ALUMNI- IN-ACTION ORAL HISTORY
The Honourable Dr. Wm. C. Winegard,
University of Guelph, 1967 - 1975
Interviewed by D. Murray Brown, O.A.C. 1951
November 16, 1998
B This is an interview with the Honourable William C. Winegard, on November the sixteenth, 1998. Dr. Winegard is former President of the University of Guelph. Dr.Winegard, what prompted you to become interested in being President of the University of Guelph?
W Well, what prompted it all – I was happily ensconced at the University of Toronto. I was Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies and part-time doing my research and teaching in the Department of Metallurgy at the University of Toronto Engineering School, and I was walking across the campus one day, accompanied by the Provost, the then Provost of the University of Toronto, Moffat Woodside. And out of the blue, Moffat said to me, “Have you ever thought of being president of a university?” And I said, “Well, not really, no.” And he said, “Well, would you like to think about it?” I said, “Well, I suppose it depends where it was and whether I thought there’re any opportunities there, or not.” And he said, “Well, the university I have in mind is Guelph, ‘cause they’re going to be looking for a new one.” And that was my first thought – introduction – even about the University of Guelph, or whether I ever wanted to be a president of a university or not. And that was that. We walked along and talked about something else – the meeting we’d just been at, probably, and the next thing I knew, some weeks later, I had a call from I think it was Tom McEwen, who was Chairman of the Search Committee to seek a new President, and he asked me if I would come into Toronto, we lived outside of Toronto in those days, just a little bit outside – on a Friday night or a Saturday morning and talk to them. Which I did. And of course they reviewed for me all the glories of the University of Guelph, and I told them I knew a little bit about it, because of my good friend Doug Bullock having been here for a large number of years, and that on occasion I partied with the members of faculty in Food Science Department – sang with them two or three times a year - well one thing lead to another, and I thanked them for the interview and nice chat. Then, the next day we were just – I think sitting down to Sunday dinner – we’d just come back from church and I got another phone call, saying, “Could I come in and see them again?” So I said, “Yes.” I went in that afternoon, I believe, – had another long and pleasant interview – the end of which they said “Well now lets come to grips with this. Would you like to be President of the University of Guelph?” And having spent most of the previous evening talking to my wife about it, we said, “Well, yes. I’d like to seriously consider it, and in essence, what are you offering?” And that was that, and by the time the day was over, I’d made the commitment and I was on my way to Guelph.
B Thank you Dr. Winegard. That’s very interesting. That’s the first time I’ve heard that story, and it makes me pleased that I’m doing this interview, because I’m sure a lot of others are going to be very interested in that particular instance. Now that we have that background, the reason you became President of the University, perhaps we could review your background and what prepared you to meet that task when it arrived. What was your home town and schooling, Dr. Winegard, and perhaps some of the background to your education?
W Well, I was actually born in Hamilton, although I grew up in a small town called Caledonia, which is south of Hamilton. I went to both public and high school there. I left high school after completing Grade 13 at the age of seventeen, to enter the Navy. So, I was in the Navy in 1942 – early 1942, and served in three different ships over a three and a half year period. I finished, incidentally as the youngest qualified Navigator in the Canadian Navy, which I’ve always thought was interesting because it comes up later perhaps, but one of the first people I met when I walked onto the Guelph campus, was one of my instructors in that Navigation Course, Bill Mitchell. Well, after the war, I was one of the lucky ones. I got out early. I was on leave in Caledonia, having a hard time getting out – doing what a lot of Veterans had done – wanting to get into university, but not being fully discharged. The university wanting to have some assurance that I was not going to take up a spot and then duck out on them because I really hadn’t been released from the Navy, so I wired back to the Naval Headquarters and said, “Please, get me out.” Well, the next day a signal came through to HCMS Star in Hamilton, “Discharge Officer On Leave, Caledonia”, and I was on my way to the University of Toronto. I did the four-year degree in Metallurgical Engineering, graduating then in 1949, and almost immediately, went into graduate studies. I found it fascinating – all the things I didn’t know. I did a Masters Degree in 1950, and finished a PhD in 1952. And then, again, went on the faculty at the University of Toronto. They offered me a faculty position. And remember, we were in the big “veteran class”, so they were rather anxious to have some