Bill Tossell

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Bill grew up on a farm near Binbrook, entered OAC at the age of 17 in the fall of 1943 and graduated in the Field Husbandry option in 1947. He obtained his MSA in 1948 and joined the faculty of the Department of Field Husbandry. He took leave-of-absence and completed his PhD at the University of Wisconsin in 1952. On his return to OAC, he was responsible, along with Don Huntley for the development of the Field Crop Recommendations program. He was Head of the Crop Science Department during the transition to the Federated Colleges and then the University of Guelph. He became the Associate Dean of OAC in 1966 with responsibility for establishing the research and extension contract between the University and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. He was appointed as the first Dean of Research and oversaw the rapid expansion in research at the University. He was also heavily involved in international agriculture, serving on the board of a number of International Agriculture Institutes and as Chair of the Centre for Plant Genetic Research Resources in Rome. For these efforts, he was one of the first recipients of the Agriculture Institute of Canada International Award.

Graduation Year




Interview Date


D. Murray Brown

Call Number

RE1 UOG A1340104


Bill Tossell interview


Ontario Agricultural College
Interviewed by D. Murray Brown
October, 1997
Edited Transcript
M This is an interview with Bill Tossell, graduate of the Ontario Agricultural College in 1947. Conducted by Murray Brown, OAC ’51 on October 3, 1997 for the University of Guelph Alumni Association Oral History Program.
Bill, it is 50 years since you graduated from OAC. Do you recall what incident influenced you to attend the Agricultural College at Guelph?
B Murray, I can indeed. I remember when I finished high school in the spring of 1943, I thought I wanted to be an engineer so I went to McMaster University. I was 17 at the time, too young for the services, but they took in engineers if you joined the Army Engineers, gave you a first year Engineering and then you are in there service. I went to McMaster and found they had just closed off two weeks ahead of the recruitment so I was quite devastated. So I remember that time, I had to change my plans and I knew one of the young people near our home who was in year ’44 so I went up to talk with him. My problem was that I didn’t have any money and I had to find somewhere to go that I could afford to go and talking with Joe Fletcher, he gave me all the background of OAC, he told me the costs and I got very enthusiastic because I liked biology, I liked doing all the things around a farm and I liked collecting insects and plants and I said “this sounds like something I’d like!” That’s why I went to OAC.
M Well that’s great. Bill, you mentioned that you went to McMaster University first. Does this mean you were raised in the Hamilton area?
B I was raised on a farm actually in the in the Binbrook area, Binbrook was my home village, although that’s not too far from Hamilton.
M And was it a one-room school you attended in Binbrook or was it more than that?
B Oh yes! It was a one-room school. We had everybody in one place.
M And then did you attend high school in Binbrook?
B No high school was in Stoney Creek which was 5 miles straight south of our farm and that meant that I had the happy opportunity of bicycling up and down the Escarpment. That was great fun.
M Oh. And since you started to OAC during the Second World War, did you live in residence in your first year or did the Air Force trainees still occupy the residence at that time?
B Oh, the Air Force trainees still occupied the residence. #4 Wireless School was there. That was an interesting development on the campus. The first time I saw the campus it looked like a beautiful one but it had the fence going around it cutting off the Administration Building and Mills Hall and the whole lot of the area at the University. So the Air Force was there. We then, in first year, had to find a residence downtown so we lived in houses wherever we could find a room downtown.
M So when did you move into residence then Bill?
B We were in residence after Christmas of our second year. At that time we moved back into the Administration Building.
M So you lived in what is now Johnston Hall for your second, third and beyond that or just second year?
B In second year I was there, third year I was in Mill’s Hall, and fourth year I moved back into what’s now Johnston Hall as a Dean on the fourth floor of Johnston Hall.
M Your class was small compared to the years that had War Veterans Bill. Did this help to make your class a close-knit unit?
B I think it did Murray. We had about 55ish people in the class. We were all young. That was another factor when we came in and I think whether our age plus the fact that the class was small we very quickly got to know each other, made us be a very tight-knit unit. However, one of the interesting things about our year was that at the beginning of our third year, which was the fall of 1945, and in fact the semester before one or two people from the services came back and joined our year and in the fall of ’45 a lot of return service people joined the year. This was very interesting because this was a very experienced group who had gone through a very stressful situation, they were much older than we were and it was melding a group of relatively young, inexperienced people with this group of older, experienced ones. It could have turned out to be two groups within the year. The fascinating thing was, and this was commented on at our 50th Anniversary dinner, that the two groups melded together and became one unit and this was a very fascinating development. It made us graduate as a very strong, integrated unit and we have kept together that way, both the return service men and those who were the young ones. They all became friends and they stayed together.
