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Man in the Ivory Tower

Man in the Ivory Tower: F. Cyril James of McGill

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Man in the Ivory Tower
    Book Description:

    Tracing the course of a serendipitous career -- from a working-class home in London, England, where he was born shortly after the turn of the century, to his death there in 1973 -- the James story sheds light on student and professional life at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1920s, on economic and political changes in the US during the turbulent thirties, and on the development of the US banking industry in one of its most critical periods.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6269-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    Stanley Brice Frost
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Early Influences
    (pp. 3-15)

    Early in the morning of 4 September 1939, the transatlantic liner theAntoniasteamed up the St Lawrence and docked at Montreal. The passengers who disembarked were in a thankful but sombre mood. At Quebec the previous day they had heard the dreaded news of the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany. This morning they had been further shocked by the report of the sinking of their sister ship, theAthenia,by a German submarine. Safely landed, they realized they themselves had had a narrow escape.

    The passengers found themselves in a country preoccupied with wartime preparations. The official...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Young Philadelphian
    (pp. 16-27)

    The story of Frank James’ first year in America reads very much like one of the G.A. Henty adventure stories popular in the 1920s among British schoolboys. The young hero goes off to a strange country, faces all kinds of new and exciting experiences, is threatened many times because of his inexperience by potential disaster, but each time escapes the danger in a way that greatly benefits him, so that every incident unexpectedly furthers his career.

    The theme began to develop while he was still in London. Five days before he was due to sail on the Red Star liner...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Rising Star
    (pp. 28-51)

    Cyril James could not have arrived in the United States at a more exciting period for a political economist than the mid 1920s and early 1930s. He entered the country at a time when a rising tide of prosperity for business and commerce was beginning to encourage the spread of financial speculation to an extent that in a few short years could only be described as reckless gambling. A particularly serious feature of the activity in the year 1929 was the unchecked extension of credit, for buying farms, machinery, commodities, even services such as education, and above all equities on...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR North to Canada
    (pp. 52-75)

    James had visited Montreal at least once before, to board a ship bound for England, but the city evidently made no great impression at that time, and when he returned in March 1939 to examine the McGill offer more closely, the judgment he formed was not very favourable. The city, he wrote in a diary note, was encased in a layer of dirty ice and embellished with piles of frozen snow along the edge of every sidewalk. It was cold, too, with the thermometer at 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Nor were his first impressions of McGill any more positive.

    The purpose...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Committee on Reconstruction
    (pp. 76-101)

    The opportunity that presented itself in the spring of 1941 must have seemed to James one for which the whole of his previous career had prepared him. The federal government of Canada, led by Mackenzie King, was devoting its energies to the prosecution of the war, but it also had time, when it was prompted, to think of the conflict’s aftermath. It was essential that the chaos and recriminations that had followed World War I not be repeated. Under the aegis of the Cabinet Committee of Demobilization and Re-establishment, a committee was appointed to advise the government on postwar reconstruction...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Contributing to War
    (pp. 102-113)

    After his return from England in March 1942, James plunged once more into the work of running a university. Among the many trivial but nonetheless time-consuming matters, one issue of major importance engaged his attention and enthusiasm. This was an attempt to induce the different faculties of the university to provide “accelerated programs” so that students could finish their courses in a shorter time and be available to assist in the war effort. His determination in this matter was a direct outcome of his month in England, where the war and its grim consequences were a more immediate reality than...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Preparing for Peace
    (pp. 114-140)

    In September 1943, Cyril James was beginning his fifth year at McGill. One matter of particular importance that had to be decided was the choosing of a new chancellor. Edward Beatty had held the office for so long and with such magisterial authority that no one quite knew how to replace him.

    The obvious nominee was John Wilson McConnell, a successful businessman who had already demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities, as well as a high degree of generosity toward McGill. But a small group of governors led by George McDonald were resolutely opposed to his election. While they presented their concern...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Instant College and Personal Relationships
    (pp. 141-159)

    After the vacation in August 1945, James returned to Montreal ready to take up the challenge of running a university in a postwar world. He contemplated it with his usual misgivings.

