Vice-Chancellor's Address

Vice-Chancellor's Address


This is a Convocation of a University. A university has several functions: to teach at a high standard in many fields of knowledge, to extend the boundaries of science, to store and to share the spiritual and intellectual heritage of civilization, to live a special kind of common life, to cherish and cultivate certain necessary ideas; and the reason for this Convocation to encourage and recognize excellence. To confer a baccalaureate degree is a weighty and solemn act, never to be undertaken inadvisedly.

May I make one point clear? In recommending the degrees to be conferred today. the Senate maintains well the standard for which the Memorial University College has been so often praised abroad and perhaps criticized at home. True, we have as part (not a large part) of the requirement accepted certain courses completed at other Canadian and American universities as equivalent to our own. Other universities recognized ours in the past. We recognize theirs today.

Universities arose in Europe in the Twelfth Century, which between 1150 and 1200 A.D. saw the foundation of Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, their stimulus the mediaeval revival of Latin learning - a similar revival of Greek learning gave Europe the Renascence - and their organization related to that of mediaeval guilds.

The word "university" means community, a group organized for learning and teaching. At first bands of black-robed scholars moved from place to place, but by about 1400 A.D. the universities settled down into much the pattern they have now. They were founded sometimes by some great man, perhaps a prince of the church, by some active body, say a cathedral chapter, or by civil authority. There grew up a certain ritual - the Latin tongue was a common medium - a certain costume, the gown and particoloured hood, with great importance attached to the parchment and seal of the degree.

Earlier universities differed in kind. One, like Paris, might be universitas magistrorum, in which the professors held the authority; another, like Bologna, might be universitas discipulorum, controlled by the students.

One university founded another. Thus Oxford (1167) was founded from Paris. May I say that Cambridge was founded by Oxford? The Scottish universities date from the 15th and 16th century, St. Andrew's 1411 and Edinburgh 1582. Ireland had Dublin in 1592. English provincial universities like Manchester and Bristol and even Durham (1839) are comparatively modern. I forbear to mention the great American universities founded in the three centuries from Harvard (1636) to the newer foundations.

In Canada most university foundations preceded the Confederation of 1867; the University of New Brunswick, for example, dating from 1800. The new provinces like Alberta began to have their own universities almost as soon as they had their provincial status. The newest universities in the Commonwealth are the University of Malaya, the University of the West Indies and the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

This University is set up under legislation of the Newfoundland Parliament. His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor is Visitor. The governing body is a Board of Regents whose Chairman is the Honourable Sir Albert Walsh. Provision is made for a Chancellor. None is yet appointed. The President of the University, the present speaker, is Vice-Chancellor. There is a Senate of the University, by whose direction the present Convocation is being held. There are other necessary and important officers and appurtenances. The colours are red and white (gules and argent). The motto is "provehito in altum." The shield of arms bears a representation of the sea, books, and a cross.


This is not only the first Convocation of our University; it is also the Twenty-fifth Annual Graduation of the University College.

We have grown with the years, from some 55 students and four professors studying ten subjects in 1925, to about six times those numbers today; from a few shelves of books - no Shakespeare even - to a well-chosen library of 18,000 volumes and an annual subscription list of 120 periodicals; and from a single laboratory then to six laboratories (all too small) today.

We have added departments of Teacher Education, Household Science, Engineering, and of Pre-medical and Pre-dental studies, and a Navigation School which has trained scores of officers for the merchant service and the Navy. We have now health inspection, a system of student advisers and a Dean of Women; a playing field and a gymnasium; and a Navigation School on the waterfront.

The College brought to Newfoundland some remarkable men: John Lewis Paton (I must not forget his dear sister), called by the Manchester Guardian "the greatest educationist of this century", here for eight precious years; stimulating visitors like Dr. Albert Mansbridge, C. H., Sir Alfred Zimmern, and Dr. F. A. Bruton. Our staff included and still includes notable teachers. I mention none here present, but of those once here, J. H. Faull, Jr., J. H. Mennie, R. J. Stephenson, J. C. Hogg, A. G. Gillingham, E. C. Smith, F. B. Maddock, J. Colman.

Some good gifts have come to us in these twenty-five years. Mr. Paton gave us his two houses on Newtown Road, a substantial sum of money in his lifetime and by his will a share of his estate; as his friend Dr. Bruton did also. The Carnegie Corporation of New York gave us an annual grant, from $15,000 a year in 1925 to $25,000 a year in 1937, beside special grants of $15,000 at one time and $3,000 at another, with other gifts. A grant of $5,000 for pre-medical education came from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation; an even larger sum from our own Mr. G. S. Doyle for engineering education, and we have also the T. R. Job Trust Fund. Special Scholarships were set up by the late Reverend Dr. L. Curtis, Mr. C. C. Pratt, Mr. F. M. O' Leary, the L.S.P.U., the W. J. Higgins Memorial Association, Imperial Oil Limited, University Women's Club and some others. Loan Funds have also been set up, such as the two named after the late Mr. and Mrs. H. McNeil and the more recent splendid Rotary Silver Jubilee Loan Fund.

