Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Dr. Summerby-Murray has been in Canada since the 1980s when he received his PhD in Geography from the University of Toronto. He has served in a number of senior academic roles, including the Dean of Social Sciences at Mount Allison University from 2003-2010 and as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Dalhousie University from 2010-2015.

Dr. Summerby-Murray became Saint Mary's University's 34th President on July 1st, 2015.

He is a respected educator, having received the Tucker Teaching Award, the AAU Distinguished Teacher Award and a 3M Fellowship. His research areas include historical geography, environmental history, industrial heritage, archives and narratives, GIS and cartography, literary histories and the work of Charles G. D. Roberts, student mobility and internationalization.

His works have been published in The Canadian Geographer, Urban History Review, Belphegor, Dalhousie Review, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, and the Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. He is an Elected Fellow, Royal Canadian Geographical Society and a Subscribed Fellow of the New Zealand Geographical Society.

His hobbies include cross-country skiing, running, gardening, singing and choir directing, pipe organ and piano. As a performer, he often lends his time and talent to student performances and workshops.

Robert Summerby-Murray is married to Susan, a speech language pathologist at the Chignecto Central Regional School Board. They have three sons: David, Iain, and James.