of the seasoned veterans to join the faculty. I guess they thought we might calm things down a bit. And I spent fifteen years as a faculty member at the University of Toronto. I did one book - which was published in four or five different languages, over a hundred papers in research, and I did a great deal of consulting, because in those days, there really wasn’t anybody else to do it, in terms of say, car crashes or helicopter crashes, or boilers breaking down, you name it. There weren’t any companies then, who did that kind of thing, so people – lawyers, widows, whatever, came to the university ‘til they found somebody who could help them. And we enjoyed that very much. Well, then in 1963, the then Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Andy Gordon, asked me if I’d come and talk to the person who was going to be the new Dean, Ernest Sherlock. So I talked to Ernest Sherlock for quite a while and he asked me if I would be interested in taking on a new position – Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies at Toronto, on a part-time basis at least. I said, “I wouldn’t mind doing that, if it was part-time, because I didn’t, at that time, want to give up my research career, which I thought was going quite well.” And I really enjoyed teaching – had a lot of fun with students. But, so in 1964, I officially took over as Assistant Dean of the University of Toronto in Graduate Studies, and did that then for, oh roughly three years. And it was while Assistant Dean and indeed I was acting Dean when Moffat Woodside approached me after a meeting, as I’ve just finished saying, and that then led to the University of Guelph.
B When you arrived at the President’s House and toured the campus at Guelph for the first time in – I believe it was May in 1967, what were your impressions of the campus and perhaps something on the staff at that time?
W We were impressed because, right from the beginning, everybody made us feel very, very welcome. I remember having quite a large reception – an outdoor reception – and I believe it was in May of 1967, where faculty and staff came to say “Hello”, to my wife and myself. And everyone seemed so pleasant and so happy to be there and happy to say “Hello”, that we came away from that outdoor meeting saying, “This could be fun.” When we actually arrived at the President’s House – one Sunday afternoon, when the MacLachlans very graciously invited us to dinner, we were kind of overwhelmed, because its such a beautiful old house, and it was so large compared to our little place in Applewood Acres, that we’d lived in and so on. Applewood Acres was just a little community outside of Toronto – in Mississauga. And we wondered just how we were going to fill this house. Certainly the furniture we had on Applewood Acres might have filled a couple of the rooms, but that would have been about it. But, again we had a very pleasant afternoon. They walked us around a bit, and altogether, we thought well, I think we are going to enjoy this. The faculty seemed very down to earth, very good. We didn’t have any quarrel with the calibre of the faculty. There were some departments that I thought, if we’re going to be a major institution in science, then we’re going to have to do some work on a couple of the departments, ‘cause they’re the bones if you like, the back bone of a major science institution. But that didn’t seem to be a very difficult question. When we arrived in July of 1967, my office, then, was in Johnston Hall. Later we moved to the Library and Johnston Hall reverted to other uses. But, I was given quite a marvelous welcome in Johnston Hall – lovely office. And the first week I was there, the ceiling fell in right on top of me and the desk. And I thought, hm, I wonder if this is a sign of things to come, here at Guelph. Well, we repaired the ceiling and – I’ve forgotten how long we were in that office now, but some time – year or more. And then we moved from Johnston Hall into the Library – on the third or fourth floor of the Library. Again I don’t remember which floor it was – and stayed there, for really quite some time until we moved over to the University Centre in the latter part of my days at Guelph.
B At this point I would like to interject something very interesting, in that, since you lived in Applewood Acres, when you were at the University of Toronto, I was living in Applewod Acres in a similar period, from 1955 to 1965, and moved to Guelph about a year and a half before you did. The other coincidence occurred in my office, in Land Resource Science, about twenty years after it happened to you, when the roof in that office caved in and actually some of the plaster landed on my head, and so with that instance we have two things in common, at the University of Guelph.
B You mentioned that you moved into the University Centre offices, the Presidential Suite in the early 1970’s – I believe it was 1974 – and this was about two years after the Provincial Government cut off capital funding for universities. And I can recall that you made the decision to proceed to finish that building which had already had a foundation poured for it, sometime in 1972. Would you like to comment on that time of the University?
