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336 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 P.B. Waite. The Lives of Dalhousie University. Volume 2: 1925-1980: The Old College Transformed McGill-Queen's University Press. xvi, 488. $44.95 This second volume in a multivolume history of Dalhousie University makes fascinating reading. It describes the growth of the already wen established institution during a period of transformation, and although the idiosyncrasies of Dalhousie, Halifax, and Nova Scotia are the central focus of the study, the sea-change depicted is emblematic of that in most Canadian universities of similar age and mission. The first volume dealt with the fragile history of the fledgling college after its founding in 1818, when funds were provided by the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, George Ramsay, the ninth Earl ofDalhousie, to found a nondenominational college in Halifax with money acquired by the British army during its ' occupation of parts of Maine in the War of 1812. Dalhousie has always been an important institution; first in the life of Halifax and Nova Scotia and second on the national scene, as the only multifaculty university with a medical school between Quebec and Newfoundland (and Memorial's acquisition of a medical school isrecent). Peter Waite's study captures the constant tension between the university, the city, and Nova Scotia to maintain this significant role in a have-not province blessed with individualistic people of importance. Constantly struggling for adequate resources, frequently locked in conflict involving its president, always striving to find a balance in fiscal responsibility to its profeSSional schools and its historically central arts and science disciplines, Dalhousie has succeeded in producing a stream of significant graduates and a host of Rhodes Scholars, and continues to occupy a prominent national niche. This second volume of its history not only documents the coming of age of the many-faceted university but also demonstrates the continuing nature of its endemic stresses. The distinctive features of Nova Scotian intellectual!cultural life, implicit in Waite's account although of necessity not analysed in depth, lie at the heart of Dalhousie's problems and strengths. Halifax is relatively isolated from central eastern Canada. Nova Scotia is not a rich province. There are many Wliversities in that province, several of nineteenth-century vintage, most of regional importance, and all competing for resources. In this context, a university trying to establish a national presence with a wide range of graduate and professional schools is inevitably competing a'gainst vested local interests and a strong local tradition of first-class liberal education, less expensive and more intellectually digestible than the comprehensive model. At the same time, the very isolation of Halifax has made it a cosmopolitan city, open to the sea and the varying cultures sea trade brings, and dependent on its home-grown cultural and artistic resources . Similarly, education has always been important to Nova Scotians, HUMANITIES 337 both as a way out of the fishing village and to the small but significant Establishment with its comfortable, if woolly, patrician values, which are a far cry from the genuinely provincial small-mindedness ofMike Harris's Ontario. This mix of strengths and limitations provides the background to Waite's account of the fifty-five years during which Dalhousie changed from being a small privately funded institution of under a thousand students to a nationally significant university of nine thousand students enrolled in many graduate and professional programs as well as in those leading to traditional undergraduate degrees. The tough-mindedness of Dalhousie traditions is exemplified in a letter Waite quotes from President MacKenzie to sixty-one-year-old English professor Archibald MacMechan, who, in 1923, wanted to be exempted frominvigilating examinations: 'I was surprised and pained to receive your written complaint/ he writes, 'I do not see how any distinction can be drawn between one member of the staff and another, unless decrepitude sets in, and have that democratic spirit retained through the whole faculty which is an essential of our Dalhousie mode of life.' Another feature of the strange mixture of isolation and cosmopolitanism of the place is the fact that the same MacMechan had to supplement his meagre Dalhousie salary by summer teaching - at Columbia and Harvard. Chronically short of funds, Dalhousie...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 336-337
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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