1896 Fredericton Encaenia

Valedictory Address

Delivered by: Burpee, Isaac


“The Valedictory” The University Monthly XV, 8 (May 1896): 197-202. (UA Case 68, Box 1)

Mr. President and Members of the Senate, Mr. Chancellor and Gentlemen of the Faculty, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The tide of student life which through the changing years has swept through these ancient walls has left but little of memorial behind it excepting the entries in the University records; dates of matriculation which mark the student’s initiation, dates of degrees which tell of his putting forth into the wide sea of life, with its many dangers and difficulties.

Hither year by year have students congregated, bringing with them the manners of their time and the hopes and wishes of many homes. From hence have they departed, pausing but a moment at the College Gate to say farewell to friends whom, they have vowed to remember, but whom they never were to see again; then they stepped forth into the chances of life while the shadow on the college dial moved on with never-ceasing round.

Time has pursued its relentless course, and today it is the class of 1896 that has to say farewell. We have seen many changes since the month of October 1892.

On that bright fall morning fourteen matriculants wended their way up these hills to begin their university career. Seven were boys and seven girls. During the years we have undergone change. Relentless fate has ordered it; so that of the original class there are to-day but two boys and six girls who have heard the dread “Ego admitto te.” On that opening morning of the fourteen each was probably certain that he would complete his course. Time has decreed otherwise. During the years we have also received additions; so that the class numbers to-day in graduation seven girls and six boys, a total of thirteen; but one less than our matriculation number.

The history of a class for four years is the history of the university for that period, for in the class history will be found the changes which have taken place. At the close of our first year the University lost from her staff Professor Duff, one of her distinguished graduates. At the beginning of our Sophomore year the course in electrical engineering was opened under the management of Professor G. M. Downing. We regret that greater success has not attended this course. It may be that there is not yet an opening for it.

It has always been in the past that the Valedictorian was a sort of person who was supposed to handle without gloves anything connected with the University which the graduating class thought was not for her best interests. The position may be a hard one for any man. It has often been shirked. There has been too much of the feeling that the thing was all over and that it was hardly worth while to complain.

One thing that the class of ’96 most earnestly pleads for, is that there be more interest taken in the University by her professors. During the last two or three years we have seen encaenia day and encaenial exercises with but part of the faculty present. It may seem a little thing, but a student cannot help but feel that some interest should be taken by the professors in his graduation. For four years they have been his leaders, and on the day which marks to him an important epoch they are absent.

The University must look to her Alumni for aid, and if they of recent years feel that the staff take but little interest in them, then they cannot help but have little affection for their Alma Mater.

Again we feel that there is not enough done for the university in the way of advertising. The attempt has been made to aid our Alma Mater with judicious newspaper notices. We have been told that it was none of our business. That we were assuming prerogatives and that it was beneath the dignity of the university. The objections clash. If it was beneath the dignity of the university we were assuming no prerogative. If it is beneath the dignity of the university to try to draw students toward her, then it is time that we had a little less of dignity and a little more of business ability. The faculty are without doubt greatly interested in the welfare of the university, but we would ask that there be more of it shown to the students.

The graduates are the source from which the University must draw her strength and far too often we find them not only in indifference, but even in direct enmity to her, owing to the ill will and neglect of the faculty. When residency was abolished it was done at the instigation of the faculty, and chiefly at the instigation of the present chancellor. We regret that he has not yet seen fit to discontinue his opposition. There no doubt were abuses connected with it. None were so serious but that a reform could have remedied them. Its abolishment was a blow to the University from which she has not recovered and from which she is yet feeling the evil effects. It is with the greatest of satisfaction that we have seen the interest in the subject reviving. It is with a feeling of hope for the future that we have heard of the stand taken in this matter by the local government.

The class of ’96 has founded a scholarship of $75 per year. To show our interest in residency, the male members of the class intend giving a donation of $50 to the fund. We are glad to see that the efforts for its re-establishment have at length been successful and that after the holidays the old Wanigan is once more to flourish.

