AudioA. W. Hagar interview
Ross Hay (00:03):
This is an interview with Aubrey Walter Hagar year at '45 OAC. This interview is being conducted by Ross Hay year '45 for the University of Guelph Alumni Association, Alumni-in-Action Committee. The date is April the 22nd, 1992. Where were you born, Aubrey?
Aubrey Hagar (00:30):
In Crowland Township in Welland County.
Ross Hay (00:36):
And were you on a farm there?
Aubrey Hagar (00:37):
Yes. Yes. My father had a farm between Welland and Niagara Falls.
Ross Hay (00:42):
Probably all build up now.
Aubrey Hagar (00:45):
Good part of it. Although that area hasn't grown nearly as much as other parts. Actually Welland is about the same population it was 20 years ago.
Ross Hay (00:56):
You attended what collegiate or high school?
Aubrey Hagar (00:59):
The Welland Collegiate and Vocational Institute.
Ross Hay (01:03):
Well Aubrey, what brought you to OAC in 1940?
Aubrey Hagar (01:09):
Well, I think it's a combination of several factors. First, I was raised on a farm and that naturally took me towards OAC. But there were at least two main reasons. I started high school in the Depression and I didn't think there's much prospect of going to university, so I started in the commercial department of the high school. And then switched to the general because then I decided I wanted to go on to college or university. But in doing so, I wasn't able to get all the subjects which would enable me to complete Grade 13. I had only Grade 12 and Guelph was about the only place at that time which would take you with a Grade 12. And I'm sure the other reason was that it was one of the lower cost places to attend, that limiting factor as well.
Ross Hay (02:10):
Right. And who told you about OAC? How did you find out about OAC?
Aubrey Hagar (02:16):
Oh, well, I'd known about OAC. I'd been active in the Junior Farmers and my father was a fairly well known Holstein breeder. We bred purebred Holsteins and we were often in the Guelph area. There was a farm out north of Guelph, the Fox Farm, and they were major Holstein breeders. I had been to OAC when I was younger. I was traveling with my father visiting Holstein breeders in this area.
Ross Hay (02:47):
Well, that was great to know about it before you came here. You arrived at Guelph when there was no residence... there wasn't any residence available because they were taken over by the Air Force in war time. That would be until the final semester, the last few months that you were there. Did this create any void in your education? Do you think it did or...
Aubrey Hagar (03:17):
Well, I suppose one missed something of a residence life. That was not important to me. I stayed with other members of the class that I was in and... Or I think a year or more I was boarded with... or stayed with Professor Jim Lockland. And he's a very find gentleman, both he and Mrs. Lockland. I had a very pleasant experience. And then I think... I'm not a very social person, so I don't know that the social life of the residence would've meant that much to me anyway.
Ross Hay (03:56):
It might have brought out more.
Aubrey Hagar (03:57):
Yeah it might have [laughs]. Sure.
Ross Hay (03:59):
Now, was there any initiation at Guelph in 1941... I guess was it actually '40 or...
Aubrey Hagar (04:11):
Oh yeah, sure. No there was initiation. We had those caps with the tag on, and then we... then we had a scarf... Didn't we have a scarf that we wore as well. Seem to me recall something other item of clothing that we had.
Ross Hay (04:25):
Aubrey Hagar (04:27):
Oh yes, there was quite a bit... There was a bit of hazing. I remember having to polish shoes and go on errands and do the usual thing, but nothing very disconcerting. It didn't bother me all that much. And I found that after some period of hazing that the people responsible then would be very friendly and have a good chat and got to know people. It wasn't all that much of a problem.
Ross Hay (04:59):
Good. Well, that's what it was for. So you get to know others, that was the idea of it.
Aubrey Hagar (05:03):
Ross Hay (05:08):
Yeah. When were you married?
Aubrey Hagar (05:10):
Ross Hay (05:12):
And you married June?
Aubrey Hagar (05:15):
Yes, June Roberts.
Ross Hay (05:16):
Aubrey Hagar (05:16):
She was a Guelph girl. She lived as a matter of fact on College Avenue, just a short distance from where I was staying.
Ross Hay (05:25):
And how many of a family did you have there?
Aubrey Hagar (05:27):
We have three children, two boys and a girl.
Ross Hay (05:33):
Did any of them go to Guelph?
Aubrey Hagar (05:35):
Yes. Our daughter, Pam went through Guelph. She took mostly languages. And is now of course working for the university.
Ross Hay (05:49):
Yes. I've seen her at Alumni Affairs.
Aubrey Hagar (05:52):
Ross Hay (05:53):
But you told us earlier she's going on for her MBA.
Aubrey Hagar (05:56):
Yes, she... It's interesting, we chatted about her doing some post-graduate work. She was just anxious to do more studies. When she had completed her degree mostly in languages... That was not at the subject that she wanted to explore for post-graduate work. Which would've meant if she was going to some other field, she'd have to do a number of undergraduate courses before she could do post-graduate work. I suggested to her that one alternative was the Business Administration program at either McMaster or Wilfrid Laurier. And when she looked into that she decided that would be good for her. And as a matter of fact, it's turning out very well, she's enjoying the courses and she finds it helped within her work.
