1927 Fredericton Encaenia

Address in Praise of Founders

Delivered by: Pugh, Robert William Bruce


"Address in Praise of Founders by Prof. Robt. Pugh Paid Tribute to Pioneers" The Daily Mail (12 May 1927): 2.

Your Honor, Mr. Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen;--

Men are ever launching out into fresh fields of activity, and are ever seeking fresh outlets for the gifts and energies of varying intensity with which they are naturally endowed. On every hand, both in the Old World and the new, we see traces of man's creative work; here nature tamed to meet his requirements, there, a building of yesterday or of long past ages, bearing witness to his work and aspirations, often carved with is effigy or with the initials of his name. Out of such as these, history is made, at least in part; and no side of history can we afford to neglect.

The history of our own University is indissolubly linked to the old stone building, here on the hill, which occupies so justly a first place in our hearts. Of how this building was planned, and grew into being, time and the present occasion do not warrant my outlining; for all this has been told in words fuller and more graphic than any at my own command. It is good, however, to remember that, although the centenary of the laying of the foundation-stone of the Arts Building was duly commemorated last year, the present year invites us to bear in mind the continuing construction of that building, which was to be completed, not quite, not nearly, as we know it now, in 1828. With the finishing of the Arts Building, the college was ready to inaugurate the regime which its founders had already laid down, and of which, despite changing times and conditions, it may be said, truly that the fundamentals have not been lost sight. What these last were, a perusal of the college minutes from the year 1800 to 1828 will show.

With the curriculum of the institution at this period I am not concerned, although I cannot refrain from quoting at least one item surrounding it, with a view to illustrating the truly difficult and straitened circumstances which attended the work of education here in the very early days. It is true that the then existing establishment was a Grammar School only, and that there was then nothing in it to lead one to suppose that out of it would grow the present University of New Brunswick. In the year 1804, Mr. Chipman, a "member of this Corporation", was requested "to make inquiry whether a fit person (could) be found among the graduates of the Harvard University willing to accept the office of Preceptor in this College, on a salary of one hundred pounds currency of New Brunswick per annum, and qualified for discharging the duties of that office as an able instructor in the following branches of literature, namely -- a correct grammatical knowledge of the English language, reading English with grace and propriety, writing and arithmetic, with the elements of Geometry, and a competent knowledge of the rudiments of classical learning." Such a person was found, and others followed regularly, under conditions gradually yet surely improving, although this in the face of difficulties proportionately increasing. To recapitulate all the major and minor obstacles attendant upon the acquisition of the lands necessary to the establishment of the present building; the grave financial problems which beset the founders at every turn problems which even involved serious alterations in the Arts Building as originally planned; and, throughout, the not always conciliatory spirit of some whose own sons might doubtless have early benefitted by such training as the College then was able to offer, would take many long hours. The fact that all these initial troubles were successfully and tactfully overcome, without prejudice to the continuing work of the institution, is no mean tribute to the high ideals and strong determination of the founders.

Let us, in the second part of this survey, consider some of these ideals, as shown in the aforementioned records. Such ideals as the following, voiced by that small body of devoted men all eagerness in their "zealous exertions in the behalf of this Institution with which the best interests of the province are so closely connected and in the success of which (all were) so deeply interested not merely as individuals but ... as loyal subjects of His Majesty--anxiously looking to a well endowed collegiate establishment as one of the surest means of training the rising generation in principles of true ... loyalty," have never died here. Greatest of all the proofs of ideal, were those evidence, in 1827, by the Lieutenant Governor of the Province, who in that year granted the Governor and trustees of the college of New Brunswick, "the sum of One hundred pounds for the provision of a gold medal with such an inscription as may hereafter be decided on to be presented annually for ever to the most meritorious student in such branch of learning as the Governor and trustees may decide." It is superfluous to remind my bearers that the donor was Sir Howard Douglas, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, and first Chancellor of King's College. The impression made on those responsible for the conduct of the college, but this enduring gift, has thus been recorded: "In the present liberal donation of His Excellency the board view and with gratitude acknowledging that the zeal and anxiety to promote the literary institutions in the Province which have so distinguished His Excellency's administration are not confined merely to the present, but by holding out future rewards as incitements to virtue and science extend to generations to come.

The Governor and trustees confidently look forward to a period not far distant when the college of New Brunswick under the patronage of His Excellency will assume a rank equal if not superior to any literary institution in His Majesty's North American dominions." Time has shown that this forecast was not only possible, but attainable.

Such were a very few only of the ideals which inspired the pioneers of University education in our province. Since the passing of our earliest founders, the institution on the hill has grown perhaps beyond their fondest dreams, and this in the face of criticism not always kindly, as is but natural wherever continuous and successful growth is maintained. To any still doubting the expediency of supporting the institution where we are gathered today, I would say that its necessity is thoroughly apparent to all thinking persons; those prepared to level at it criticism which, well intentioned though it be, yet in the main is destructive, I would invite to consider very seriously whether they could replace it by a better system under existing circumstances. No conditions are ever ideal, we know; it is surely a healthy sign of human progress, that we are ever seeking to better those in which we live. But in order to be competent to claim that attention in the world of today, which an all-round education and outlook can alone secure, it is universally admitted that a University training vies us that something not easily defined, yet concrete nevertheless, obtainable through its medium alone. This in itself is sufficient guarantee of the world-work done by our universities and continuing to give it undivided support, as in duty bound; that in the future, as now, the sons and daughters of our Province may look to the Hill, their and ours--Hill, for such culture and opportunities as their predecessors have there enjoyed, to the infinite betterment of their surroundings and to that of the world in which we live.

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