Expansion by degrees

Bishop J.F. Ryan and Bishop H.H. Clark

Bishop meets bishop – J.F. Ryan of the Roman Catholics and H.H. Clark of the Anglicans, at the dedication ceremonies for St. Jerome’s and Renison Colleges on September 9. They’re trading souvenirs, pictures of St. Jerome and Archbishop Robert John Renison.

We all sang "God Save the Queen" - the human beings with fervour, the trolls with some irony - that Saturday afternoon at the beginning of July 1962. And you might say that was the day your university really began its adult life. The heroes of the day were the dozen survivors among those first engineering students who had begun classes in Waterloo College Associate Faculties five years earlier - and here they were, graduating at last from what had become the University of Waterloo.

The place was Seagram Stadium, which you'd call University Stadium nowadays, and the occasion was the "fourth convocation" of the university. Indeed, there had been three earlier convocation ceremonies, at which degrees were granted in such fields as arts, mathematics and science, but finally on that seventh day of July the university was ready to give degrees in engineering. There were 64 graduates with the new BASc degree, of which just a dozen were from the original July 1957 gang; the rest had started later in '57 and caught up by fourth year. I still have the three-page cream-coloured leaflet that served as the convocation program, showing their names and their disciplines, including 21 from civil engineering; fifteen from mechanical; twelve from "engineering physics" (there's a story in the demise of that program, theoretical engineering for the elite, but you won't catch me telling it); eleven from chemical; and just five from electrical. Take a look, if you will, at some of the names on the list, including those of several people who have made their marks over the years as members of faculty at Waterloo: Bruce Hutchinson, Jack Kruuv, Bill Lennox, John Roorda, Barry Wills.

Indeed I was there that afternoon; one of the advantages of being a troll is that you don't have to dress up formally in order to be present at a formal occasion. And formal it was, with the women, the mothers and sisters and fiances of the graduates wearing their elegant go-to-church hats. Apart from those female relatives, it was an almost entirely male occasion, with just two women graduating that day, Julia Florence Morton with a BA and Peggy Enid Gwendoline Rogers with a master's degree in applied mathematics. There weren't a lot of women on campus in general in those days - 62 female students in 1961-62, your historian records, against 1,110 men. I don't rightly remember who the first woman on the faculty was, I'm afraid, but it might have been Dorothea Walter of the French department. She was also the first dean of women, although her name has been rather eclipsed on the campus by that of her assistant and later successor, Hildegard Marsden.

The ceremony would look brave and pathetic and old-fashioned to your eye, I'm sure, not just for being held in the shabby confines of the old gymnasium, but for the ritual by which the university asserted its seriousness, its right to exist. "God Save the Queen" was only the beginning of it; "O Canada" wasn't sung at all in those days, you know; but almost as strange, nowadays, seems the explicitly Christian benediction that was pronounced at the end of the ceremony, and printed in the program too, with "the love of God the Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit". It's dangerous to judge too much by names, of course, but as I scan the list of graduates I see mostly English and German ones, and if any of those present were Jewish or, God save the mark, pagan, I guess they didn't complain too loudly.

Oh, you were wondering about honorary degrees at that fourth convocation? Three were presented: to Otto Holden, a retired Hydro engineer, Lyle Streight, an engineer at Dupont Canada, and Gordon Patterson, director of the Institute of Aerophysics (aerophysics!) at the University of Toronto. He gave the convocation speech: "Beware," he told the young engineers, "of the over-cautious mind that advises that all the facts must be known before a venture can proceed." Sounds like a Waterloo attitude, all right. "Intuition is an important factor in human life," Patterson added, "and engineers must learn to appreciate it." After the ceremony there was a garden party in the engineering quadrangle - not the quad you know now, of course, since Carl Pollock Hall didn't exist, but the quadrangle now occupied by that sub marine, Engineering Lecture.

Well, that day was probably the highlight of 1962, and for most of the year life at Waterloo was less ceremony and more mud. A combination of both came just a few weeks later, actually, when on September 9 St. Jerome's College and Renison College called in their big guns for joint dedication festivities. Just up the hill from my mansion here by the creek, the primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, Most Rev. H. H. Clark, and the Roman Catholic bishop of Hamilton, Right Rev. J. F. Ryan, shook hands and joked over the invisible line that divides their two properties. It was said that it was the first time (1962, remember) a Roman Catholic bishop and an Anglican bishop had ever let themselves be seen in public together.

