Congregation Address
May 25, 1961
G. M. Shrum

Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, honoured guests, members of Faculty, members of the Graduating Classes, ladies and gentlemen. My first duty Mr. Chancellor is, on behalf of Dr. Cooper, Dr. MacPhee and myself, to express to you, to the President and to the Senate of this University our sincere appreciation of the very great honour you have conferred upon us this afternoon. Probably because it has taken me considerably longer than either of the other two to qualify for this degree, I have been given the additional responsibility of being the Congregation speaker. Some who will be receiving degrees this afternoon will have qualified in only three years - most in not more than four. It has taken me thirty six. However, I have enjoyed the experience and, as a matter of fact, I have observed that almost invariably those students who devote two or more years to doing the work of one seem to have much more time for extra-curricular activities than those who persist in completing the course in the prescribed period.

When I came to this University in 1925 it was in the process of moving to this site and my first and most lasting impression of the new campus was of its unsurpassing, almost breath-taking, beauty. UBC was then the youngest university in the British Empire. Now there is no longer an Empire and if there were this would not be its youngest university. Unfortunately, any distinction based upon youthfulness is always transitory. Eminence attributable to old age is far more enduring and, therefore, I think that in one respect U.B.C.'s position is fairly secure as I feel it will be the oldest university in British Columbia for a long time to come. When I arrived this was a small compact institution with three Faculties. Even though we had no Faculty Club, I soon became acquainted with every member of the staff and with a large proportion of the students. Today we are the largest university in Canada, with ten Faculties, five Schools and a graduate program which attracts distinguished scholars from all parts of the world. I should add that the renown of our Faculty of Graduate Studies will be immeasurably enhanced by the new Thea Koerner Graduate Student Centre which was formally opened yesterday.

Many of you may think that honorary degrees are acquired easily without much effort - but this is really not entirely true. The difficulty is that there is no specified curriculum and therefore one does not know just how to cram for an honorary degree. Woodrow Wilson, when he was President of Princeton, became interested in the system of granting these degrees. He met a rather objectionable individual at a dinner one evening who told him he held three honorary degrees. Wilson asked how he had been able to obtain them. He replied, "Well, the third was given because I had two already, the second because I had one and the first because I had none".

For many of you this will be your first degree and your first Congregation address. I estimate that during my undergraduate, graduate and professorial years I have listened to at least seventy five Congregation addresses. Many of them have been humorous, profound and inspiring to a degree that I could not hope to equal. But there is one quality which I have noted to be always well received and in which I am determined to excel and that is brevity.

When you arrived as freshmen at this University, President MacKenzie and Dean Gage gave you some sound advice. Your very presence here today indicates that you must have followed that advice during the past four years - those four rigorous years of coffee drinking relieved only by occasional lecture-breaks for relaxation. Now I have the opportunity of getting in the last word from the University and I hope I am able to impart one or two useful thoughts to you even though I can no longer hold over you the threat of an examination paper to compel your attention.

I should like to say a word about the world you are entering. The main characteristic of the age in which you will be living is certain to be its rapid rate of change. You are the heirs of an era which will differ more from what I have known than the modem world does from medieval times. The development of nuclear power, the exploration of space and in fact the whole rapid flowering of technological and scientific ingenuity is producing an economic and social revolution the full fruits of which will transcend our imagination. At the same time we are in the initial stages of an equally far-reaching and incomplete political revolution which is marking the end of the colonial era and the primacy of Western Europe. Since I can predict neither the course nor the final goal of these revolutions, I shall merely offer a few suggestions regarding the manner in which you can best use your university training so as to participate as heirs and beneficiaries of this legacy which the preceding generations have provided for you.

Probably the most useful message I can give you, from whom the future leaders of the world will be drawn, is to remind you that we cannot all be leaders in the sense of holding high offices and wielding great power. There is a familiar story of a mother filling in a questionnaire for her daughter to enter an exclusive finishing school. She answered the stock leadership question by saying that her daughter had no particular qualities of leadership but preferred to accept the guidance of others. She was delighted when the Dean replied accepting her daughter on the grounds that she was admitting ninety five girls for the term and since ninety four of them were born leaders it would be useful for them to have at least one follower.

All cannot be chieftains, commanders or Prime Ministers but all of you can be outstanding and give leadership in your own particular calling whether it be as teachers, engineers, doctors, scientists, writers or theologians. We should beware of overstressing the idea of leadership per se. The mere production of so-called leaders was a reasonable enough objective for colonial times when there was a great demand for administrators and commissioners for populations barely. emerging from primitive cultures. Although this requirement no longer exists, leadership training still seems to remain as an object of special devotion in many educational institutions. There is no doubt that leadership in the future win be based more upon intensive training and intrinsic ability and less upon inherited status and official proclamation than it has in the past. The leaders for our rapidly shrinking world will be drawn from the ablest graduates of our colleges and universities - from those who during their university career have received not only training for a specific field of endeavour but who have also acquired a deeply and widely cultivated mind - in other words intellectual maturity.

