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McMaster University, Volume 3: 1957-1987

McMaster University, Volume 3: 1957-1987: A Chance for Greatness

Copyright Date: 2015
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    McMaster University, Volume 3: 1957-1987
    Book Description:

    In 1957, McMaster was a small Baptist enclave of traditional higher learning on the western outskirts of Hamilton. Thirty years later it was home to the only nuclear reactor on a Commonwealth campus and had cultivated a thriving engineering program and a world-class medical school. In the third volume of the university's history, James Greenlee illuminates the core ideas, driving ambitions, and occasionally sharp conflicts that marked this startling transition. Greenlee offers a tightly focused study of the planning, people, and events that gave McMaster its distinctive and bold personality. At the heart of these developments stood President Harry Thode, whose master plan forged a research-intensive institution of medium size, but one capable of surpassing the largest institutions in carefully selected fields. Despite dramatic ups and downs, the remarkable persistence of this model is the key to understanding modern McMaster. For readers interested in the problems of mass education in a democratic age, the origins of revolutionary approaches to medical training, or the tangled relations among a university, its community, and the province, this volume, like the McMaster leaders it follows, has a story to tell.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8268-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    James G. Greenlee
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xvii-2)
  7. INTRODUCTION: The University as Protagonist
    (pp. 3-4)

    To author a volume in the history of one’s alma mater is a singular honour. To do so, however, as successor to C.M. Johnston, is to render an already considerable challenge even more daunting. Still, it is always a luxury to follow an astute pathfinder, and, thanks to him, the way ahead is clear.

    Picking up where he left off, the task is to interpret McMaster’s striking metamorphosis during the period from 1957 to 1987, when not only the size, but the fundamental ethos of the university underwent dramatic change. Here, the wordinterpretis used advisedly, not casually, because...

  8. 1 According to Harry
    (pp. 5-23)

    “Baptist Control Ends,” declared theSilhouette’sbanner headline on Friday 21 September 1956. Word had just come that secularization was imminent, and the student paper hastened into print. Potentially anxious readers were assured that there was no cause for alarm, since little fundamental change was expected. After all, said theSil, certain deeply rooted principles already guided McMaster along lines fully compatible with most small, secular universities on the continent. Indeed, thanks to the latitude long afforded by an enlightened Baptist Convention, McMaster enjoyed a decidedly liberal ethos. Thus, early and excessive specialization were eschewed, while core requirements, spanning a...

  9. 2 Great Balls of Fire
    (pp. 24-40)

    On 24 June 1964, Hamiltonians scanning theGlobe and Mailmust have done a sharp double take. In a rare tip of its upscale bowler, that proud Toronto daily heartily applauded academic initiatives in lunch-bucket Steel Town. Indeed, in a feature story, entitled “A Powerful Push at McMaster,” columnist J.B. St John went so far as to predict that the former Baptist institution now stood on the brink of becoming “one of the most impressive university sites in the province.” He founded this assertion less on swelling undergraduate numbers than on a recent growth spurt in doctoral and postdoctoral studies...

  10. 3 Bedrock
    (pp. 41-65)

    The Faculty of Science, as it eventually came to be known, was the bedrock upon which the mnr, numerous research units, as well as the university’s unique approach to engineering and, later, medicine stood. Above all, from the fifties through the sixties, it lay at the heart of McMaster’s claim to be distinctive: a compact, research-intensive institution, heavily committed to graduate studies, with science underpinning much of the combined burden. By its nature, this foundation was expensive both to build and maintain. Moreover, its fashions and frontiers were never static. A university seeking to keep pace with scientific practice and...

  11. 4 A Voyage of Development
    (pp. 66-94)

    Like a crisp pass from quarterback Russ Jackson, McMaster science had accepted secularization without breaking stride. As noted, university reorganization was just one in a sequence of steps that reinforced an already well-established Hamilton College game plan. Across campus, however, the events of 1957 were more variously received, with ambivalence being, perhaps, the most common response. “Keep It Small,” for example, had purchase in some corners of University College, just as in the pages of theSilhouette. Nostalgia beckoned many, as an intimate college stood on the brink of populous depersonalization. On the other hand, some welcomed fresh opportunities, but...

  12. 5 Stepchildren
    (pp. 95-132)

    Even as McKay rhapsodized about humanities’ future, in May 1969, John Melling, (acting) dean of social science, was transmitting a veritablecri de coeurto Thode. Excerpted verbatim from minutes of the new faculty, it read: “Let the claims of the Social Sciences be heard and heeded and may the neglect they have suffered be overcome by University action at the highest level.”¹ There was, Melling counselled, palpable yearning “for a separate and distinct identity and release from a confederacy of the Arts and Science which allegedly had stifled the Social Sciences.” Here, it needs be understood that Melling was...