W Well, the University Centre has an interesting history. It started out as two separate towers - we were going to have an administrative tower and a student union tower, and they were to be joined together on the bottom floor- something like that in any case. Well, the funding from the Provincial Government then was becoming much more difficult to obtain, and we were told that we wouldn’t have enough money to build the kind of University Centre we wanted. It was decided then, in consultation with the Student Councils and the Board, myself, that we would design a University Centre in which everything would be in one building. There would be an administrative floor. There’d be a couple of really Student Union floors, there’d be eating places for everybody, and that it would, in fact, help to bring the institution together. We had just started on the foundation – I believe – for the University Centre, when the Province notified us that they were not going to be advancing any more money for University construction, that in essence wasn’t significantly on its way to being completed. We had the foundation in, and a group of the Board members, myself, went to see Mr. Davis, who was Minister at the time, and asked if we could proceed, because we had a hole in the ground, and some concrete already poured. We got a little bit of encouragement from him, that the freeze wouldn’t last forever, but we did not get a firm, “Go ahead, we’ll cover it” from the government at that time. We decided then – and I recommended to the Board that we proceed – that we would have to find the bridging money, somehow, that we just couldn’t stop. It would be absolutely ridiculous to have this great hole in the ground. That University Centre – planned University Centre and the Library, being in essence the core of the University of Guelph. So we did proceed. The Board were just as anxious as I was, and we completed the building in ’73 or ’74, I really can’t remember now. And it has proven, I think, to have been a major focal point for the institution. It has brought everybody together. I think the idea of actually putting the administrative offices, the President’s Office and the Registrar’s Office and various things mixed directly with a University Student Union-type operation, in the end proved to be a good decision.
B I agree. It was an excellent decision, to proceed with the completion of the University Centre in 1974; as you said, it became the core of the university, along with the Library. Now I’d like you to, if you will, provide some highlights that occurred during your tenure as President of the University.
W Well, overshadowing every thing else, I suppose was the fantastic growth. It seemed to me that every time we turned around, we were putting up another building, we were taking in another ten or twenty percent more students, the third semester seemed to be operating quite well, but it was a very, very hectic time. On the academic side, which is really the University’s important function, I was happy that we had come to grips with setting down some priorities for the institution. Now, I know those priorities are not specific, but I don’t believe anybody can read that early 1970’s report without knowing exactly what the University of Guelph was, what its ambitions were, and how it intended to achieve its new status. I was always happy about the way our Library worked – that we were in the forefront of the technological change. We had to be. And we had Librarians who were, I thought, absolutely superb at making sure that both faculty and students were properly served. We had difficulties of course, that occurred during those years – the late 1960’s early 1970’s were not particularly easy times for administrations. There was upheaval on pretty well every university campus in North America, and indeed in Europe as well, for various reasons. We had difficulties at Guelph. A group of people – perhaps with some right on their side, its hard to say – but, who were determined to create a bit of havoc. We also had what I thought was a very splendid group, that I’ve maintained contact with, that I call the “real radicals”, because they knew what they wanted, they knew how they wanted to change the University, and they were willing to work within it to obtain the changes that they wanted. The somewhat wilder ones wanted to sit in my office and sit in various places and hold their big three – four – five hundred person – I’ll say person – I was going to say student, but that’s not always true, because part of the time the people there weren’t students, they were “hangers-on” of one way or another. We had a “sit-in” in my office of some fifty students one day. We were prepared for it. And I remember it – I read them a statement that I had listened to them, and they’d talked to me for an hour and a half or so – I had listened. I heard what they said. Some things I would try to do something about, but now I was asking them to leave my office, and let me get on with my job, which was education. They didn’t leave. I suggested that if they did not leave, they could be arrested, and they could have this on their records for a long time – and I did not want that. I didn’t believe they wanted that, and so would they please – I begged them – please leave. I back up a little bit here to say one of the first things I did when the students occupied my office, was to invite the press in. So, we had reporters from the local paper in my office along with the “sit-in”, so when there were cries of “Police Brutality” or whatever – when the police came into my office, I mean most – even most of the students there had to chuckle, because it was so blatantly silly. I think they all left when I made the appeal and perhaps six stayed and then the police came in – couple of policemen came in and said “Look it’d save everybody a lot of trouble if you’d just leave, and the President has given you a guarantee that he will look at the complaints that you have.” And that was that. They left. We didn’t press any charges. It wasn’t my intention to get anybody into trouble. My intention was to get on with what I thought was the main function of the University – namely education. And that was the only thing I believe that bothered most administrators, in those days, was that it interfered with the education that a lot of the good students – if I could put it that way, came to the University to receive.