Besides money we have had the precious gift of books, from Rev. J. A. Meeson's estate, from the French Government, from the Carnegie Corporation again, from Mr. Paton again, Sir Robert Bond's books, H. W. Milley's fine library, the R. G. Macdonald collection; from universities like Harvard and Acadia; and from kind friends like Dr. R. W. Boyle and R. R. Saunders and our own veteran students.

Beside books we have had music and pictures, from (again) the Carnegie Corporation, from Sir Alfred Paton, from Hon. H. Macpherson, and many others.

In this quarter-century we passed through a great economic depression, when the Government's support had to be confined to that of our buildings and their operations. We could not promise our students a bright economic future, but it was then that our graduates found themselves, in a world of idle hands, among the few groups who could find remunerative employment.

Next came the Second Great War. We lent the Army our grounds and the Navy much of our building for a naval hospital. Our students were given military training. Some 300 of "ours" volunteered, many served, some gave up their health and thirty gave their lives.

The passing years took from us also all but one that familiar figure the Honourable Senator V. P. Burke of our four Founding Trustees, viz., Dr. W. W. Blackall, Rev. Dr. L. Curtis, Mr. R. K. Kennedy; Mr. Paton himself and Miss Paton, whose friendship was sui generis; from our Board Mr. Arthur Mews and Mr. I. J. Samson; from our staff Sir Charles Hutton and Rev. J. Brinton; some of our students and some true friends. But we have our memories and the inspiration of their good lives.

Gain and loss, struggle and achievement: but the balance is good. For through the College there has passed out a steady stream of splendid young men and women to enrich the life of Newfoundland and the world.


The year 1950 is a mile-stone in our history, for it is the end of a quarter-century of the College and the beginning of the University.

Having glanced back over the record of the past twenty-five years, I give an account of some of the things done and events observed in the academic year now closing.

Changes. The Lieutenant-Governor when our year began was Sir Albert Walsh. To him succeeded Colonel Sir Leonard Outerbridge in September. The Governor was Visitor to the College and is to the University, and H.M.'s Representative has always shown kind personal interest in our efforts.

Dr. V. P. Burke, Founding Trustee and Chairman of the Board since 1925, resigned on becoming a member of the Senate of Canada. His place is secure in our history. The resignation of the Vice-Chairman, Mr. F. R. Emerson, ended a period marked by close attention to our needs and sympathetic care for our progress. The Board of Governors, now relieved of their arduous duties, deserve the warmest gratitude of everyone for so monumental a service to our country.

The President returned from a year's leave in June 1949. He might say much of the welcome his wife and he received at universities, especially Harvard, visited on tour; of the high regard shown abroad for our College here; and of the splendid way in which in his absence the work was carried on under Dr. A. C. Hunter, as Acting President, and his colleagues.

The death of Rev. J. Brinton in October was a severe loss to us all. Since 1934 he had taught Divinity to the Church of England teachers-in-training. Few Newfoundlanders were so well-loved as he.

To replace Mr. R. McDougald and Miss M. Peters in the department of chemistry, Mr. George E. Cameron, M.Sc., and Miss A. Ralph, B.Sc., were appointed as associate-professor and lecturer, respectively. Miss M. Fitzpatrick was given sabbatical leave for post-graduate study in Toronto. A new appointment is that of Mr. D. G. Pitt, M.A. (Tor.), as associate-professor of English.

Mr. Alex Cook, resident caretaker of our building since 1923, died suddenly on October 12, 1949.

Benefactions. Gifts during the year include:


  • from H.E. the Governor-General, through His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, a fine silver medal to be given annually to the student of highest standing;


  • from the Government of France, through M. M. Bonnave, Consul, a silver and a bronze medal, for excellence in French;


  • from the University Women's Club, Five Hundred Dollars toward the purchase of a Bechstein piano, as well as One Hundred and Twenty-five Dollars for the Club's annual scholarship;


  • from the Rotary Club of St. John's, the sum of Nine Hundred and Ninety-eight Dollars, which brings the Club's Silver Anniversary Loan Fund up to nearly Five Thousand Dollars;


  • from Mr. G. S. Doyle, O.B.E., Nine Hundred Dollars to carry on the Doyle Engineering Scholarships;


  • from Doctor R. W. Boyle, late of the National Research Council, a large part of his personal library, several hundred volumes;


  • from Mr. Percy Crosbie, a yearly sum of Twenty-five Dollars to encourage public speaking among engineers, this benefactor being also our kind host for the Survey Camp;


  • from Hon. Harold Macpherson,a valuable collection of eighteenth-century drawings;


  • books from other universities and from many kind friends, such as Lady Squires, Mr. Robert Saunders, and others whose names are written in the report of the Librarian;


  • and tickets for the Drama Festival and the Community Concerts from several generous friends.