    Sunday, 2 September

    This coming session will be a very difficult one, and at the moment I am doubtful of my own competence. It will be my first peace-time experience of University administration - and the single concentration of aims that characterised the war-years will be replaced by the problems of leadership and changing ideals in a difficult world. I shall have to make a large number of appointments...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Wider Horizons
    (pp. 160-178)

    The postwar years were a time of great expansion for McGill not only in student numbers but also in physical capacities. Geography, as we have seen, was started as a new department, Psychiatry set forward in conjunction with the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Neurological Hospital was (as usual) waiting to expand, Psychology under Donald Hebb had launched on a new, exciting course, the Arctic Institute had been given space on the McGill campus, the Cyclotron and Radiation laboratories were given their own new buildings, and the physical sciences and engineering faculties were crowded as never before. A diary entry for...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Irresistible Logic and Immovable Opposition
    (pp. 179-190)

    The major topic in Canadian academic circles at the beginning of the 1950s was the looming crisis created by the passing of the veterans. Their coming in 1945 had confronted all universities with large financial problems but none more than McGill. With the cooperation of the federal government, these had been solved. Now, as the holders of grants graduated, the flow of governmentper capitagrants began to dwindle. But the expenditures they had generated did not. Buildings, equipment, programs, additional faculty appointments all continued and indeed had to be maintained because the places vacated by veterans were being taken...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Many Distractions
    (pp. 191-218)

    The spring of 1953 brought Cyril James a number of personal preoccupations, which at least served to distract him from his university and political concerns. They were important enough to provoke him into writing a diary note about them, even though journal-keeping was by now a thing of the past.

    Thursday, 19 March

    This - to put it mildly - is an unusual spring. The large problem of Duplessis and the financial future of McGill seems to have worked an unexpected (and partly coincidental) counterpoise in the Gold Award from the students, the silver cigarette box from the Vermont bankers...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE Achievement for McGill
    (pp. 219-235)

    After his return from Greece and Istanbul, James found his relationships with the university once again subject to change. In the first part of the decade, his position on campus had been consolidated and his affections clarified, but in the second half he became aware that circumstances were still evolving, and he found himself entering a period of increasing uncertainty - no longer from merely his old insecurities but from strong forces external to himself.

    The actual administration of the university was operating more smoothly than ever it had before. William Bentley retired as bursar, but George Grimson was competently...

  16. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Achievement Beyond McGill
    (pp. 236-263)

    Although in the middle and late 1950s James was performing in public with his usual air of competence, in his own mind he was continuing to doubt the wisdom of staying in his position of principal, and he welcomed activities outside the university to divert his thoughts and to provide him with interest and stimulation. In the late fall of 1955, he visited the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, briefly touring the Bible lands; in the winter of 1956-7 he led a team in a thorough review of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. The invitation to...

  17. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Resignation and Retirement
    (pp. 264-282)

    After the excitement of the IAU Conference in Mexico, James returned to McGill, and life reassumed its more normal patterns. But two events during the academic year gave him great pleasure, and echoed, as it were, the plaudits of Mexico City. In November he received a letter asking if he would allow his name to be placed in nomination as an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Economics; in March he was asked if he would be willing to receive an honorary degree from Harvard.

    The latter distinction speaks for itself. At Harvard the custom is to eschew long...

  18. CHAPTER FIFTEEN The After Years
    (pp. 283-292)

    The show was over, but the farewells continued. A grand occasion was provided at the beginning of November when the celebrated pianist, Ellen Ballon, gave a white-tie dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at which the socially elite of Montreal, the “best people” as Orville Tyndale had once called them, gathered to salute the departure of one whom they recognized as a great man. When he had first arrived in Montreal, some of them had tended to think of him as an upstart and an interloper, but now they realized that he had done much for their city, for their university,...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 293-306)
  20. Index
    (pp. 307-314)