Other buildings were brought into use with less fanfare. "The arts building never has been officially opened," says your historian, James Scott. He means the building now known as Modern Languages. They just finished building it, moved people in and started using the place for the fall term of 1962, a relief and a joy to Norman High, who was moving from "acting dean of arts" to the real thing at just about that time. Pete McBryde of chemistry had taken over as dean of science.

And of course Doug Wright was dean of engineering by now, reportedly the youngest dean of anything in the history of Canadian education, not turning 35 until that October. Wright was a traveller even then - he took off for Africa for six weeks in the fall, "visiting schools and educational groups on behalf of the Canadian Universities Foundation". He came back to report that the Peace Corps, one of the projects associated with the young American president John Kennedy, was "doing a remarkable job at low cost", and to urge that Canada get into the same kind of activity. Back home, Wright had a new building to enjoy that year, as what's now described as Engineering II and III was officially opened in April, by no less than John Robarts, who had taken over as premier of Ontario a few months earlier when Leslie Frost finally retired. I don't know what you think of Ontario's Tory premiers - Frost, Robarts and William Davis - but there's no denying they had a significant part in the physical construction of your university.

Many other things were happening too. The city of Waterloo changed the name of Dearborn Street to University Avenue (and there were rumbles of conflict between UW and Waterloo Lutheran University about signs down at the corner of King Street, where commuters would get off the trolley for the long uphill walk, about whose signs saying "this way to the university" should take precedence). For the first of several times, committees considered whether to change the name of the university, and voted no. Yet another committee about the university's coat of arms was set up. New professors were hired - Robin Banks, Don Cowan, Bill Tutte, Tom Brzustowski. (When this reminiscence was first published, I also mentioned David Sprott, but I was quickly reminded that I ws misremembering, as he had arrived in 1958.)

In May the little Gazette carried a page 2 paragraph whose importance probably wasn't recognized by most readers. "Professor J. W. Graham of the Department of Mathematics," it said, "was appointed Director of the Computing Centre. The Computing Centre will now operate as a separate department in the University under Professor Graham's direction." Do you realize what was state-of-the-art in the computing world that year? The IBM 1401 mainframe, that's what. The company boasted that it replaced the vacuum tubes found in earlier models with "smaller, more reliable transistors". It went right along with the 1402 card reader- punch, which could read 800 cards' worth of input a minute. A line-printer was also available. You could practically count on your fingers faster than working with that machine - so could I, except that as a troll I have too many fingers to count by tens, but not enough to work in the hexadecimal system. As for Wes Graham, I don't think even my fingers are enough for counting how many separate times, over parts of four if not five decades, he's been in charge of computing at Waterloo, him and his younger partner Paul Dirksen.

As for academic developments, well, there was no shortage of those. In February the senate set up a "committee on physical education" to look at whether Waterloo should start a phys ed program. By July, the board of governors had given its approval, and in December the curriculum was approved; it would be a one-year graduate program, intended mostly for future gym teachers. Also in February the senate approved an honours program in geography, the nucleus around which the faculty of environmental studies would eventually be formed.

And the plans kept coming. (No end to the territorial ambitions of you academic humans, is there?) In July Ira Needles, the chairman of the board of governors, announced "an eleven-million-dollar expansion program", including a library, a new science building, a campus centre and a few other projects. Wallace Rankin, a Bell Telephone executive, agreed to be "general chairman" of the Canadian Fund for the Expansion of the University of Waterloo. "Businessmen and other citizens of this area have adopted the University of Waterloo as their own," said Needles. "We must lead the way here where the benefits from a growing university will accrue most directly." The most elegant hostelry in town was the Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener, and that was where they had the launch for the fund on September 18, with more than 500 volunteer "committeemen" (what a splendid word!) setting out to collect $3 million in private gifts. The money started rolling in, and by early winter they were two- thirds of the way there.

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