Echoes of Evolution of 50 Years: Meet Bernie MacLennan

In 2024, Cape Breton University proudly celebrates its 50th anniversary as an independent post-secondary institution. We are proud that students and graduates from CBU and all of our predecessor institutions have played pivotal roles in shaping the University we know and love today. The story of CBU’s Senior Instructor II in the Department of Health Sciences, Bernie MacLennan, echoes our University’s transformative journey, from the classrooms of the College of Cape Breton (CCB) to the thriving and expansive campus that defines CBU today.

From a summer research student to a full-time employee, Bernie has witnessed CBU remarkably transform from a modest institution into a vibrant and diverse university. “I have seen CBU evolve from two buildings and a couple of portable classrooms on George Street to the current campus of today,” says Bernie. “It’s too bad I didn’t start my undergraduate degree in 1974, then I could truly celebrate a 50th anniversary with CBU!”

Born and still residing in Little Bras d’Or, Bernie’s connection to CBU can be described as a homecoming. In the fall of 1976, Bernie enrolled in the Science program at the College of Cape Breton when the campus was located at what is now known as Sydney’s Lyceum. There, students could complete a diploma or certificate on the Island or take courses that would qualify them to finish degrees at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX).

After completing his initial two years on George Street, Bernie continued his studies at StFX and earned a four-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Biology. It wasn’t until 1982 that the CCB received degree-granting status and was renamed the University College of Cape Breton (UCCB).

In 1985, Bernie took a term position as a Biology Lab Instructor at UCCB, later becoming a permanent role. When the Environmental Public Health program began in 1996, Bernie made a lateral move into that program as a Microbiology Lab Instructor. Eventually, he transitioned into a lecture position in 1998.

Bernie’s long tenure at CBU has shown him the transformative power of education. Teaching thousands of students across various programs and backgrounds, he observes the tangible benefits of a university education reflected in his students’ successes. “I get constant reminders of this when I access healthcare, dental care or talk to my grandchildren’s teachers,” shares Bernie. “The value of higher education is seen everywhere in our daily life.”

The Bachelor of Health Sciences, Public Health (BHSc) program has prepared students for careers in public health since 1996. Today, many CBU graduates hold senior management positions in Public Health units across the country and numerous faculty members are graduates of the program themselves.

Throughout his career, Bernie has experienced many unforgettable moments. From something as simple as discovering a heartfelt thank-you note discreetly placed under his office door, to a phone call or email from a student expressing their appreciation for a reference letter. “I tend to live vicariously through my students’ success,” he reflects. “It shows that what I do is important.”

Bernie’s teaching style has been inspired by two of his most influential mentors, Dr. Cheryl Bartlett and Dr. Jim Foulds, both of whom taught at CBU. He has fostered an environment where students are encouraged to feel at ease expressing themselves and asking questions without hesitation. He also emphasizes the importance of understanding course materials to excel in class. Among heartwarming comments from years of course evaluations, two that hold a special place in his heart are: “Bernie is one of those professors you will remember for the rest of your life!” and “Bernie is probably one of the most approachable persons at CBU!”

“I believe CBU is in a period of dramatic change that will benefit the University, but also Cape Breton and the rest of Nova Scotia,” says Bernie. “The strategic plans currently being developed, especially around healthcare, are long overdue but promise to solidify CBU as a game-changer within Nova Scotia and beyond.”

Bernie’s story is a testament to the significant impact post-secondary education and educators can have, and it’s a story that will continue to be written in the hearts of students for years to come. It’s a story worth celebrating, just like the remarkable journey of CBU.

To stay up to date on the 50th celebration, visit