M Well that’s great Bill. I know quite a few of your classmates and I actually find that they are a very close-knit group. And as you know, I graduated four years later and we have a very active class and I know a lot of your class or some of your class ended up on campus later which we’ll talk about in a few minutes. But let’s finish off on the times you were an undergraduate. Were you impressed with the food served in Creelman Hall after having the wholesome farm meals cooked by your mother?
B Well, I can’t say I was overly impressed with the food in (chuckle) in the dining hall but I love the old dining hall, you know, we had wonderful times there at mealtime, we had lots to eat.
Some of the food, of course, was terrible I don’t think anybody could ever forget the scrambled eggs but we had great fun and, of course, some of the food that people didn’t like, they ended up throwing it once in a while at others and so they found a use for it Murray (laughing).
M Yes, it didn’t change even over the next four years I know Bill. Let’s move to your classes and did you have a full schedule of classes every hour of the day from 8:30 in the morning through ‘til 4 o’clock in the afternoon and with an hour lunch break?
B That’s exactly the way it was. We all took the same courses in our first two years and the time was filled up pretty completely.
M Yes, much different than today.
B Very different from today. There wasn’t as much time nor was the education concept there for individual learning by being put on your own the same way as students are today.
M Do you think it would have helped to have had some spare classes to think and reflect on the subjects covered as students have today?
B Yes, I think it would have been better provided that the teaching was of the nature that it could direct us to the kind of reading and thinking we needed to do. I think at that stage the teaching concept seemed to be more teaching, here’s the information you should take it down, you should learn and remember what we taught you and go away and go over your notes and make sure you understand everything that has happened. Very different from the other concept where a student is lead into doing a lot of his or her own thinking and searching and coming to conclusions.
M Yes, in those days, of course, there wasn’t the reading material that there is now. Massey library had very useful books and volumes of information but really nothing compared to what we have today as a result of the scientific achievements and so on that have been made during the last 50 years.
B Oh that is a big factor, there’s no doubt about it. Massey was a reasonably good library for it’s times, I thought. It was well run, well organized, materials were available and we used it to a good degree but certainly it didn’t have the breadth of information that students have access to today and they don’t have other sources to tap in for information. So it was a very different and learning environment. I used Massey Library, I can give you a good example of how I used it as a student, it also ties into what we were talking about on the different teaching concepts, I think. I took a course in poultry; I think it was in my fourth year. By that time I had gotten very interested in genetics and I knew I was going to go ahead somewhere in the field of genetics. In the poultry course we had to do some practical feeding of chickens which I though was a waste of my time and I guess I didn’t do a very good job on it. And the professor got the idea that I wasn’t very interested in poultry and wasn’t a very good student but when they assigned a project for us to do, I picked one up on poultry genetics, and I love genetics, so I went into the library and I read everything in sight and I wrote an essay, handed it in. The professor called me in and said “Tossell, I read your essay, I know you didn’t do it! I’m going to have to give you a high mark on it, I’ve given you a 90 something or another,” but he said “I know you didn’t write this yourself, I went to the library and checked some of the reference and found they were correct, but I want you to know that I know you didn’t do it.” Now I think that’s a good example of a student wanting to do some learning on his
own, working in the environment of where teaching was done in the other direction, that is ‘I’ll tell you what to write down and to remember and you take the information and learn it and you’ll be OK’.
M Bill, I know you went on to graduate studies after graduation and in Field Husbandry, which is of course now Crop Science. Where did you take your graduate studies?
B I took my Master’s Degree first, Murray, at Guelph in the Field Husbandry Department, started immediately after graduation and finished it in November of 1948. Then I joined the faculty of the department and I joined the department because of the high salaries they paid, $2750 was my annual salary and I joined the Field Husbandry Department because they paid more than the Institute at Ottawa, Canada Agriculture in Ottawa, I went down for an interview there and they wanted to hire me but they only paid $2700 a year. So I took the one with the high salary (chuckle), started at Guelph in 1948 then I went on leave of absence in the fall of 1950 to Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin, for a PhD in plant breeding and genetics and came back to Guelph in the spring of 1952.