To the students we would say, watch carefully that which has been entrusted to you. Do nothing to hurt the cause we have been striving for. On you depends the success of residency, If you abuse your privileges then it is but a question of time when residency will be once more abolished and never can it again be brought up . Work with those in charge; make the thing a success and it is but a year or two when the government of the province and the graduates will rally to your support and the result will be a new residency building. This is the goal towards which we are striving. See to it that you do not hinder us. The faculty have been opposed to the change. We feel that they have erred. Under residency, even though there were abuses, there were more students than at the present day. This may at first seem incorrect, but a moment’s consideration will give the necessary proof. At the encaenia of 1888 there were about eighty students enrolled in the University books. To-day there are about seventy-five.. There are now some twenty female students whereas there were then only one or two. If the University were even holding her own she ought to have the same number of male students now as she had then, while the female students should be an increase in the total rather than a keeping up to the old number.

Judging by the standard of male students we have a decreased attendance at the University of about thirty. Such a state of affairs is not as it should be. The University needs more energy, more push, if she is to succeed. No ordinary business can succeed unless it has energy behind it. So with the University. We can expect but little of improvement until we have a little more modernized method in running things.

The honor system and the classification of classes are subjects which have called forth the disapproval of other valedictorians. In these we will be but following the complaints of others. We add our objections simply in the hope that the continual complaining will at length accomplish a much needed improvement. As to the honor system we do not think it has been as successful or as satisfactory as the old system. The classification runs from classics to history, and because a student happens to have a taste for classics he is put over the one whose tastes run in a scientific or philosophical line. The classical student is given the head of the class, not because he is the better student, but simply owing to an arbitrary classification. If there be any honor in our honor system let the work in each department be so graded as to be considered equal, and then let the student who makes the highest mark take the place which he has won. There may be some objections to such a scheme, but it would be infinitely more fair than the present system. In some universities a system of class marking throughout the year is maintained. We cannot help but feel that some such scheme would be beneficial in our Alma Mater. It does not seem fair to have everything depend on one final written examination. The student who possesses the faculty of getting up all his work in the last week or two of the term is able to rank as high,-yea, even higher, in some cases, - than the slow, steady student who has worked all the term. Which is the better student? Which will get the most good of his university course? The answer can be given without hesitation. The one who has honestly worked may graduate low in the class but he will have gotten more lasting good from his career than he who has passed through as merely an occasional student.

The University is not being run simply as a place to get through and then forget all you have learned.

Yet one more suggestion to those who are in authority. Would it not be as well to watch more carefully the matriculation list? A student applies for admission. He passes three out of perhaps five subjects and yet he is allowed to enter in his undergraduate course. He has supplementals hanging over him. He begins his University career heavily handicapped and it is very hard for him to catch up with his arrears of work. At the end of his first year he fails in three subjects, he loses his year, and the chances are ten to one that he leaves college in disgust. Reject him when he has first failed and he will in all probability go back to his High School in shame and begin again his work, with a determination to succeed. He will succeed, and the next fall will see him in a fit condition to begin his University career. It is a false kindness to a man to allow him to undertake a work before he is fit for it. Not only is it unfair to the man to allow him in and then come down hard on him but it is moreover unwise from the University standpoint. You may have one more matriculant to compare with your sister universities; but “the immediately profitable is not the ultimately advantageous.” Let the man honestly matriculate and you will have far less trouble in the University with supplementals and far fewer students dropping out without completing their course. These suggestions have been offered simply because we believe that they are for the good of the University. We would not have you resent our ideas. If there is even the smallest particle of wisdom in them we have fulfilled our purpose. Because a class objects to mere minutiae it is not to be understood that it does not believe in the University. There are those who take the objections of a Valedictorian as an indication that the class has no interest in the University and that it is going forth in enmity to her.

Our objections show her interest in our Alma Mater and show that we have her true well being at heart. The college year that is just closing has brought with it much of interest to the University. From this time the lady graduates are to be admitted into full membership in the Alumni Society. This is a change which will be welcomed by all lady students. It would not be fair to close the record of a year’s work without some reference to things that have brought the University into prominence.

It is with a feeling of pride that we can point to the winner of an international conference as being a student of the University of New Brunswick. And it is with particular satisfaction that the class of ’96 has to-day for its leader one who has thus brought honor to herself and to the University. The University has also been brought prominently to the front by the well deserved degree recently bestowed on Prof. Bailey. It is with satisfaction that we have seen this recognition for valuable services to one whom we respect and esteem.

During the year the University has received from Mr. Asa Dow a gift of $2,000, for the purpose of founding scholarships. The gift appeals to us the more strongly from the fact that Mr. Dow hitherto had no connection with us. There is an abundance of hope for the future advancement of the University when we find philanthrophists endowing her with scholarships, who are not numbered among her sons.

