1891 Fredericton Encaenia

Valedictory Address

Delivered by: Jack, Ernest Edmund Brydone


Delivered by E.E. Brydone Jack

Your Honour, Members of the Senate, Mr. President and members of the Faculty, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is with great diffidence that I appear before you this afternoon, knowing as I do, how the valedictorian of our provincial institution is criticised by those renowned in learning and skilled in oratory, but a little allowance must be made for me who is just entering the wide wide world, and who has still much more to learn. The time for delivering the valedictory has been changed from the year after to the same year of graduation, since the valedictorian naturally desires to have his classmates around him, and in addition to this, the exercises of this afternoon would have passed without any valedictory unless such a change were made.

As this was only decided upon a little while before the closing, time was not allowed to the favoured one of the class, in which to do justice to himself, either in his oration, or in his examinations; but as was remarked by one, if the valedictorian failed to obtain his degree, he would have the sympathy of his class. In fact the speaker when appointed to this distinguished honour, hesitated whether to cross the Rubicon and take the risk it incurred, or to sadly throw away the glory, and make sure of his degree. Charybdis yawned on one side of him while Scylla towered aloft on the other, and the way to honour lay between.

The graduating class has a peculiar history of its own, which differs in many respects from those of preceding years.

It was the first-class to enter upon the four years course, and the first to be deprived of the satisfaction which one feels in knowing the individual standing of the class.

In its march through the four years it had the first advantage of the Civil Engineering course, and of the course in Physics. Through new fields and new pastures it has led the way.

On a clear cool October day might be seen numerous youths fresh from the High Schools and with a mixture of awe and dread in their hearts, climbing the terraced hill, which leads up to the building about which they had often heard vague and indefinite rumours. Such was their awe that they scarcely noticed the glorious panorama which lay spread out before their unobservant eyes. Beautiful waving foliage and the tinted leaves of autumn, blended with exquisite harmony on the north, through which occasional glimpses of the river’s sinuous course might be had; while towards the south could be seen in full view the broad surface of the same calm and peaceful river gliding perpetually to the sea. On either side the hills retreated to their graceful undulating lines, here and there broken by a deep furrow denoting the existence of smaller streams. A scene from nature which would have brought peace and quiet to their troubled thoughts, and prepared them to undergo with composure that dreaded ordeal which loomed up when they entered the building, standing grim and gaunt before them.

The examination with all its fears and perplexities safely past, we were enabled to look around and make new friendships among our future fellow students, friendships which have ripened and grown stronger and deeper as the years have rolled by one by one. With what ardour did we look forward to drinking deep and refreshing draughts from the Pierian spring of knowledge, that spring which never satisfies but creates a stronger and stronger desire for more, the deeper the draught. Of the different branches offered to us of which will we drink deepest? A voice seems to say to us "Take the good the Gods provide thee."

Classics, with its enticing myths and legends lay at our feet, ready to be stored away in our treasure house. Not only do the myths and legends strengthen our imaginative powers, but the difficulty of rendering these old languages into the modern teaches us a perseverance and a quickness which can be learned in few of the other subjects. In addition to this the mental training which classics affords to the young and mobile mind is almost unsurpassed. What lofty and elevated thoughts are we not given by coming into contact with the renowned writers of Greece and Rome. We are almost thrilled as we read the majestic verse of these old writers. Let classics ever be one of the most important subjects in any arts college.

Then English Literature presents its beauties to us and 'soothes our souls to pleasures.'

We read with delight the large number of books laid down in the course. From this do we not gain a power of expression, a region from which to enlarge on our ideas and widen them, a way in which to express our thoughts in flowing language, and to clothe them in the garb of pleasure. And from English what great intellectual delights do we not gain, delights which do not fade away but remain with us as long as memory holds a seat in our frame.

Science in dealing with the laws of nature charms us with its application to the common things we see around us and opens out new delights in the way of exploring nature, and possesses us with an insatiate desire to push explorations and researches further and learn about all nature.

From Mathematics we may derive a force and exactness of thought which a youth passing through college needs so much, and thus strengthen our reasoning power; sometimes we even aspire in our thoughts to become another Archimedes or another Galileo.

Later in the course we were enabled from the study of Philosophy to pry into the nature of our minds to analyze and to subject all our principles to a minute examination, by which we were trained to control and direct our vagrant and wandering thoughts.

The extended course in Physics (of which we only had the privilege to enjoy for one year) was rendered exceedingly interesting and instructive by the efficient lectures of Prof. Duff.

Astronomy taught us to regard ourselves as beings great in mind though small in body and the universe as one small ball of which we could discern the separate parts and perceive all their motions.