M You returned to OAC in 1952 while I was in the MSA program in the department. As I recall, you were one of the few new faculty at that time. But there were others who were given a leave of absence like you were to take post-graduate studies in in the United States.
B Yes there were. It was an interesting period Murray. It was a period of of rebuilding the scientific expertise of OAC. You know, OAC back in the 1900’s in its early days, before 1900 and after, I would think up to almost 1920’s or ‘30’s, thirty, maybe 1930, was a very highly respected scientific institution in North America. I think that’s pretty well known. Certainly, if we use the example of my own department, Field Husbandry, with Dr. Zavitz, he was know across North America as one of the outstanding Crop Science people in North America. And this science-based program in crops at Guelph was second to none in North America. The most advanced techniques were used, the plant breeding techniques that were used were as advanced as anywhere in the world and the outcome was strikingly advanced too in things like OAC ’21 barley that set the world standard, North American standard at least for malting barley and became and remained the standard right up until almost the 1950’s and a succession of new varieties and new crops that came in. Outstanding. Then after the during the Depression and after, there were relatively few new staff hired at Guelph and I believe that the time I was there the scientific side of and expertise of OAC was only mediocre. It didn’t stand up to the quality of the best institutions in North America. It had slipped. And I think we can give a lot of credit to Bill Reek who came in as the acting president when Dr. Christie had a heart problem, and I think that was in my first year! He came in acting with the responsibility to building up the facilities quickly for the returning veterans and so there was that fantastic expansion in numbers of people that came in and he did a super job on that and I think the faculty there did an excellent job of of teaching and developing people as individuals. And I don’t believe that there is any institution that did a better job in that period of developing the individual to be able to handle him or her self with an audience or out in society and I think that’s probably the reason why so many OAC graduates went on to high managerial jobs. I think they did extremely well, they are broadly trained. The shortfall was in the scientific side of it and Bill Reek saw that as it moved toward the late ‘40’s and introduced a program of trying to bring in new PhD’s onto the staff. And so he started the program there of hiring some young people that he thought would be great credit to the institution and sending them off on leave of absence for training. I
don’t remember all of the ones that were sent off but if I stay to our own department Don Huntley was one, he was the first one in the department brought in when he came back from the services. He was sent off on leave of absence for his PhD and the understanding was that as soon as he came back, I would be on leave to get mine. And that was the concept that was used across the institution either by leave of absence where that was necessary or by going out to recruit new faculty with PhD’s with a strong scientific background that Bill Reek used to re-establish the scientific background and excellence of the OAC and I think that President, and he became President , deserves a fantastic amount of credit for the work he did in building the scientific strength of the institution. When you look around at the people that came in at that stage, there was Don Huntley and I in Crop Science, came out of that program. At the same time in the soils department, Burt Matthews was hired just back from PhD at Cornell. In Animal Science Clare Rennie was hired and we could go on down the line. But that’s what happened at that time right around 1950 and OAC, I believe, from that point on entered a new era where science was back as a very, very strong element in the OAC combined with the broad training that developed the people as individuals. And we had a blend after that was a very exciting blend. I found the 1950’s, Murray, a really exciting era in the OAC because we had all kinds of excitement in the scientific side. There was a spirit around the place that said we needed to get out and get the modern scientific knowledge out to the farmers of Ontario. And so there was a combined effort there of applied science to get the scientific basis and information out to farmers and the good science being brought in to strengthen the research programs of the OAC. The 50’s were , in my mind, a very exciting time to be in the OAC.
M You mentioned the exciting 50’s at the OAC. As I recall it was during this time that the Field Crop Recommendations and other crop publications were introduced for Ontario farmers. Can you tell us about the introduction of the Field Crop Publication that was started about that time, I believe?
