank B. van Schaayk

Mr. van Schaayk’s career has afforded him successful and diverse experiences, initially in the oil and gas sector, and then as an operating executive and Board Director in large and privately held food businesses, as well as not-for-profit entities. In October 2014, Frank retired as Regional President, The Americas, McCain Foods Limited, the world’s largest producer of frozen potato products.  Prior to joining McCain Foods, Mr. van Schaayk was President and Chief Operating Officer of Ben’s Limited, a privately held wholesale bakery company in Eastern Canada from 19980 to 1992.  Mr. van Schaayk began his career in 1978 with Schell Canada Ltd. as a drilling engineer, also serving in strategic and financial planning rolls at Shell.
Mr. van Schaayk holds a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from St Francis Xavier University and the Nova Scotia Technical College where he graduated with Honours in 1978.  Mr. van Schaayk’s continuing education includes completing the executive program and the University of Western Ontario; Ivey School of Business; the IMD. Family Business Program at Insead, Lausanne Switzerland, completion of a Chartered Corporate Director Designation from the Conference Board of Canada and Degroote School of Business; McMaster University in Canada; and completion of the Advanced Management program at Harvard University in 2009.
Mr. van Schaayk has also served on many Boards (Ben’s Ltd, McCain Foods Ltd., Bay State Milling Co., High Liner Foods), including not-for-profit entities, and is currently Chair of the Nova Scotia Health Authority Board and a member of the Board of Governors of Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Annette Verschuren

Chair & CEO, NRStor
Chancellor, Cape Breton University
The Verschuren Centre’s namesake, Annette Verschuren, is Chair and CEO of NRStor Inc., an energy storage development company. Formerly she was president of The Home Depot Canada and Asia, overseeing the growth of the company’s Canadian operations from 19 to 179 stores between 1996 and 2011. She also led The Home Depot’s entry into China.
Ms. Verschuren began her career as a development officer with the Cape Breton Development Corporation, a coal mining operation, in Sydney, Nova Scotia. She then worked with Canada Development Investment Corporation as executive vice-president, privatizing crown corporations, before joining Imasco Ltd., one of Canada’s largest holding companies in financial services, retail and food services, as vice-president, corporate development. Immediately prior to joining The Home Depot, Ms. Verschuren was president and co-owner of Michaels of Canada, a chain of arts and crafts stores, where she opened 17 stores in 26 months.
Ms. Verschuren is a board member of several companies and foundations, including Liberty Mutual Insurance Group of Boston, Air Canada, Saputo and Canadian Natural Resources Limited. Additionally, Annette Verschuren sits on the federal government’s Science Technology and Innovation Council. She co-chairs the Smart Prosperity Initiative which is mapping out a course to a stronger, cleaner economy for Canada.
In 2011, Ms Verschuren was honoured as an Officer of The Order of Canada for her contribution to the retail industry and Corporate Social Responsibility. A champion of community investment and volunteerism, Ms. Verschuren serves as Chancellor of Cape Breton University.

Hon. David C. Dingwall

President & Vice Chancellor, Cape Breton University

The Honourable David C. Dingwall is the seventh President & Vice-Chancellor of Cape Breton University.. He is highly regarded for his substantial, in-depth experience in both the private and public sectors, at national and international levels. He was elected to the Parliament of Canada on four different occasions. In 1997, as Canada’s Health Minister, he introduced and passed the Tobacco Control Act, which was recognized by the World Health Organization, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Lung Association. 
Mr. Dingwall has extensive corporate governance experience. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Canadian Mint, in less than two years, Mr. Dingwall grew its revenue to more than $100 million. He currently serves on several boards, including Co-Director of the Canada China Institute on Business and Development, Ted Rodger School of Management, Ryerson University; a Board Member of The Canadian Bar Association, The Advocates’ Society, ADR Chambers Inc., and Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society; and Chairperson of Orenda Solutions Inc.
Mr. Dingwall holds degrees in commerce and law from Dalhousie University, has studied Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School, and is also a graduate of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD.D), Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. In 1997, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Cape Breton University.

Gordon MacInnis

Vice-President, Finance & Operations
Cape Breton University

Gordon MacInnis is responsible for the financial affairs of Cape Breton University as well as areas of human resources, facilities management, and information technology.  He is also a strong contributor to setting the strategic directions of CBU and functions as a key liaison for senior orders of government.  He also serves as a Director to CBU’s affiliated company, LearnCorp International.
Mr. MacInnis is a fellow chartered accountant and a member of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada with over two decades of experience in senior public-sector management positions. He has participated on many provincial workgroups and task forces concerning public-sector policy initiatives.  In addition to volunteering with several local community groups, Mr. MacInnis serves as a representative for Nova Scotia universities on the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission and is a member of Inter-University Services Incorporated, an inter-provincial organization with a goal of promoting collaboration between universities.  He is also a member of the Premier’s panel charged with evaluating candidates for receipt of a Premier’s Award of Excellence to recognize outstanding on-the-job contributions of provincial employees.  Mr. MacInnis was also past-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the former Cape Breton Development Corporation, a federal Crown corporation.
Since joining Cape Breton University in 2000, Mr. MacInnis has served in the roles of Chief Financial Officer and Interim President prior to assuming his present duties in 2003. Mr. MacInnis serves on the CBU Senate, various university committees and is a member of the University’s Board of Governors in his role as Treasurer of the Board.


Dr. Beth Mason

CEO, Verschuren Centre

Dr. Mason came to the Verschuren Centre in 2014, to build out the bio-products research program, after working with Saputo Dairy Products Canada for 11 years prior. Her background brings a mix of industry, research and business approaches to problem solving in the Agri-food industry, particularly around by-product value extraction and functional ingredients. Dr. Mason brings experience from industry, private business and government in the areas of feed, food and bio-energy platforms. A particular focus is on valorization of food industry by-products through recycling into feed, fertilizer, bio-energy, and bio-fuel. 
In 2017, Dr. Mason was appointed CEO of the VC, where she leads the research team in bringing together large industry and community partners toward development and demonstrations of innovative solutions in four key areas – clean energies, agri-marine industries, aquaculture clusters, and nano-technology applications.
Dr. Mason graduated with a B.Sc.(Hons) from Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland, and went on to obtain an M.Sc. and Ph.D (Animal nutrition and physiology) from the University of Alberta.

Dr. Richard MacKinnon

Vice President Academic and Provost of Cape Breton University.

Dr. Richard MacKinnon is the Vice President Academic and Provost of Cape Breton University. He is from New Waterford, Cape Breton Island and is a former Tier One Canada Research Chair in Intangible Cultural Heritage at Cape Breton University where he teaches Folklore, Community Studies and Music.
His BA is from Mount Allison University and his MA and Ph.D. are in Folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland. He has been the President of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada and has served on numerous boards including the Nova Scotia Highland Village, Iona, the Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative, The Canadian Intangible Cultural Heritage Network, and the Sectoral Commission on Communication, Culture and Information for UNESCO in Ottawa, Ontario. He has given presentations at many local, national and international venues. Dr. MacKinnon has been a Visiting Scholar at Lockhaven University, Pennsylvania; Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland; and an adjunct Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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