B Yes. I well remember that being a very interesting and of course trying period for universities – and especially for university presidents. Were there any real down times, other than that, which may not have been a down time, for you, when you may have even thought about resigning as President of the University?
W Well, I think it was perhaps only during that period, that I really thought about resigning, and actually, my wife and I talked about it, because I found it so frustrating, that here I was getting up every morning and putting out a fire of some kind or another, most of which had nothing to do with education. And I wondered whether my talents, in fact, would be better used back in the Metallurgy Department or getting fully back into research and teaching, because I did not want to think of years ahead of this kind of a life. There were down times, certainly, when we were in the midst of our strikes. Those were difficult days. I thought on the whole though we were doing the right thing and so, I wasn’t concerned that the University was going to grind to a halt, and they were confined periods of distress. And it was distressful for everybody in the University to have the two strikes that we had. One of the things that I was determined to ensure, when I was there, was that no one would be laid off for financial reasons, if we could possibly avoid it. And that coloured, I suppose, many of my actions at the institution, and caused some resentment, because people did not get the raises they might have wanted, and perhaps some of the unions felt they were hard done by at times. But, I felt that we needed to have a reserve fund that would cover off any down turn in funding, that could occur and indeed you may remember that in 1972, I think it was, there was a major drying up of provincial funds. Major at that time, but probably not much compared to what’s going on now. And we had the funds to cover it off. I felt it was part of my job as the manager of the place, to ensure that we had these funds tucked away in the “kitty” somewhere, and I made no bones about it. I mean I told everybody, we used to have kind of town hall meetings in Mem Hall with faculty and staff, where I tried to lay bare what the budget was, and in fact the kind of reserve fund that I was holding. Many faculty thought that was not a good move- that the way to do it was to spend all the money and then the government would have to give you more. I didn’t believe that was an honourable way to run an institution, and so I begged with faculty to see it my way. And on the whole I think they did, and we survived quite well, and to the best of my knowledge, we let very, very few people go in the eight years that I was President, because of financial circumstances.
B Since you were President from the 1967 to 1975, a period of eight years and the second President of the University of Guelph, what do you think are the major accomplishments that were made at that time, that has lead to the excellent rating Macleans magazine has given Guelph, oh for the last two or three years, and particularly in 1997, and I understand we’re going to have a good rating again in the Macleans magazine which comes out this week, in 1998?
W Well, when I look back, I realize that, perhaps the main reason that the Board and others wanted me to be President at Guelph, was because I came from an institution which had a reasonable reputation, namely the University of Toronto, for academic research and good student standards. And my task was clear. We had the three founding colleges, and the new college of Arts and Science. It was to make sure that all of us working together would move towards a full-fledged, high quality, institution. I hope that during my eight years, we took at least the initial steps to lead us to where the University of Guelph is at the present time. I tried, I hope successfully, to impose my ideas of what a professor was, and what needed to be done in terms of tenure, in terms of rank promotion. I hoped we were going to go out into the schools and bring in some of the very good high school students into our old programmes and into our new programmes. The faculty, I think on the whole, accepted all of those objectives, and enthusiastically went about their jobs. Any university must have a first class faculty, if it’s going to be worthy of the name, because good faculty ultimately draw good students, and those students turn into, I hope, great Alumni. During my time at Guelph, I tried to promote Alumni Affairs, bringing in some of the top notch people that had graduated from Guelph, urging them to promote the University, and always, I think, telling them that I believed no university could be great, that did not have a great alumni and great alumni support. Those things all work together, I believe to lay the foundation. I’d like to think it did anyway, of what is now the University of Guelph, and as you’ve said,very strong , and to be viewed with great pride.
B Thanks for mentioning the Alumni at Guelph Dr. Winegard. Since you’re not a Guelph Alumnus, and normally, we are interviewing graduates from Guelph, particularly the Agricultural and Veterinary Colleges and Macdonald Institute and now of course, University of Guelph graduates, I’d like to review some of the things that we asked University of Guelph graduates. What were you involved in extra- mural activities, when you were an undergraduate student? I know you were a veteran, and some of those activities may be a little different than what some of our Guelph graduates were involved with.