B That was a very interesting development. You know, at that time, OAC was making recommendations to farmers about varieties to grow and fertilizers to use and anything else on crop production, Ridgetown making it’s own recommendations, Kemptville making it’s own recommendations Ottawa and the Canada Agriculture with it’s various stations, were each, in Ontario, making their own recommendations and Don Huntley and I, in particular, felt that there was something wrong about this that surely we could get everybody together in Ontario and come up with a set of recommendations that would be consolidated and would make sense to farmers across the province and make it easy for farmers to know what the recommendations were. It so happened at this time that Cornell University had developed, what we thought, was a an outstanding publication which they put out annually with field crop recommendations in it. So Don Huntley and I went to Cornell and sat in on one of their meetings at which they made their field crop recommendations. I made decisions on some of the things that would go in the annual recommendations and found out how they went about it and when we came back to Guelph then it became my job to see if we could get this done in Ontario. Don worked away at his end trying to get Agriculture Canada and some of the other institutions together in a field crop committees and I worked with him on that and the committees that I was responsible for and I took on the job of trying to get it all put together in a publication. And we we put out 296 is the publication and it grew from field crop recommendations in terms of varieties through to combining in it fertilizers recommendations and then pesticide recommendations and other recommendations for crop production, put out annually from that time on and its its continued right through to today. I think
its it was one of the very important advances at that time in getting information out to farmers, that is, up to date information immediately available to farmers. And also the other thing that happened in regard to those recommendations is that we tied the seed trade into it. We brought the the seed industry together, informed them of what was going on in the way of new information of crop varieties and crop production practices, and got them involved and got them to operate as partners with us and then later the other parts of the industry came in. I think that might have been a very important step forward in getting the important results from our scientific research out to the community quickly and in a form that was easy for the farmers to use.
M Yes, Bill, certainly those recommendation publications have had a big impact on Agricultural production in Ontario over the last 40 years. Having a little bit of involvement with the Ontario Corn Committee back in the early stages of those publications, I know the amount of effort that went into their preparation and publication and now I understand there are some changes being made with respect to variety and other crop recommendations, especially for corn, as I understand it. And we hope that those that are involved now have as much impact on agriculture in Ontario, as far as crops are concerned, that you and Don Huntley and others had having introduced those publications back in the 1950’s.
Let’s move on then to more recent times and the development of the Ontario Agricultural College into the University of Guelph system. I know you were Chairman of Crop Science at the time the Federated Colleges were formed or about that time and later became Associate Dean of OAC. I’d be interested in your observations of those times in the early 60’s and the development of the University of Guelph.
B Murray, that was also a very exciting time. It was interesting, too, at the time that the University was being developed in thinking there was a lot of reaction across the province and some of us on the faculty who were out at farm meetings and visitors coming in were on the firing line all the time, and the question that was asked of us time after time was “What will happen to the OAC if there is a University formed at Guelph? Will the University submerge the OAC?” because the farming public liked the OAC, they depended on the OAC and they didn’t want anything to happen to it and so, naturally, in a time of change they were concerned. My view, and I think quite a few others, were of the same was I simply said to them “Look, this is a great development. This is a development that will strengthen the OAC and strengthen what the OAC can do for the farm community in Ontario and it is something we need. It will put the OAC students in the milieu along with the leading science students and general science and engineering and the arts and the social science, they will be in a broader milieu and this is going to be very important for the development of the new group of OAC students in the next decade where they need to be broad and they need to understand a breadth of other aspects in the world beyond what could be taught in the OAC as an OAC only. So I was very supportive of the concept of the University and happily it worked out that way. There were growing pains in that time, certainly, when the Federated Colleges were formed, that’s when the Ministry of Agriculture made it’s decision not to go the route of the US and form the Colleges of Agriculture within the University and give them the responsibility for research and extension in the States. OMAF, at that time the Ministry of Agriculture, made a very important decision in the government not to go that route but rather to retain the Colleges of Agriculture like Kemptville and Ridgetown themselves and to retain the research program themselves under their control and the extension under their control, but to ask the OAC to come in as a partner and help them with it. And at that time, when Don Huntley was appointed as Director of