Ross Hay (06:51):
Great, great. A change the subject now for a minute. Of all the professors who have taught you, which one in your opinion was the best?
Aubrey Hagar (07:02):
Oh, well that's difficult Ross because we had some very excellent lecturers. Dr. McLaughlin in Botany, he was an outstanding lecturer and Moffitt in Physics and Mathematics was excellent. Bernie McClain was excellent. I would list those three as highlights of my association with professors as well.
Ross Hay (07:32):
Did you have anyone in your mind as being the worst professor?
Aubrey Hagar (07:34):
Well, of course there was some professors who were somewhat delinquent. They avoided a lot of lectures seemed to me anyway. And I think one of the worst was Bill Knox in Animal Husbandry. I think he was the worst person in terms of not being there to give a lecture. But generally lecturers were good. I would not say that I had any lecturer or professor that was really a hopeless case.
Ross Hay (08:09):
That speaks good of the institution. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities?
Aubrey Hagar (08:15):
Yes, I was involved in public speaking and debating. And then in organizations, Year Executives, Students' Council. Seems to me that I was President of the Students' Council at least for part of a year. My recollection is poor on this, but I think I was President of Students' Council for part of a year. I think I filled in for someone.
Ross Hay (08:47):
I think you were too.
Aubrey Hagar (08:47):
Ross Hay (08:50):
Did your time at OAC fit you for future endeavors?
Aubrey Hagar (09:00):
I think so. I must say I didn't come to OAC with a specific occupation in mind. That is to say, I didn't see myself going into say animal husbandry or field husbandry or chemistry or microbiology, archaeology, at that time. I didn't have a specific occupational goal. And I think that's the reason I probably took the most general of the programs and that was that science option that generally prepared people for teaching. But as to whether that experience contributed to my career, I'm absolutely certain it did. And I found my period at OAC to be very broadening and certainly developed a lot of skills that were helpful in my career throughout life.
Ross Hay (10:07):
What did you do after graduation in 1945? Were you in the services?
Aubrey Hagar (10:13):
Yeah, well, immediately after graduation, I was in the Army and was in the Army until after the end of the war in the Pacific. And then had a choice of staying in and going to Germany in the Army of Occupation or leaving the services and I decided to get my discharge and leave.
Ross Hay (10:42):
And then where did you go?
Aubrey Hagar (10:48):
Well, I was just searching around for something to do and the principal of Kemptville Agricultural school called me, and this was in the fall. And he said, "We need a teacher for the winter term." And I went down there and taught English and Economics for the winter term. That's my first...
Ross Hay (11:15):
Aubrey Hagar (11:15):
Yeah. I enjoyed Kemptville. That was another extreme experience. I think doing a lot of good work in Eastern Ontario.
Ross Hay (11:24):
Yes. They're well thought of. And good farmers and... Well then from Kemptville didn't you spend some time with CIL?
Aubrey Hagar (11:36):
Yes. After Kemptville I went to work for CIL and was there until 1950. I was working in the Development Department in CIL. And the development department was really looking at new business ventures for CIL. I stayed there until 1950 when I got a call from Dr. Raymond. And he wondered if I'd like to come back to Guelph and teach English in the English department. And that English was mostly of the writing composition in journalism.
Ross Hay (12:13):
Aubrey Hagar (12:21):
And we had decided we didn't really want to stay in Montreal. Even at that time, it was clear that if you lived there and you were English there were only a few places in which you could live comfortably. And even at that, the emergence of French speaking people in management positions was growing... And CIL, at that time, it was... the language of the workplace was English and each department... Our development department, we had a section of French speaking people. And it was clear that... at least to me... that that wasn't a good situation. That it couldn't go on this dominant English situation. This offer came along and I took it and moved to Guelph and I've been here ever since.
Ross Hay (13:17):
Okay. Well, you came to Guelph into the English department.
Aubrey Hagar (13:24):
Ross Hay (13:26):
And then eventually you became manager of the students' co-op store.
Aubrey Hagar (13:31):
Yes. Yes. I didn't want to stay at the college because I didn't have a master's degree and one must get ahead and at that time you had at least a master's degree and probably a PhD. An opportunity came along to manage the co-op and the credit union. They were together. We managed both the co-op and the credit union.
Ross Hay (14:01):
Yes, I remember.
Aubrey Hagar (14:01):
And I worked at that until I went to Conestoga College in 1969, I think it was. And then was at Conestoga College until I retired. And at Conestoga I was under different titles, but the entire period generally the academic vice president, I was in charge of the programs of the college.
Ross Hay (14:22):
Aubrey Hagar (14:25):
Then I retired from that position.
Ross Hay (14:30):
Yeah. Now you won an award at University of Guelph since then, not too many years ago. You were given a medal for something. What was that?
