1892 Fredericton Encaenia

Address in Praise of Founders

Delivered by: Bridges, Henry Seabury


"N. B. University. The Encoenia Exercises. ... Prof. Bridges Praises the Founders. ..." The Daily Telegraph (3 June 1892): 1. (excerpt)


Since it was my duty and privilege to deliver the last encoenial address in commemoration of our founder, a presence long familiar to the most of us has passed away. As Dr. Jack was the connecting link between the old King's college which Sir Howard Douglas founded, our new provincial university , a few words spoken in memory of his long and faithful services to the institution will be most fitting to the present occasion. He was connected with the college in all 45 years, during the last 25 of which he was its president and central figure. Dr. Jack was a graduate of the University of St. Andrews, and during this undergraduate course there, greatly distinguished himself in mathematics, attracting while still a young man the favorable notice of so eminent a man of science as the late Sir David Brewster. It is interesting to recollect that about the same time that he received the appointment to the chair of mathematics in King's College Dr. Jack was offered the same chair in what is now one of the famous institutions of Great Britain--the Owens College at Manchester--and it was owing to Dr. Brewster's advice that he determined to come to this province. There is no doubt that had Dr. Jack connected himself with such a flourishing institution as the Owens college soon became, he would have had work far more congenial to his mathematical tastes, but we would then have lost the energy and devotion which he brought to bear upon his work here.

When Dr. Jack was appointed to the presidency of the University of New Brunswick, in 1860, it was a critical time in the history of our Alma Mater. King's college had never been popular with the great mass of the people, and at no time in its history did it have more than 15 or at the most 20 students in actual attendance. It became the duty of the new president, therefore, to create an opinion throughout the province in favor of the higher learning, and to advocate the advantages which our provincial university extended to those young men who were anxious to obtain a liberal education. This he accomplished by accompanying Dr. John Bennett, who was then superintendent of education, in his annual tours of inspection of the superior and grammar schools of the province; thus making himself thoroughly acquainted with the state of education in these schools, bringing himself into personal communication with the teachers, encouraging them in their labors and stirring them up to a diligent and efficient discharge of the onerous duties of their high calling, and laying before parents the facilities for obtaining a superior education, which the university offered to their sons. By these annual tours the number of students was slowly but surely increased, until at the time of his retirement from the presidency, there were upwards of 50 young men in actual attendance at lectures. It is not easy to estimate at its proper value, the important service which was thus rendered to the college, still we may safely say that a number of men, who today are eminent in politics, at the bar, or distinguished in other walks of life, would either have never received a collegiate education at all, or else been drawn away to rival institutions  of learning, but for the personal influence of Dr. Jack with both parents and teachers.

In laying down a course of study for young men, Dr. Jack was very conservative but his life conservatism was of the better kind which was ready to embrace the new when it was shown to be better than the old. He was therefore opposed to the system of elective studies so much in vogue at the present time and held firmly to both classics and mathematics as the great staples of a liberal education; but he showed his appreciation of the practical tendencies of the time by taking upon himself the instruction of students in engineering until his health was unequal to the burden. Of his success as a teacher of this important branch we need no better proof than the fact that some of the ablest engineers the province has ever had, received their early training at his hands. 

As a teacher of mathematics Dr. Jack appeared to best advantage when instructing advanced and able students. In attacking a difficult problem, his first question was not how it could be solved, but how it could be solved in the shortest possible manner. It may perhaps be said that he did not always descend to the level of the poorer men of the class, and there is no doubt that at times he did not display any extraordinary sympathy with dullness; still those students who were anxious to learn always found him most genial and courteous in private explanations, and many of us can never forget the kindly interest he always took in our welfare after passing out from his tuition to assume the active duties of life.

In the summer of 1885 Dr. Jack retired from the presidency. the nervous worry of the class room, the burdens which the management of resident students entailed, had told upon his physical strength to such an extent that he was no longer equal to the arduous duties of the situation. A trip across the Atlantic to his native land in the autumn of that year did not benefit his health as much as he expected, and in November, 1886, he passed to his rest, after a brief but painful illness. 'His name remains with us as a memory and as inspiration; but his familiar face we shall see no more.' And would it not be approach our centennial year to have the portraits of our founder, of Dr. Jack and of the other early professors to grace our convocation hall? In the case of Sir Howard Douglas, clerum et venerabile nomen, we may well say--"si monumentum quaeris, circumspice"; but, what a graceful tribute to their memories it would be, to place upon these walls, the portrait of Dr. Jacob, a name still green in the memory of the old graduates of King's college; also, that of Dr. Robb, whose noble example was such a stimulus to the early students of science in the province, and of Prof. Campbell, the accuracy of whose scholarship did so much for the cause of sound classical learning here, and of Prof. d'Avray whose skill and precision in both French and English used to excite the admiration of the students of a quarter of a century ago. These were the men, the personal forces, so to speak, who carried on the good work, which Sir Howard Douglas planned when he raised this building here. 'Light may the earth rest upon the ashes of our early preceptors, and may flowers bloom in perpetual spring over their tombs.'

Di tutorum umbris tenuem et sine pondere terram
Spirantesque crocos et in urna perpetuum ver.


Let us hope then that our university will stand as she is, abating not her terms of admission, nor her grade of scholarship, and aiming still to give that thorough classic training, and that broad foundation of principles in the departments of nature, mind and moral truth, which tend to the complete cultivation of the man. The system she has hitherto followed, though admitting of some improvement, affords the true basis for the student who would ascend the highest paths whether of literature or science.

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