  13. 6 “All or Nothing”
    (pp. 133-169)

    In 1993, Norman Tait McPhedran surveyed the history of Canadian medical schools over the preceding 200 years. Pausing to reflect on Hamilton’s experience, his verdict was unequivocal. “The McMaster experiment in medical education,” he wrote, “is the best known of the twentieth century.”¹ “Best known,” of course, is not the same as “best loved” or “unanimously applauded.” Still, Thode was never one to care much about universal approbation. Audacious accomplishment was more to be prized, in his estimation. Thus, one can readily picture him, then in vigorous retirement, basking in the glow of McPhedran’s emphatic observation. After all, for Thode,...

  14. 7 Harried
    (pp. 170-197)

    Buoyant it might have been, but the spirit animating turn-of-the-decade mumc was far from typical of moods campus-wide. Beyond the walls of Zeidler’s Palace, anxiety was more common than optimism, and conflict as evident as camaraderie. Indeed, the period 1969 through 1972 witnessed a rather uncomfortable “second transition” in the general history of post-Baptist McMaster. These years, after all, saw the first blush of student activism and the initial thrusts of faculty self-assertion. In tandem, warm debate over university governance heated up. Simultaneously, mounting concern with the quality of undergraduate education sparked prolonged agonizing over curricular and pedagogical reform. Meanwhile,...

  15. 8 Student Moments
    (pp. 198-236)

    In their sterling volume,Student Days, C.M. Johnston and John Weaver admirably captured all the colour, texture, customs, and variety of student life in the years under review. From the heroics of Russ Jackson to tomato fights; from musical fashions to the theatrical sparkle of Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, and “ghostbuster” Ivan Reitman, Johnston and Weaver assembled a rich collage that one ray the more could scarce improve. Clearly charted, as well, is the evolution of student clubs and government; from the fifties through the more crowded period beyond.¹ It would be both foolish and derivative to retrace,...

  16. 9 The Art of Bourns
    (pp. 237-278)

    In July 1972, an empathetic colleague sent wryly ambivalent best wishes to Art Bourns. “Congratulations, felicitations, sympathy or whatever you feel most appropriate on your appointment as President,” wrote Carleton chemist J.M. Holmes.¹ After more than two decades of high-velocity leadership, Thode had announced his intention to “retire” into full-time scholarship, late in 1971. Never one to advertise personal feelings, Thode offered no explanation for this decision. Still, one can speculate that a sense of rounded accomplishment must have played some role. From the founding of Hamilton College through to the official opening of mumc, Thode had reimagined McMaster, charted...

  17. 10 Crazy Quilt
    (pp. 279-311)

    Throughout the period, Bourns made his highest institutional goal clear to government, deans, and all on campus: McMaster was and should remain a research- and graduate-intensive university, unashamedly striving to be first in select fields.¹ Economist Peter George (now president emeritus), certainly got the message. Reflecting on the seventies, he later observed, “If you wanted to have any weight around here, you had to have a doctoral program.”² He might have added that one’s PhD offering had better be right up to snuff – have true academic gravitas – if one wished to be fully nourished. This is not the...

  18. 11 The Thodean Commitment
    (pp. 312-352)

    Questions regarding Canadian identity and independence, although familiar enough in the late sixties, were becoming more urgent, during the economically strained seventies. Thus, recession, inflation, and unemployment gave economic and cultural nationalism a keener edge. The influx and influence of all things foreign came under closer review. Symbolic of the hour, the Foreign Investment Review Agency (fira) was established, in 1973, to exert greater domestic control over the fabric of Canada’s economy.¹ In like manner, immigration regulations were progressively tightened in order to reserve dwindling jobs and expensive social assistance for Canadian nationals.² Inevitably, this new “Canada First” impulse had...

  19. 12 “An Adequate Balance”
    (pp. 353-385)

    Cabbage Patch Kids and Reaganomics, a Shamrock Summit and the Meech Lake (almost-but-not-quite) Accord, glasnost, perestroika, and “star wars”: the eighties would be anything but dull. Thus, the “Great Communicator” and the “Iron Lady” bestrode the West, arm in arm, even as the Eastern bloc ambled toward messy dissolution. While velvet revolutions unfolded, antiapartheid sentiment bubbled out of South Africa. Yet, colourful though it might have been, the decade also offered an ample fund of mundane drudgery, especially for those who sought to balance the ledger of either a capitalist or command economy; not to mention that of a mere...

  20. 13 Centennial
    (pp. 386-400)

    The many-faceted campaign to promote a renaissance in undergraduate education touched on and was touched by several developments on the McMaster scene. At best, however, it was a provocative leitmotif embellishing the central theme of an opus composed by Thode. Thus, from his inaugural address through to his mission statement of 1989, the truly dominant chord struck by Lee was in close harmony with that which had resounded at Gilmour Hall, since the late fifties: McMaster was and would remain a virtuoso among Canada’s research-intensive universities. If, in addition, it could be forged into a premier undergraduate school, then some...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 401-458)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 459-464)
  23. Index
    (pp. 465-476)