Research, and his major role, certainly, was to develop this interim period and develop what would be a contract between the University of Guelph and the Ministry of Agriculture for research and for some extension services. A very different model from the US model. Some of us thought that was the wrong model that was chosen by the Ministry of Agriculture at that stage. We liked the model of the US better, we thought it was more efficient, but could understand, I think, the the political problems faced by the Ministry of Agriculture when farmers were a little concerned that they might lose some of the strength that they had had from the OAC and so we all had to go along with it. At that time, the other exciting part, I think, in the institution was the development of the University on the campus. In my own situation, I was in the Crop Science Department, then as Chairman when Don Huntley moved to Toronto as Director of Research then I became Chairman of the Department and the campus was about to start it’s building program. A new Wellington College was on campus coming to start on campus. It had to have space and I thought I saw and opportunity for the Field Husbandry Department and maybe I can make a comment on that for historical reasons. The Zavitz Hall, the home of the Field Husbandry Department then which we’d just changed that year into called the Crop Science Department, what was a wonderful building to do the work from the time it was built early in the century up until somewhere in the 1940’s. The problem was it didn’t have a scientific enough base for the science that was needed in Field Husbandry…or Crop Science in the future. So we were short of science labs. It just wasn’t right for the future. So I remember going up to talk to the dean, Dean Richard’s at the time and saying “Look, we know that Wellington College has to have a home here, we know it needs offices and classrooms, I think we’ve got the right building for this, it’s the Field Hub. building! Could you see what the President would think of and the Dean of Wellington College of making a deal of taking over this building and building us a new Crop Science building? And the follow-up of that was that the Dean Richards did that, he spoke to the President, Dr. McLaughlin, and it was not too long after that I was called into Dr. McLaughlin’s office and Dr. McLaughlin said “I don’t think you might like what I’m going to ask you to do but we do need space for Wellington College and we thought that the Zavitz Hall building would be a good space for the building would you consider moving out of that building and letting Wellington College move in and we will build a new building for the Crop Science Department? I said “Well, this would be alright, its going to be a difficult problem to sell it maybe to the faculty of Crop Science Department. Where would you move us?” He said “Well, the only building that is available is the Insulbrick building, the war-time building over by McDonald Institute” a building that is now, I think, textiles and I said “Well, that’s not a very exciting place to go for our faculty but if you would give me 100% assurance that you will proceed immediately with the Crop Science Building then I think I can persuade the faculty to accept that.” And there was the background of why Wellington College went into that building and why we have a new Crop Science Building.
M Yes. It’s interesting that you mention the Armament building which I wrote a history of here a few years ago for the OAC Recognition Banquet Program. As you say it was most recently the Textiles Building and I believe, it was before you moved in, it had been the Microbiology Building and then with a new Microbiology Building they had moved . Do you remember what year that was that you moved into the I’ll say the Armament Building?
B It’ll be 1965.
M And then how long you were there, do you know how long they were there?
B Our department was there until 1968 when the moved into the new Crop Science Building.
M Yes, I remember that too. And, so you’d be, but you were not Chairman at that time. You became Associate Dean of the Ontario Agriculture College during the time you were in that Textiles Building.
B Yes, I left the Textile Building in 1966 and left the Department to go over as Associate Dean, OAC. You see, that was a follow up, really, of a decision that had already been made that OMAF, or the Ministry of Agriculture, would operate it’s research at Guelph under a contract with Guelph, with oversight by the Agricultural Research Institute of Canada, which was newly formed under the direction of Don Huntley. So OAC really needed someone then to come in and work with the College and work with the Ministry of Agriculture in arranging for the contract and following through in liaison with the Ministry and liaison, of course, with the faculty and departments in making that contract work with the Ministry and the University.
M So you were responsible at the OAC end to get that set up?
B Yes, I was responsible at the OAC end to get it set up so I worked with OAC Faculty, Department Chairmen and Dean and at the same time worked with Don Huntley to get an arrangement that satisfied both parties reasonably well.
M As I recall, there was considerable build up of research projects and more graduates students as a result of the contract with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food which led up to the point where you were appointed Dean of Research now that would be about 1970. Can you comment on that change which occurred in the late ‘60’s.
B Yes, I think there was a natural evolution in that direction. See, as OAC built the scientific capacity of it’s faculty up that we talked about earlier and then, with the increased research through the OMAF contract or the Ministry of Agriculture Contract at that time and it’s interest in expanding the number of projects and the areas that it was involved in there was a very substantial growth of research in OAC, there was substantial growth of research in OVC, which I, as Associate Dean, OAC, then related to very closely in the arrangements for the OMAF contract, and at the same time with the University formed we had brought in a whole group of new Scientists in the Physical Sciences, the Social Sciences, the Arts, there’d been a a restructuring of MacDonald Institute into a new College of Family and Consumer Studies with science as an important element in that College and an importantly increased element in that College and so there is a very substantial growth in the ‘60’s of the total volume of research on the campus and a very substantial corresponding growth in the number of graduate students so that toward the end of the ‘60’s when we had, at one point, a Dean of Graduate Studies and Research for the University, it was decided in re-structuring that really, to cover the area adequately, of Graduate Studies and Research, there should be two Deans, one of Graduate Studies and one of Research and that led to the establishment of the Office of Research in 1970 and my appointment as the first Dean of Research in 1970 in the Office of Research.