The course in Civil Engineering though difficult has been taught by Prof. Strong in an exceedingly thorough and efficient manner inspiring his pupils with that love of his subject for which he himself is noted. On account of his departure to accept a lucrative position in Montreal the University will lose an excellent Professor whose place will indeed be hard to fill with so much credit, and the students will lose one who has taken a warm interest in all their proceedings who has ever been ready to aid and assist them and who, during his short stay, has made himself respected and loved by one and all. Our best wishes and desires for his undoubted success attend Prof. Strong in his new field of labour.

In losing Dr. Hyde the students will miss one who has endeared himself to all, and we hope that he will cherish pleasant remembrances of the halls of the old U.N.B. when, over an evening pipe he thinks of the past days.

The University is now in a position to offer an excellent scientific course, embracing Physics, Civil Engineering, and Natural Science, and thus should hold out stronger inducements than before to intending students. The action of the Alumni Society in founding a chair in Philosophy cannot be too much commended. They have taken the first and let us hope not the last important step towards assisting their Alma Mater. Let them be an example to others, once the ball is set rolling let it not stop. People must cease to regard the institution as belonging entirely to the government and therefore requiring no aid outside of this, but must look at it as something in which they are personally concerned and reflecting credit or discredit upon themselves as belonging to the province.

We feel great pleasure that the long and faithful services of the late President Dr. Jack are recognized to such an extent by the old graduates and that the Brydone Jack memorial scholarship is being founded. Thanks in connection with this are also due to the members
of the St. Andrews Society, who have generously contributed to the fund although having at the same time to support their own scholarship.

Athletic sports were in full life when we entered college and an excellent physical training was guaranteed to all belonging to the different clubs which flourished in all their vigor. Higher ambition in athletics a man could not have than to become one of the foot ball team, or acquit himself honourably in the annual Olympic contests which brought forth those to whom were granted agility and lightness of limb, and who strove to win the laurels and perhaps to receive a smile from the fair one amongst the large assemblage gathered to witness these old and time honoured games. The students were greatly disappointed when they found that the field which had been given to them by the kindness of Mr. Wilmot for athletic games was to be used for different purposes. Mr. Wilmot had ever been generous to the students and in consequence they only bear him goodwill and have never wished to injure him in the slightest. Although such a small graduating class, we matriculated with a muster roll of twenty-four, who were all firmly united in the friendly tussels occuring between Juniors and Freshmen and thus exhibiting that unity and friendliness of spirit which has distinguished them in their four years struggle (though not unmixed with many pleasures) for the golden banner of Knowledge. While still in the safe confines of the schools we had heard of the word "hazing," and had been taught to regard it as representing some barbarous and terribly cruel treatment inflicted upon the green and verdant youth who trusted in every one and every thing; but allow me to say that never was a Freshmen class treated more kindly and more considerately than was ours by the one preceding it (perhaps our number added also to the respect which we commanded)

Deep was our sorrow when we found one amongst us base enough to attempt to break the harmony and good feelings which existed between the two classes, simply because he could not throw contempt at those who were his seniors. Enough has been said on this subject by the last valedictorian and we would only pain our hearers and ourselves by more than this passing reference to such an event.

Our Freshmen year probably had its influence to a certain extent upon all our characters forming and moulding them and rubbing off by contact with the higher classes those angular points of our nature which showed so prominently during the first of the year. Nothing tends more to fit a man for crossing the span of this short life than the social intercourse he obtains among his fellow students and which acts during that period of his existence when he is most impressionable, when a very slight matter may influence his whole life.

When we became Sophomores we performed our duty towards the class below kindly and gently, but firmly, even as we had been corrected of our many faults so we corrected these youths who came under our charge.

Early in the present year a new departure was made by the students, who entertained their many friends at a conversazione. Flags, greening, and gay decorations transformed the somewhat bare halls of the college into a place such as we read of in fairy land. And the merry throng of ladies and gentlemen continually passing to and fro, lent a beauty to the evening from which the students themselves derived great pleasure.

The departure of Dr. Dyde after we had the pleasure of enjoying his lectures for two years caused universal regret. One who so thoroughly knew his subject and interested the students in it could not fail to cause sorrow by his abrupt departure.

In the Senior year a general gloom was cast over our spirits by the death of two former class mates.

Mr. Coburn was obliged to leave after his second year, on account of an illness caused partly no doubt by over work. With his cheerful and hearty spirits he could not fail being a favorite with all, and it was with feelings akin to personal bereavement that we heard of his death. The news of Mr. Clark’s death during the Easter holidays was a shock which we felt very much, as we thought how two of our youthful friends were carried away when just entering this life’s arena.