W Well, my main extra-curricular activity, I suppose in those days was just being a husband and a father, which of course took up a great deal of time. But on a more serious note, when I first started at the University of Toronto, I was lucky enough to have my first year on the main campus at Toronto. And then in our second year, basically all of the Engineering School moved to the site at Ajax, an old munitions factory at Ajax. And there were no clubs formed then. It was difficult to get people to have extra-curricular activities to talk about say a metallurgical club, or a geology club, or mechanical engineering club. And there were a couple of us who took on the task of helping to form these clubs, and I’ve forgotten now, who the actual chairman of clubs was. I was vice-chairman of clubs. And then we tried to get people to take on the chairmanship of other clubs, and have that kind of activity going on the Ajax campus and which continued of course, on to the University of Toronto campus when we came back there. One has to remember that we had in my second year, which I spent at Ajax, we had about twenty-five hundred engineering students on the Ajax campus, which, as I’ve indicated was just an old munitions factory, with huts that the workers lived in. So all the students lived in those huts. And it was rather important that we had something else to do, but go to class, come back, do our quote “homework” and get up in the morning and go off to class again. We needed some kind of activity in the evening that was related to what we were there for, but also had a kind of social aspect to it. So that’s why clubs became important in being at Ajax.
B As students, we all made friends when we were undergraduates. I was an undergraduate at Guelph. We lived in residence for four years, and we still maintain some of those friendships. And, how about you as a veteran, living in a place like Ajax – how about friendships in those days?
W We’d tended, of course, to make friends with two groups. One, the people who were in your class – that is the metallurgists – and the people who lived in your hut, because that’s what they were – out at Ajax. And I’ve maintained contact with some of each group over the years. As time went on, I’ve lost contact with probably – except for one or two people – most of the people who lived in my hut, but have maintained quite good contact with those people who were with me in metallurgy – especially those people who went on to do graduate work at the same time that I did in metallurgy. And, one in particular, who became a professor at Toronto, along with myself – Professor George Craig. We still visit back and forth, and remain very good friends to this day. He was an Air Force navigator. He spent most of his time out in the east – India and Burma – and of course, I was a Naval navigator and we often trade insults about how the only reason they found their way home was ‘cause they asked the Navy which direction to steer, and they say the only reason the Navy never got to the right port, was they didn’t know how to signal to get proper instructions themselves. But those are the kind of things that we’ve remained very good friends ever since.
B That’s very interesting, Dr. Winegard. The other question I have foryou, is that, no doubt having served as President of the University of Guelph, and having been involved in so many things through your life – you have received many honours. Would you like to review, for me, some of the honours that you have received, in your lifetime?
W Well, let me think about this – let me look first at the academic honours that came from my metallurgy engineering career, say. The first would be the Alcan Award from the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy for outstanding achievement in metallurgy. I have received the Lifetime Membership in the American Society for Metals for outstanding service to metallurgy. I was lucky enough to receive the Gold Medal – the primary honour that the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gives. I have been named to the sort of Hall of Fame – I think the Alumni Hall of Distinction is what they actually call it – of the Engineering group at the University of Toronto. And, again, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive several Honourary Degrees, from Toronto itself, which is always nice to receive an Honourary Degree from your Alma Mater, from Laurentian, from McMaster, from Memorial in Newfoundland, in fact the Dean of Engineering there was a former student that I had known. Hong Kong Baptist University, where I had served on the Hong Kong of Council of Universities there. In fact we advised the governor on what to do about the universities, and I’d been closely associated with them. And there are other Honourary Degrees, and of course I have an Honourary Fellowship from the University of Guelph. I suppose one of the fun times was actually being named as a member of the Privy Council of Canada, when you’re sworn to the Cabinet and you’re sworn to the Privy Council. And that lets you put “PC” after your name. I’m not quite sure what it really means. I think before they go to war, they have to ask you if they should or not, or some such thing like that. And then just recently I was named as a Officer of the Order of Canada, which really was a thrill. I’m very pleased.