M As I recall, it was in the early 1970’s when your classmate, Burt Matthews, was involved in a lot of deliberations that led from the four founding Colleges of the University of Guelph to seven Colleges in the early 1970’s. Could you comment on the changes, particularly in the areas that you were involved with at that time!
B Well, before well up until that time OAC had the bulk of the research under the Ministry of Agriculture Contract with OVC having the remainder of it and a little bit in in the MacDonald Institute. After the restructuring with the seven colleges, then the situation was very different on the campus because some of the biological work, for example, some of the work in Botany, some of the work in Weed Science, a lot of the work, at least, in nutrition was located now in the new College of Biological Sciences and so if we wanted to have access for the OMAF contract to the expertise that was on campus, it became pretty necessary to look for faculty that were in the College of Biological Science, faculty that were in the College of Social Science so they could bring there expertise to bear on the Rural Development side of of Agriculture faculty who were in the new College of Family and Consumer Studies that dealt with the the food system and nutrition, and so, if we wanted to make use of of the expertise on campus it became really necessary to reach out to the new Colleges and get them involved in the OMAF contract. That was part of my job as OAC Associate Dean and with responsibilities really for, well called Director of the OMAF Research and Services contract for the University. And so I worked with the other colleges then to find out first if they were interested in becoming involved. That was a very interesting first question because some of the colleges really weren’t interested some of the departments weren’t interested, even though we knew, certainly I knew, that we needed the expert expertise of a lot of these people to do the kind of a job needed in Agricultural Research for Ontario. But people in some of the colleges, having come out of standard University settings, were a little bit puzzled by the concept of a contract , the concept of developing projects that were mission oriented that had an output that could flow into use in the Agricultural sector, they were more used to doing free research when they wanted to, and how they wanted to and what they wanted to. And so we had to work a little bit carefully with these colleges to interest them. In some cases in some departments we were very successful, such as the nutrition department, they wanted to come in and be involved. The entomologists then wanted to be involved and so on. So we did get a linkage with the other colleges, not as much as many of us would liked to have had but we knew it had to grow and so this was one of the reasons, really, why this function of working across the colleges relative to the OMAF contract had to fall in the Office of the Dean of Research and why we needed a Dean of Research to work across the university, relative to the OMAF contract. That’s not the only reason for having the Dean of Research which we’ll talk about a little later. Liaison was necessary between the university and the Ministry of Agriculture. This was a big contract, very important to the university, and, of course, important to Agriculture of a size that needed some reasonably careful oversight at the top.
M You mentioned there were other reasons for having an Office of Research at that time. Would you like to comment on that?
B Yes. Research had become increasingly complex, not only in the University of Guelph but the Canadian scene in total and most of the Universities saw a need to have someone in a position, generally it was called Vice President of Research, Guelph chose the term Dean of Research, but anyway, it was someone centrally to deal particularly with research policy. Now at that particular time, the Federal Government and Provincial Governments both were aiming towards cutting down on some of the research funds that they wanted to produce through the national granting councils and wanting to move more towards contracts. And so the contract era started just about then and it became pretty important for the universities to be on top of the developments of the contracts. First of all, it was a new concept to be brought in and faculty members, if they were going to take
advantage of the funds that were available through contracts, had to have information on how to deal with contracts, they were not used to dealing with contracts. And it was absolutely essential to get information out to faculty members across the university and that was one of the functions that we took on. But it was also equally important to have someone to deal with the Federal and Provincial people that were placing the contracts and to work with other universities who were dealing with those people to try and get reasonable arrangements and conditions under which contract research could be done. Its important to have contract research, certainly in the university, but only if it will increase the value of research to the university. That is so that we could use contract research relative to our graduate programs so we could be able to publish from the contract research that was done and also so that we would be able to recover all of the costs that were associated with contract research and at that stage of the game the contracting agencies really wanted the universities to do the contract research under very tight conditions suited to the contractor without paying the overheads or extra costs associated with that function. And so a lot of work in the early years was associated with working with the outside funding agencies to develop the contract research philosophy and arrangements and this is not easy working through bureaucracy to get this kind of thing done but that’s what we had to do and then also working with our faculty members to show them the need for living up to the conditions that were in the contracts to get them to understand what they were committing themselves to when they took on a contract and the most difficult of all was to to get the faculty members to accept the need for the university to recover the overheads or the extra costs associated with contract research. Faculty members didn’t like this kind of thing. Now they are used to it but in the early ‘70’s this was really new to faculty members and it was something that we had to spend a lot of time on. So this was one of the areas in the office of research. The other, one other one was a whole set of policies that were needed to be developed to guide the direction of research in the universities. For example, from the outside there were good pressures on the universities to have to make sure they were using animals carefully in research. So we had to develop our policies on the use of animals in research. We had to develop policies on the use of human subjects in research. We had to develop, of course, the policies relative to the contract research that we would do. We had a number of other policies that had to be developed to manage the research in the universities and this again was a major undertaking of the universities, all of the universities in the early ‘70’s, the first 5 years of the early ‘70’s. We worked together as a group of universities through a new association that we had formed the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators and through that together we worked out a lot of these policies jointly so that they’d work in a number universities. We also had to develop a little later, I mean we didn’t have to but we took on the development of a greater linkage of industry and business with the universities and this is something that we might want to talk a little more about.
