Etherington: Remembering those who shaped the university

It was interesting to see the published lists of Western Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors and Board of Governors Chairs in Western News (“Making an historic connection with her subjects,” Sept. 29), and notice the gap between 1914 and 1927 when there is no record of a portrait for Edward Ernest Braithwate, Western’s second President after Nathaniel Chamney James (1908-14).

Braithwaite, for reasons not altogether clear, resigned as President in 1919 after five years in office. There is considerable detail in J.R.W. Gwynne-Timothy’s publication Western’s First Century, where the solid academic background of Braithwaite is provided – MA and PhD from Harvard.

Braithwaite had led Western through the difficult First World War challenges, and he proposed key strategies for the development of the university at the time when lands were being purchased to create the present campus. But he was not to be the leader of the future university. He died in 1928.

Western, in fact, did not have the position of President from 1919-27. For those eight years, the university was administered by the Board of Governors and university Senate, and managed by the Deans of Arts, Medicine and Public Health. William Sherwood Fox, who was the Dean of Arts, was named president in 1927 and served with distinction in that capacity for 20 years.

I wonder if others feel Braithwaite deserves to be remembered and have his portrait hung in the Great Hall.

The Western News article also properly profiles Bishop Isaac Hellmuth as Western’s first Chancellor (1878-85), again because his portrait hangs in the Great Hall, but no reference is made to the Rev. Alfred Peache, who was Chancellor between 1885-1900 – but never visited Canada from England – and Chief Justice Richard M. Meredith, who was Chancellor from 1909-14.

It should be noted William James Roche, Chancellor from 1916-29, was one of the first two students graduated by Western in 1883. He earned the university’s first degree in medicine, was elected as a Member of Parliament, serving for 21 years, and while serving as Chancellor was also the first head of Canada’s Civil Service Commission.

Jim Etherington
BA (Hons) Journalism, 1961