Our first years had been passed in peace and tranquillity undisturbed by any edicts from a body called the "Board" but in the last year painfully were we reminded that such a body was still in existence. First one shot and then another soon after, made us beware of our conduct.

The criticism of the President last summer by the St. John and local press, has not tended to raise the University in the opinion of outsiders. Grave and serious charges were made, charges to which one holding such an important position should not be open or which should be immediately capable of refutation.

That such charges were even made does not speak well and is detrimental to the college itself.

The very climax was reached when one paper proposed that the University be abolished, that she was not doing her work, had passed her stage of usefulness, and was no longer necessary. Need we mention the many prominent men in the Dominion and elsewhere, men who have been and are the leaders among mankind who hold high positions in the government of our country, men who are acknowledged lights in the intellectual world, who have gone forth and won laurels in other countries and some of whom supply our colleges with Professors. Are not these sufficient records of her usefulness? Truly were such a thing said a century later the ghosts of all these men would rise up in wrath, indignation and sorrow to carry destruction to all those who even dared whisper in their hearts such a thought.

Great was the surprise and interest awakened by the recent action of the government in introducing an entire change in the constitution. The chief Superintendent of education to be President of the Senate and a chancellor to be appointed from among the professors.

How will such a change affect the University is the question which every one asks. Will it be beneficial or will it be hurtful?

These are questions which time alone will answer with certainty. If the government appoint men fitted for the positions who are interested in the University and straightforward in all their dealings, there is every reason to suppose that the change will be beneficial, in so far as it throws the University more in contact with the schools, making it the head of the educational system of the province.

We are confident that the present Chief Superintendent in the dual position would be indefatigable in procuring a larger attendance at the college. The choice of chancelor of the college needs a great amount of careful consideration. He must be a man who will inspire honour and respect, for all students have an inbred sense of honour which they also expect to find in those placed over them. Thus the Sphinx proposes grave questions to the Government "see that ye answer them aright."

Not only are changes needed in the constitution of the University for its healthful progress. But we still lack the improvements of modern invention. The system of heating the University is exceedingly ancient. In the halls and lecture rooms may be seen the old-fashioned box stoves throwing out a ruddy glow from their numerous cracks and crevasses and alternately reminding us of the burning sands and frozen lake so vividly described by Dante. It would be ridiculous if it were not pitiful to see an old man bent almost double by a heavy load of wood ascending with laborious steps and slow three long flights of stairs in order to feed the capacious jaws of these old pre-historic stoves.

Then we sadly feel the need of telephonic communication between the city and college. A better equipped gymnasium would also add greatly to the usefulness of the institution.

By the abolition of residency the students do not receive sufficiently the social intercourse which forms as much a part of a college training as the lectures given by the professors. The interest felt in their Alma Mater by the older graduates is not and cannot be the same now, when we have to trudge like school boys from the heart of the city up to lectures and then retrace our weary steps for our midday meal. Why could not dormitories be built near the old building? If this were dune, the students could take greater advantage of the library, of the laboratory, of the museum, of the Debating Society and of the gymnasium in addition to the preparation they would receive among themselves for entering the battle field of life. Although we were debarred from receiving fully such benefits, we long to see the time when a sister building will arise and be devoted to the students, and the future graduates will refer feelingly and with a pleasure and pride unmistakable to the rooms and halls in which they obtained their preparation for life. In addition to these changes there are many more of minor importance.

Would that we had some Goethe.

"Physician of the iron age
To read each wound, each weakness clear
And strike his finger on the place
And say Thou ailest here, and here."

and then some "Wordsworth’s healing power" to shed on us the "freshness of the early world" and drive away each remnant of disease.

To the members of the Faculty, we desire to express our heartfelt gratitude and esteem for your valuable assistance in our various studies for the interest you have evinced in our progress, and for the kindly counsels by which we were much benefited; and we hope that you will ever cherish pleasant remembrances of the class of ’91.

To the inhabitants of the Celestial City we desire to bid a sad farewell. I could hardly do so for the individual members of the class, better leave such a parting to be enacted by themselves.

The same old cannon which has for many years announced to you the departure of another class will no more arouse you from your peaceful slumbers.

Last Encaenia the warring elements of which it was composed, decided to part company, and we were left lamenting. But do not suppose that our farewells are less hearty or less fraught with sorrow.

To the undergraduates, it is needless to speak of the pain we feel at leaving our old companions. I can hardly offer any advice to you, but that you should keep up all the institutions of the students, to take an interest in every thing appertaining to the University and ever to have for a motto "Excelsior."

To one and all, Vale Vale, semper floreatis.

Addresses may be reproduced for research purposes only. Publication in whole or in part requires written permission from the author.