1891 Fredericton Encaenia

Alumni Oration

Delivered by: Cox, Philip


"Alumni Oration" University Monthly 10, 8 (May 1891): 125-126. (UA Case 67a, Box 1)

Philip Cox, BSc., delivered the alumni oration. After referring in eloquent terms to the recollections and reminiscences of old graduates of the University called up by the yearly reunion on encoenia day, Mr. Cox warmly eulogized the character and work of the late president of the University, Dr. Jack, from whose efforts after many years, a fresher and more vigorous institution is springing. He was glad to see that steps had been taken to preserve his memory by the establishment of a scholarship bearing his name, thus giving the lie to that cynical aphorism that, like corporations without souls, the graduates of a state university have no love for their Alma Mater. Mr. Cox clearly defined the condition and aims of student life at the University. Here students are learning at that impressionable age when neither interest nor prejudice can color their friendships, to respect and love each other, irrespective of wealth, class or creed. The Alumni society are especially interested in the welfare of the institution, and would rue the day when this central college, the very heart of our educational system, is wounded or enfeebled in any way. It is impossible to exist without it. It must be maintained as a lever of thought and action, and we must strive by all prudent, healthy means to make it more popular, by making it more useful, for it has no class or nationality to lean upon, nothing but the broad shoulders of the common schools system, and the sooner measures are taken to bring this university in touch with that system the better it will be for its general welfare.

The late change in the constitution empowering the provincial institute to elect a representative member of the university senate and making the chief superintendent of education president of that body, was a step in the right direction, and the speaker hoped to see the day when a university bronze medal will be offered for competition in every inspectoral district of the province, not only as an incentive to advanced scholarship, but as a message of good will to the homes and firesides of our people. Our country is honeycombed with emissaries of other institutions, who appeal to passions and preferences the strongest in human character, and thus draw yearly away from this institution many young men who would otherwise obtain their education here. This must be counteracted. In the first place let the faculty of this university make themselves heard and felt among the people of our province; let them come among us and into the world, on the platform, in the press and wherever great social, moral and scientific questions are being agitated. But this is not all; to enable us to compete successfully with denominational colleges, every possible guarantee must be given to parents for the social and moral welfare of their sons coming here as students. Indeed, the duty of a university is to develop young men socially and morally, as well as intellectually, and parents will not be willing to consign their beloved sons, at a time when their character is ripening and forming to the mercenary care of a down town boarding house or to youthful thoughtlessness under little or no restraint. Character building is the grandest work of education. It cannot be had in an atmosphere of indifference, the absence of official responsibility and social dangers, but in safer surroundings where the young life, responding to the magic power of student associations and friendship, is more prolific in nobler impulses, more responsive to ennobling influences. Let us gather our young charges from inauspicious influences and surroundings of down town life into this fold; let us have college residency. To this it may be objected that there is insufficient accommodation for both male and female students. But let us accommodate as many as we can. "The greatest good to the greatest number" is the only sound principle of education. Besides the government may possibly be induced to grant sums sufficient to build new dormitories. By rendering responsible supervision possible such accommodation will serve as an additional bulwark of popular confidence, and enable our friends to bid defiance to hostile sectarian influences.

Mr. Cox then dwelt at some length upon the necessity of conforming the curriculum of university to the growing needs of the people. The masses, so powerful in shaping the destinies of a country, are shaping our education. Popular ideas are forcing education out of the old ruts and into more, practical methods and is revolutionizing the very theory of teaching itself. The drift of the times, the genius of the age, are stamping their seal on our institutions. They are being shaped from below not from above. Democracy is knocking at our door and must be answered. A system of special education, fitted to the means and wants of the people, must be adopted which, quickening the perception, sharpening the observing powers, putting the souls of the young men into harmony with nature and the dignity of labor will, at the same time, prepare the eye, hand, muscle, tastes and instincts for a speedy and successful entry into practical life. The old system of teaching produced men who knew everything, yet could do nothing, but the modern theory proposes to make the acquisition of the practical a means to the development of the intellectual and moral, and thus throw into the world men of thought and also of action. To accomplish this our university course must be remodelled in the interest of technical instruction. Schools of technology, special lectures in the busy centres etc., are nothing but an answer to this demand and sooner or later we, as well as others, must make a fitting response. Under such a reformation a magnificent future is in store for our university when, instead of sending forth, as some universities do, graduates pulled up with a false esteem and sympathies alienated from mechanical and other industrial pursuits, we would educate men with powers and desires in harmony with labor, and ready to develop our country's neglected resources.—The Daily Telegraph (29 May 1891): 3.

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