1888 Fredericton Encaenia
Delivered by: Hatt, William Kendrick
“The Valedictory Address” University Monthly VII, 9 (June 1888): 8-10. (UA Case 68, Box 1)
Your honor, gentleman of the senate, Mr. President and members of the faculty, ladies and gentlemen:
For the past number of years valedictorians have, from this spot, been narrating the story of their several classes; and the tale of the difficulties., triumphs, hopes and disappointments of the one has varied but little in its general outline from that of the other. The evolution of the class of ’87 from novi hominess to stately seniors might form an interesting study. It is truly a struggle for existence, and one in which the fittest does not always survive, at the time of those “necessary evils”—examinations followed or not by supplementaries, which it is said, are not half so black as they are painted.
In the latter part of September, 1884, one might have seen a number of youths making their way towards the portals of this university, in their anxiety to pass the dreaded ordeal before them, almost unmindful of the beautiful scene spread out before their eyes, foliage almost hiding from view the distant hills, and the amply silvery river, flowing towards the horizon—a scene which will probably never be erased from the minds of the many who have passed their undergraduate days within these walls.
Dull, indeed, and worthy to be pitied would be the student who, at the time when his collegiate life is about to begin, looks forward with no high resolve, with no fixed determination to quaff deep draughts of the Pierian spring now flowing within his reach. The future seems bright and fraught with promise, and his ideals are yet fresh and pure. Much has he heard of what he will experience, and he looks forward with some curiosity mixed with a little fear, to his freshman stage of growth. With some fear, because there has come to his ears, while yet in the security of his school at home, a word which brings gloomy forebodings which word—“hazing”—has been dinned in our ears somewhat this past winter. The presence of a large junior class greatly taxed our alertness and muscle, and by constant friction, many angles in our characters were well worn down; proverbial credulity and self-importance of a freshman soon disappearing, with benefit to ourselves and with much amusement to the other classes.
To the minds of some the term “hazing” brings with it scenes of violence, barbarous practices such as (I take reported cases) driving a young fellow on thin ice, through which he breaks and is plunged in the chilling water beneath, resulting in great physical damage to the victim; or in various ways overwhelming with terror the weak nature and sensitive temperament of some student of tender years—things inconsistent with any spirit of fair play and manly generosity, and which every undergraduate will characterize as disgraceful. This is one thing, and the good natured fun which causes no antagonism between classes, and which the so-called “victim” looks on with feelings other than those of terror, is quite another. Anything approaching such cases as have been cited, has never to my knowledge been carried on within this university.
It has been urged that young men, coming here to prepare themselves for life’s battle, should have other and more important things to engage their attention than this practice of hazing. True; but it is hinted that men of considerable years, when in secret societies, whose aims are high, play practical jokes on their new members and haze them most unmercifully. Most bodies or societies of men have customs and practices which would not perhaps bear the light of a logical inspection and surely some latitude may be allowed to young men of that age, when the hey day in the blood has not yet been tamed. The majority of students have just as much sympathy for suffering, and just as little disposition to inflict pain, as is generally found. He who is not able, or feels too important to stand the common lot falling to freshmen, had better remain within the protecting radius of the apron string.
Hazing is but one of the customs left from a college life, different in many of its aspects from our own, and is dying out so fast that, if unnoticed nothing will remain but the memory of it—“a consummation devoutly to be wished.”
Returning from vacation to our junior year, the news of the resignation of Dr. Jack, who had for so many years discharged the duties of president, was a great surprise. Through ill-health and need for rest, after a life of great usefulness, he was compelled to lay down his burden and seek in a private life renewed health and vigor. Not many months had passed before the sad news of his death was announced, and to the many graduates who had been under his care it came with a sense of personal bereavement. Of great eradication, and scholarly attainments, and closely identified with the educational interests of New Brunswick, he was well known throughout the province. His concern for the personal welfare of each student made him loved and respected by the undergraduates, and the many excellencies in his character afford an example worthy to be followed.
The Faculty lost one more of its members by the resignation of Professor Rivet, and he bore with him nothing but the kindest feelings of the undergraduates. Whatever department of life he may occupy, the best wishes of my class attend him.
It should be a matter of congratulation to the University that the choice of those who were to fill the vacancies in the staff of instructors was such a fortunate one. The widening of the scope and the advanced treatment of the course in English literature may be seen by comparing the present calendar with one of some years ago. Indeed the amount required was criticized as being too great, but to any one having experienced the course, the wisdom of its choice will be fully vindicated; and to-day or English course, the concentrated essence of all the flowers of literature which have bloomed since Caedmon first sung, will compare favorably with that of colleges having much greater pretensions than the University of New Brunswick. The studies in philosophy were also made of greater importance, and you who go forth to-day will find that the ideas gleaned from this subject will save you from many errors and fallacies, which would otherwise have proved misleading.
An undergraduate in his junior year is not commonly supposed to mortify the flesh with much study, and so it was with us, our attention being given somewhat to the activities of student life. Chief among these are the athletic sports, and the debating society, with its accessory the UNIVERSITY MONTHLY.