M You mentioned the involvement of the university in cooperative research projects with industry. Did this lead to more involvement of the university faculty and individual research projects with with industry?
B There was a considerable growth in a number of research contracts and faculty then involved with industry through the ‘70’s and by 1980 it seemed to some of us that we should take a harder look at our whole arrangements for linkage with industry and business because there was going to be growth in that area and if we could develop increased linkages we could develop more research funding source and also we could make an even greater contribution to the economy of the country and society. So about 1980 we took the lead from the Office of Research in establishing an
industrial research policy for the university and this set down, really, the directions that we wanted to go, we said we wanted to go to increased amount of work with industry and business to contribute to the economy of the country and development of society, we set down the terms under which we would like to do that and we also said that under that there was an opportunity for faculty members, not only to do research and more research with industry and business, but to do more consulting with industry and business as a way to get information out in addition to research publications and we also developed the university policy on patents and related matters and set up policies whereby faculty could patent materials and would get this information out to industry through the patenting process but also it would be an opportunity for faculty members to make a little money from the patent for doing the thinking and the work involved in patenting, and an opportunity in the future for the university to participate in royalties coming from patents. And in that industrial strategy, you might be interested not only did it encourage the growth of contract research but also the development of linkages between the university and industry, linkages that have grown over the years into things, at that time like the Equine Research Center, which is an industry/university joint partnership through to the Food Technology Centre that’s that’s just come into being in the last few years, and that was a very important one. In that industrial strategy we also said that as our experience with patenting grew and as the faculty participated increasingly in patenting, we should establish a a university arms-length company to take advantage of possible income that could come from patenting. That has come recently into fruition with the new company, arms length company that has been established just for that purpose.
M Bill, I understand that your involvement with the proper arrangements between industry and university and the research area led to the development of the Research Park which is on the edge of campus on Stone Road and also perhaps led to a period of time that you served on the City of Guelph’s Industrial Development Strategy Committee.
B Yes.
M And, presumably, you served on this for a few years?
B That’s right.
M Another area that I know you have been involved with is in International Agriculture Development. Would you mind commenting on that.
B Yes. I was always interested in that. My first contact, really, was about 1970 when we were invited at Guelph or I was invited to chair a group or organize a group of researchers from Guelph to work with one of the international centers in Columbia and that linked me in with the international system. This is the system of international centers that led to the green revolution. And I became involved from 1970 to ’75 with this committee developing a Casava program in Columbia at the center there and then later I spent a lot of time, I took a leave of absence and worked on a study committee reviewing the group of what at that time had become 10 centers, 10 International Agriculture Centers, and then after that I served on the boards of a number of centers as chairman of the International Center on Tropical Agriculture in Columbia and then as Chairman of a board in a center which eventually we changed from it’s original terms and it became the International Institute for Plant Genetic Resources centered in Rome which deals with gene banks across the world. And so I have been involved with this international system, it now has 16 centers
and I have worked not only as board chairman of two of them and on a study team for all of the centers to review their programs, but I have chaired external reviews of a number of the centers, external program reviews and external management reviews. This has been one of the most rewarding activities and exciting activities that I have been involved with.
M I understand that, as a result of your involvement at these International Centers, Bill, that you were the first recipient of the Agriculture Institute of Canada International Award, along with Fred Bentley of the University of Alberta and I know if you were in the company of Fred Bentley, that is very, very significant.
This has been an interview with Bill Tossell, OAC Year ’47.
Bill, at this time I would like to thank you for your time. It has been a very interesting afternoon for me.

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