B I think you missed one honour that you received, when you were at the University of Guelph.I recall you were made an Honourary Graduate of the Diploma Programme in Agriculture at the University. Do you have any comments on that.
W Well, that’s quite right. I remember that little induction quite well, and I have the Diploma that they gave me. It was a kind of multi-coloured – multi-coloured letters on the Diploma, and it’s sittingon the shelf in the den right now.
B One of the important phases of your life, Dr. Winegard, was when you became a Member of Parliament as a Progressive Conservative, for the Guelph-Wellington riding. I believe you were elected in 1984 and during your tenure, as MP, you were Minister of Science. Would you like to comment on that phase of your life?
W Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that, one tends to think of your life as sort of broken up into various and separate issues and separate jobs and so on. But, so often, one flows out of the other. I came to Guelph, because I was Assistant Dean at Toronto. I became a Member of Parliament in large measure, because of students at Guelph. Now let me explain. When I left Ontario Council on University Affairs, I set up my own consulting business – Metallurgy and Management Organization, and we were doing very well. My wife was very happy, I was happy. And then, Mr. Hales, who was Member of Parliament , no he was gone by then, but he came to me and said, “You know, you should think about running. I know you did years ago, but you should think about it again.” And other people from Guelph, some of – I’m going to call the old Guelph, not that they were old, but they’re families that had been in Guelph for years, came to talk to me. And then, people who had been students at the University of Guelph, while I was President. And in a sense they “hoisted me in my own petard”. All the time that I was President, I used to walk up and down the brick walkway, and drop in occasionally to the residences on my way back home or on my way someplace else. And we would talk and I would preach to them – I guess I preached – I maybe didn’t realize I was doing it, – about “Sense of Responsibility and Good Citizenship” and things like that. So, in 1983, when we had decided that we were going to come back to Guelph – we had been living a little bit outside of Guelph, and we had an apartment in Toronto, and we were always on the road. We were either going to something in Toronto at night, or we were coming to visit friends in Guelph at night – let’s go back to Guelph. Well, as soon as that decision was taken, and known – they knew we were looking for land around Guelph, a group approached me, as I say, made up partially of these former University of Guelph students, who said, “Well, you preached it. Are you prepared to live up to your preachings?” And the net result was, of course, that after six months procrastination, I did decide I would try for the nomination, and got that and then subsequently won the election. I enjoyed most of being a Member of Parliament – I didn’t enjoy the insults one got, but that’s all part of the game. And then, in 1988 I guess it was, the Prime Minister asked if I’d like to join the Cabinet as the first as Minister of State for Science and Technology, and then because of a reorganization that was going on, I was in essence sworn again into the Cabinet as Minister for Science. And the difference being a little higher up the ladder – you got a few more staff to help you do your job. And I was Minister for Science until January of ’93 when I knew, obviously, because of my wife’s health, that I was not going to run again, and asked the Prime Minister if I wasn’t going to run and therefore I was quite prepared to resign and let him get somebody in position and was back being a Member of Parliament again. But, an interesting part of my life. I liken it to having been in the war. It’s nice to have done it and lived.
B Yes, Dr. Winegard, well I remember your nomination meeting in Memorial Gardens in downtown Guelph. I believe it was the only nomination meeting for a member of parliament that I ever attended, so, we were pleased that you had moved back to this constituency and represented us very well, during those years as M.P. And now that you’re living here on Stone Road East, still in this constituency and riding, or municipality I should say , maybe you’d like to comment on your retirement here in Guelph.
W There was never any question that we were going to spend the rest of our days in Guelph. When we made the decision to move, if you like, back directly into the Guelph Community, rather than being out near Acton, in 1982 we knew that this was the decision, and was not predicated on me being an M.P., it was furthest from our mind at that time. It was just that we liked Guelph. We had many, many good friends here. We wanted to be part of this community. So when we left the political scene, it wasn’t a question whether we were going to stay or not. I mean, this is where we live. This is the city we love and this is where our friends are, and we expect to have many happy years here.
B Well, Dr. Winegard, thank you for your time this afternoon. This has been an enjoyable period, speaking with the Honourable William C. Winegard.
This interview was conducted by Murray Brown OAC ’51, during the afternoon of the 16th of November, 1998.