In a disturbed and revolutionary world university men and women particularly should be on guard against enthusiastic innovators. You must not be too eager to jettison the old and make mere innovation the sole criterion for acceptance. There are features of our present and past civilizations which are the very essence of our culture and which I hope you will make every effort to preserve. In general this is more applicable to art, literature, music and the humanities than to the sciences. Science is a relatively new activity of the human race and it is expanding so rapidly that there has not been sufficient time to develop its historical and philosophical background. As a scientist I prize chiefly the methods by which we acquire new ,and factual knowledge, but I am worried lest some of you during your stay at the University may have been led to believe that there is much virtue in the mere accumulation of detailed information, especially that which is new. If you must forget some of the things you have been taught, then let it be the unrelated snippets of information and put the emphasis on remembering fundamental and enduring principles. Except in a few highly specialized fields the greatest need is for graduates with wisdom and understanding rather than for those with a large collection of facts, even scientific ones, in their heads.

It seems reasonable to assume that the leaders of our new revolutionary world will need enough scientific background to enable them at least to appreciate the technological problems that will arise even though others may provide the actual solutions. We shall always, of course, require an increasing number of highly specialized scientists and engineers whose business it will be to provide solutions to the increasing number of technological problems. This is not to say that we shall not also require scholars and experts in the field of the arts and the humanities to preserve our cultural heritage. We shall need both. I cannot forecast the relative numbers that will be required in each of these categories but I can say that at present there is on this continent an economic and sociological requirement for far more scientists, engineers and technologists than we are producing. We need them not only in the interests of preserving and improving our own standard of living but also for making our contribution towards the improvement of the prosperity and well-being of the underdeveloped nations of the world. We are almost too accustomed to repeating the familiar figures about the relative output of technologists in the West and in Soviet Russia. Probably even more alarming statistics come from the Chinese universities where the ratio of scientists and technologists to arts students is roughly eight to one. On this continent it is hardly one to one. The effect of this disparity in relative numbers of scientific and technical personnel on our relationships with the newly emerging nations of the world is difficult to predict. It is fairly obvious that the peoples of these underdeveloped countries with their newly ,adopted emphasis on scientific and technical knowledge will soon be in a position to compete with us for the economic and industrial leadership of the world.

For those of you who will be remaining in British Columbia, and I hope it will be a goodly number, this can only be a time for almost unrestrained optimism. We are on the threshold of massive new developments unparalleled in the history of our Province. These vast new projects will increase our productive capacity, improve our industrial efficiency and stimulate our economic growth and development. They will provide rare opportunities for large numbers of trained young men and women particularly those with ideas and with courage, imagination and determination. You are needed as never before in our history to help overcome the physical and geographical obstacles in this Province so that we may harness our sources of energy and develop our natural resources and thus provide a high and increasing level of industrial and individual prosperity . No other Province and in fact no other part of the world offers comparable opportunities.

In this swiftly changing world, the many new opportunities and challenges which are opening new vistas in all directions should produce excitement amongst university graduates in all fields. Although our country is faced with the most serious unemployment of the past three decades there are still almost unlimited opportunities for university trained men and women as teachers, engineers, scientists, economists, social workers and public administrators. Because you may be offered a wide variety of employment opportunities, you must not be insensitive to the needs of the less fortunate individuals in your midst. You will want to use your intelligence and your training to help provide fuller employment opportunities for all Canadians, You will also wish to heed the needs of the newly developing nations. They require an ever-increasing number of university trained men and women to assist them with health, agricultural and industrial projects which will raise their standard of living and help preserve their newly acquired freedom.

It has been said that there are two kinds of education. There's the kind you have to get to live and there's the kind you have to live to get. You have now obtained the first and are setting out to acquire the second. Remember that as university graduates you are not specially favoured creatures - nobody owes you anything - not even a job unless you are qualified for it. You must realize that you are not very different from other young people and as Shylock remarked in another connection you will "be fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer", as those who have had no opportunity to attend a university.

As the youngest alumnus of this University, I wish while I still have this distinction to convey to you my very best wishes for success and satisfaction in your chosen career, whatever it may be. Some of you may even become "angry young men" and I hope that even these will find plenty in Canada to be angry about - without invading those spheres specially reserved for their former professors, the "angry old men". We are entering a new phase in man's intellectual progress and social evolution. Accept the role where you can serve best and having decided upon a course, lose no time in pursuing it. A trainer once gave this advice about winning races. "The thing to do is get out in front at the start and improve your position from there on". Your are now out in front; use your training and talent and you will not only improve your position but you will also adorn your Alma Mater.

Tuum Est.