Aubrey Hagar (14:44):
Ross Hay (14:45):
Linking the university with the community.
Aubrey Hagar (15:00):
Early in the 1960s, I was on the Board of Education of the city of Guelph and later became Chairman of the Board. Another board member at that time was... Anyway, we got talking one night about the need for Guelph to become a university. And so... McEwan was the other person. And we decided that we would form a committee. We got a committee together of people interested in Guelph becoming a university. And we prepared... I was for the most part, the principal author of papers submitted to the Premier of Ontario, making the recommendations as to why Guelph should become a university. And when Guelph did become a university, the work of that committee was cited as one of the influences and the fairly major influence in the decision to establish University of Guelph.
Aubrey Hagar (16:08):
I think, Ross, that was the most interesting period. The agricultural community was generally opposed to the notion of the university because they argued that introducing an arts faculty and a science faculty to Guelph would diminish somewhat the role of OAC and serving our culture community. The argument we used, which I used in talking with members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture... that was the principal group that we dealt with. I said, "The university cannot do adequate research and post-graduate work in agriculture because as long as OAC stays as a faculty... University of Toronto will not allow OAC to grant more than the master's degree. That would be the maximum. And would be very restrictive in terms of some of the research projects that OAC could engage in. And I said to the association, "You should really see the benefits of the doctoral program at Guelph and research more adequate for the agricultural community."
Aubrey Hagar (17:41):
And I think Ross, that was one of the main arguments that lessened the opposition. It didn't eliminate it. It lessened the opposition of farmers to OAC becoming university. And very fortuitously at that time... You see some resident fellows were coming along like Bill Tahso and Burton Matthews.
Ross Hay (18:11):
Aubrey Hagar (18:13):
These are all young fellows who'd gone down to various universities in the United States and obtained their PhD and come back to Guelph to teach. We now had a nucleus of a staff that could handle the doctoral program and a research program. Because Ross remember we were here, most of our lecturers and professors had a master's degree only. We had very few with a doctorate degree.
Ross Hay (18:41):
Very few. Yeah.
Aubrey Hagar (18:44):
A number of circumstances came together at that time to bring about university anyway. That's a long story to answer your question.
Ross Hay (18:59):
Well. That's what we'd like to hear about this,
Aubrey Hagar (19:00):
As a consequence of my work in that committee, and when the 25th anniversary of the university came along, they decided to issue I think, 25 medals. And I think maybe more than that, maybe closer to 30. But anyway, the medals were to be awarded to those people who had made some contribution to the formation of the university. And I...
Ross Hay (19:23):
That's the University of Guelph.
Aubrey Hagar (19:24):
Yeah. University of Guelph.
Ross Hay (19:25):
OAC was there long before then.
Aubrey Hagar (19:25):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ross Hay (19:29):
But it wasn't there before the university was formed... correct me if I'm wrong. Wasn't there the three federated colleges, OAC, MacDonald Institute and OVC.
Aubrey Hagar (19:40):
Oh yeah, there was the federated colleges, but that was mostly an administrative convenience for the ministry of agriculture. What it meant was that if they had the federated colleges they could deal with one principal or president of the federated colleges and didn't have to deal with the president of OAC and the principal of OVC and the principal of MacDonald Institute. It was really an administrative convenience more than anything else. It didn't change the academic program or it didn't change the relationship with the University of Toronto. Those remained the same. It was more of-
Ross Hay (20:17):
Well, that was a good reason.
Aubrey Hagar (20:18):
Ross Hay (20:19):
Back to one in place of three.
Aubrey Hagar (20:21):
Ross Hay (20:21):
Excellent. Yeah. This hasn't been explained to me in the way that you have explained it and that's why I'm going along about that. And so you were one of those 25...
Aubrey Hagar (20:35):
Received the medal yes.
Ross Hay (20:36):
Medal on the 25th anniversary of the University of Guelph. I remember that quite well. Now is there anything else you wish to tell?
Aubrey Hagar (20:47):
Well, I think what has fascinated me about what's happened, you see Ross when you and I at OAC, it was a family, a community. And there is a sense of identity of belonging to this institution. And University of Guelph still has that. And I contend it has it because it's a consequence of the sort of esprit de corps that existed at OAC. I think that hominess, that feeling of belonging, of community that OAC has continued in the university. And that's not all by accident. Myrtle McKinnon who became Dean of Wellington College and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. Myrtle had said to me on more than one occasion, "One thing we've got to keep now that we've got the university is that friendliness, that spirit of community that existed OAC." I think some of the people who came in at that time such as Myrtle appreciated what was here and wanted to keep it alive and grow and nurture it as university developed.
Ross Hay (22:19):
Wonderful. Well, that's great, Aubrey. I learned some things from this just by talking to you. That's wonderful. And we thank you very much for your time.
Aubrey Hagar (22:30):
Ross Hay (22:31):
And coming to give us this tape. Thanks very much.