In March last an old and trusted friend of the University passed to his eternal home. Mr. E. H. Wilmot was our oldest living graduate. During his long life of usefulness he was ever the true friend of the University. The students have reason to remember him. He has left us a fine sports field, and it is to be hoped that the boys will use it with feelings of reverence and affection the last gift of him who was always their friend. Sadness has come to us from his death; but with it there is the consolation that he has but gone up higher; that he has but gone to his everlasting reward.

At the close of this year the University is to lose the valuable services of Prof. Bridges. It is with the greatest of satisfaction that we have heard of the appointment to the vacant place of Mr. W. T. Raymond, a graduate of the University, and one who has her best interests at heart.

The closing year has been a successful one among the students. The College Societies have prospered. The MONTHLY is now on a firm financial basis, and from a deficit we are leaving you a surplus.

The Debating Society has had a prosperous year. The necessity of such a society in the University is great. Far too little attention is paid to cultivating public speaking. A University graduate who cannot express his thoughts intelligibly to an audience is very little good. It is to fill this necessity that the Debating Society exists. We feel that there is not enough interest taken in the society by the faculty. Indeed this art of public speaking is becoming more and more such a necessity that a course in debating should be a compulsory subject in the University curriculum. The Society is doing a great work, and we cannot but appeal most earnestly to the students to keep up the reputation of the University along these lines. It should be an encouragement to you to look back and see the eminent speakers who have been office bearers of the society. First and foremost is Mr. Foster, the present Minister of Finance. Then too Messrs. Parkin, McCurdy, Mitchell, Phinney, and Pugsley are a few of those who have learned to speak in the University of New Brunswick Debating Society.

We have done our best for the College Associations. Our hope is that they will go on and prosper so that the success which has attended our efforts will be but a faint indication of the glory that will be yours.

One noticeable thing about the University since we came in is the improvement in the moral standing. For this credit is due to the Y.M.C.A. This association has grown, and to-day it is a power that is felt throughout the whole University.

To the students we would say: Keep up the old customs that have been handed down to you. They are the very life-blood of the students’ career. Do away with them and you rob the University life of its best part. Treasure and foster them and you will have in after years the pleasure of recalling delightful mysteries with their dearly bought pleasures. Perhaps it might be as well to caution you against carrying the spirit too far. It has even but recently got students into trouble.

To the athletes we would request that they do more to stir up an interest in athletic sports. This year we have seen contests which have been far below the standard. You cannot run sports successfully unless more of the students take part. This year one freshman entered the sports. What do you expect to do when the freshman class are seniors? If they do not take part in their first year, they most certainly will not in their fourth. Ours is a class that from its beginning has taken a prominent part on the athletic field. Therefore it is that this subject appeals to us most strongly. To the students that to-day we are leaving behind we ask you to do your best for the student life of the University even though it may be at a personal sacrifice.

The man who graduates from college with only a reputation as a student is not the man who will take the highest place in life. It is rather he who develops himself into the all round man. He who works well for the student associations will do well for himself.

Those who were but a little while ago juniors, now take charge of affairs. You have an important trust placed on you. You have no longer men older in experience over you. The dignity of the students and the reputation of the University is in your hands. Watch carefully your trust. In whatever you undertake for the good of the University you will always have the best wishes of ’96.

The people of Fredericton have always been ready to help and encourage us. To them our debt of gratitude is great. In after years, the City of Fredericton will be recalled with kindly feelings and with regret that we have not done more for the many kindnesses we have received.

To the faculty we return our thanks for the good you have done us. For four years you have led us ever upward and onward. Our advancement has been your aim. We feel our inadequacy to even begin to tell out to you our gratitude. There have been differences of opinion between us, but your decisions have always been tempered with justice and with equity. And now in closing as each class has come up here year after year it has had visions of glories opening out before it. Each student sees spread out before him a glorious career. The wrecks of time do not mar his vision. When we first ascended these hills we too saw things spread out before us with brightness. To-day we have finished, and the past appears to us with many failures. It has not been to us what we expected. The rosy hue is all gone and we see now but the dread reality of life. What the future has before us we do not care to see. The past we turn to for guidance. It is a past that bears written on every side “the University of New Brunswick” and “the City of Fredericton.” Rest assured then that in the future we shall always remember the Alma Mater that has sent us forth and the city in which she stands. The time has come for closing. There remains but that one dread word. The word which we are loathe to utter and yet which must be said, to you one and all, Farewell.

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