Visits and Encouragement. On the setting-up of the University a gracious message was sent by His Excellency the Governor-General of Canada.

Lieutenant-Governor Sir Albert Walsh visited the Summer Session of 1949 and gave an address.

The Lieutenant Governor and Lady Outerbridge visited our buildings on February 14th, saw the students in regular session and received members of the staff. They also patronized the Dramatic Club performance on April 14th.

The Minister of Education and Mrs. Hefferton paid us a special visit and the Minister several others.

Members of the Board of Governors were with us frequently.

Other welcome guests were:


  • Hon. F. M. Forde, High Commissioner for Australia;


  • Commodore V. S. Godfrey, R.C.N.;
  • Professor R. Macgregor Dawson of Toronto University;


  • Mr. W. G. S. Murray, C.H., late Warden of All Souls, Oxford;


  • Professor C. L. Bennet of Dalhousie;


  • Mr. H. C. Dent, Editor of the Times Educational Supplement;


  • Colonel the Honourable Wilfred Bovey.


Enrollment. With the decline in the number of war-veterans in college, the general enrollment is more nearly normal. (I comment in passing on the great success of the Newfoundland Government's and the Canadian Government's plans for the higher education of veterans). Apart from the Summer Session (585) and the Navigation School (31) we registered 223 men and 84 women, of whom 175 were in the First Year, 83 in the Second Year and 37 in the Third Year; a small number were able to complete the full degree course.

Studies. In addition to the usual programme of studies, seven new classes were given this year, in the subjects of English, Biology, French, Spanish, and History. My learned and devoted colleagues in instruction and administration gave a full measure of splendid service, and the student-body responded well to the efforts made in their behalf.

Library. Our book-stock is now 18,000 volumes. Several new acquisitions, both gifts and purchases, are yet to be catalogued. More than 120 periodicals are regularly received, 18 of them new subscriptions this year. Some new space has been provided, but a growing library, like the dervish's camel, needs constantly more and more room. As we look forward to increasing service we are glad that by sound library policy we have been able to build up this valuable collection, for a good library is the brightest weapon in the university's armoury.

We shall miss the fine service given by the Assistant Librarian, Miss Ada L. Green, B.A., B.L.S., in the past two years. There is a serious dearth of well-trained librarians in Canada today.

Special projects play an increasing part in most dements of instruction. We have made much use of films, paid visits to various institutions and industries, made useful experiments in nutrition and dietary, employed recordings to teach the art of simple speech and that of public speaking, co-operated with the UNESCO by a local centre, made two field trips for geology, arranged a puppet-show, and the like. We had our own programme for "Wild Life Week," with exhibitions of paintings by Newfoundland artists of birds and wild flowers.

Assemblies. Miss E. Baird, associate-professor of Household Science, is the assiduous head of the assembly committee, and served us a balanced diet of vocal and instrumental music, educational and cultural films, and addresses on such topics as our educational heritage, the importance of the vote, the King Arthur cycle, wild life and nature, and the Australian Commonwealth.

Student Life. The usual full programme of athletics, student societies, and social functions went on under the control of the Students' Representative Council (President, Mr. H. L. Chafe; Secretary, Miss Ruby Hann). A new club for women students is called Mu Gamma. The students found time to produce their annual magazine Cap and Gown, (editors, Miss P. Pigot and Mr. G. T. Compton), a credit to the industry and zeal of its editorial board. Especially good was the work in dramatics, which included the production, ship-shape and Bristol fashion, of J. M. Barrie's "What Every Woman Knows."

Officer Training. Our provincial status made it possible this year to have units of the U.N.T.D. and the C.O.T.C. set up. The responsible officers of the two services concerned report that the spirit and conduct of the officer-cadets as excellent throughout. Some 17 naval and 13 army cadets will receive summer training at stations in various parts of Canada. I am much in favour of this kind of training.

Health. The Provincial Department of Health provided for our students, both in the Summer Session (1949) and the regular session, a thorough medical examination, a service of great value, especially since many prospective teachers were among those tested. During the year several members of both the teaching staff (including the President) and the student body were laid low by illness. The President is deeply indebted to his colleagues, especially the Vice-President, for carrying on during his illness.

Use of our buildings. The College was glad to act as host to several cultural and social groups, such as the Round Table for Social Service, the Drama Festival, the St. John's Players, the Natural History Society and the Adult Education Division's evening classes.

Summer Session. This, with its 580 students and its busy six weeks in July and August, needs a special report.

Our Semi-professional Departments, Education, Engineering and Household Science will also-be separately reported on.

The last year of Memorial University College is well worthy, in my opinion, to be the forerunner of the Memorial University of Newfoundland.


                President and Vice-Chancellor,


                June Third, 1950.