One of the ways by which athletics may be redeemed from the ignoble associations of the prize-ring, and from the hands of professional sporting men, is by giving this health-giving pursuit a place among the recognized practices of universities and schools where competition does not descend to low trickery. Of course, the time required for the active training which must be undergone renders it difficult to give proper attention to study, yet we find that many of our best athletes are also those highest in their class, and that the vigor and strength imparted by exercise have an influence in the study. The athletic club has been liberally supported by the public, and among its benefactors none could have been more generous or more deserving of the esteem of the students than ex-Registrar Wilmot, who has literally showered so many favors on them.
The UNIVERSITY MONTHLY has been in existence for eight years, and is an influence for good to the University, since it circulates throughout the provinces to the number of about 400 copies. Its management being wholly in the hands of the students, their composition is benefited by the exercise required in preparing articles for publication, and it also provides a means by which any real or fancied grievance may reach the ears of the governing body. Accordingly, it seems quite proper that it should receive the support of the senate and the faculty.
The many changes which were brought about during our senior year call for some comment; and of these the adoption of a four years course is perhaps the most important. This was announced not without some hostile criticism on the part of a few, but those best acquainted with the workings of the University felt that to give in three years the training which in other colleges extended over four was an attempt not always followed by success. It is true that our graduates when competition has arisen have proved themselves to be in no wise inferior to those of other institutions. They, however, have been men of exceptional ability, and the majority of students cannot absorb so rapidly the studies of the curriculum. The success of Mr. Murray of the class of ’86, who, last spring, had the distinguished honor of winning the Gilchrist Scholarship, is a matter of congratulation to the University; and I know that I reflect but the sentiments of my class when I wish him continued prosperity.
The University of New Brunswick seems to have had the credit of being rather conservative in her educational methods, and perhaps somewhat deservedly. A new spirit has entered those directing her affairs, and is manifesting itself in the various changes which show a determination to keep abreast of the educational march of the times. The point was reached where it was felt to be unreasonable to expect every student, regardless of his tastes, capabilities, and purposes, to go through the same course of instruction, and the introduction of a system of elective studies was a much needed reform. While it is true that the aim of the University is not to prepare a man for a particular trade or profession, to make a lawyer, a doctor, or a merchant, yet it is her duty, in addition to imparting a method of learning, to lead her sons up to a point where they can embark safely and well-ballasted on the many courses, whose directions they have beforehand determined. The average student comes with a view to fitting himself for entrance to some profession, and it seems right that, when the senior year has been reached, he should be allowed to exercise his judgment in selecting the studies of most benefit to him.
When it was decided by the senate that women should be admitted to the same privileges as men in this University, no mere experiment was being made. Quite a few young ladies have already availed themselves of the boon of co-education; and I am sure we all look forward with pleasure to the time when some fair girl graduate will carry away the diploma so long withheld.
The abolishment of residency within the college was received with disfavor both by the students and by the public. Considerable might be said against the action of the senate in this matter, but those acquainted with the workings of the University for the past year can best decide as to the wisdom of the change, without need of argument.
Realizing the great benefits derived from our course of study and fondly recollecting the many pleasure associated with our life at college in contact with our fellow students, ungrateful would we be, were we not to wish our Alma Mater prosperity, ever retaining an interest in her progress and an enthusiasm for her welfare. Many of our air-built castles have disappeared; the bright and fairy scene may have proved but a mirage; yet, different as may be our experience from our thoughts of what the world would be, and different as is the work asked to be done, who would regret the glowing of the young ideal which is kindled within these walls, and which, bearing men up in darker days, rouses them to
“Thoughts sublime which pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge man’s reach
To vaster issues.”
Mr. President and members of the faculty:
It is my very pleasant duty to convey to you on behalf of my class our most hearty thanks for the kind and patient treatment, and the personal sympathy, experienced by us while under your fostering care. If some golden opportunities have slipped by never to return, we are to blame, and the loss is ours. Whatever may be our future lot, we will always carry with us the memory of the pleasant and profitable three years spent under your guidance; and we trust our future will show that yours labors on our behalf have not been in vain.
To the citizens of Fredericton we express our heartfelt gratitude for the hospitality and kindness which have so aided in making our college life a happy one.
I can add but little to what will probably be to-day addressed to the graduating class of ’88. Most of you have an experience as extended as my own and will dispense with any well-meant advice, nor is it necessary to remind you that you possess but the key to the temple of knowledge. It has been impressed upon you that the wisest is only like St. Augustine, gathering a few shells on the sand. While the infinite, mysterious, fathomless ocean stretches unexplored and unexplorable before him.
You have spent probably three of the happiest years of your life , and are now stepping from the hall of preparation to the stage of action, where I trust, all will take a leading part; may none of you prove
That strut and fume their hour upon the stage
And then are heard no more.”
What reward have you for your labor? Let me give it in the words of a former speaker: “A large comprehensive soul, well purged from vulgar fears, perturbations, and prejudices, able to comprehend and interpret the works of man, of God, - a rich, flourishing, cultured mind, pregnant with inexhaustible stores of entertainment and reflection, a perpetual spring of fresh ideas, and the conscious dignity of superior intelligence.” My most earnest wish is that you have all acquired this reward, and that when you have passed from these walls with the undergraduate gown thrown aside, your duty to your Alma Mater may still be kept in mind. Let no act of yours sully her spotless robes, and may she ever be to you an object of reverential attachment and tender regard.
For one and all: Vale! Vale! semper floreatis.
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