Who's Who and Why
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 Mar 1958, p. 231-240
Hall, George Edward, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Characteristics of "successful" men and women. How the rags-to-riches tradition became generally associated with the American formula of success. The influence of Andrew Carnegie. Facts that refute the fables. The same story in the professions. How times have changed and the statistics have not. Examining so-called changes in the attitudes of many of our young people and their apparent loss of incentive or reluctance to tackle the "risk" jobs. Canada undergoing the same type of industrial and economic expansion which characterized the United States 50 or 75 years ago. The keystones of a progressive society. Who shapes our society. Looking at youth and parenting. Asking questions about education such as "Who should go to University?" Being adventurous. The new-Canadian students. The dangers of protecting our children too much. Preparing our children for an unknown future.
Date of Original
6 Mar 1958
Language of Item
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Full Text
An Address by GEORGE EDWARD HALL, A.F.C., E.D., M.S.A., M.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D: es S., F.R.S.C., President and Vice-Chancellor, The University of Western Ontario, London
Thursday, March 6th, 1958
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. W. H. Montague.

LT.-COL. MONTAGUE: It is our great good fortune to be addressed today, during "Education Week", by one of Canada's foremost educationists--George Edward Hall, A.F.C., E.D., M.S.A., M.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D. es S., F.R.S.C., who is President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Ontario, which is an eighty-year old institution of learning, well known to all of us.

Dr. Hall, a native of Lindsay, Ontario, received his own education at Lindsay Collegiate Institute, Ontario Agricultural College, University of Toronto and the University of Ghent (Belgium).

His graduate studies embraced a period under Sir Frederick Banting at Banting Institute in 1929; the obtaining of his Master's degree in Biochemistry in 1931; his Doctor's degree in Medicine in 1935; his Ph.D. in Physiology in 1936, and the Reeve Prize for Medical Research. He also studied in England.

Dr. Hall's appointments commenced as Research Associate in 1935 in the Dept. of Medical Research of the Banting Institute (U. of T.), then Asst. Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor by 1939.

Prior to World War II he joined the armed forces in charge of Aviation Medicine for the R.C.A.F. and he served, actively, from 1939 to 1945--being, also, a member of several research committees of the National Research Council. He was awarded the Air Force Cross, the Canadian Officer's Efficiency Decoration, and the American Legion of Merit.

In 1945 he was appointed Dean of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario, London, and, after two years, he became the President and Vice-Chancellor.

From this broad background of academic accomplishment, research experience, distinguished wartime service with His Majesty's forces, and as a top flight educator, Dr. Hall will address us on the subject, "Who's Who and Why".

Gentlemen: Dr. G. Edward Hall, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Ontario.

DR. HALL: The books of Horatio Alger, avidly ready by former generations of young Canadians and Americans, gave credence to the rags-to-riches tradition of success. It was perhaps an uncritical acceptance of the concept of equality of opportunity regardless of background and of education. It was, too, an emotional allegory wherein right overcame wrong, where justice prevailed, where determination, honour and poverty were characteristics of the hero; the rich man's son ended in disgrace. The background for success was poverty.

Just how true was this tradition? Mr. Richard Morris, the editor of the Encyclopaedia o f American History, listing 300 notable Americans of that period, has told us. Over two-thirds of this really "successful" group of men and women "built their careers on the solid basis of family backgrounds of wealth, social positions or culture". Two thirds of the 300 had a college or professional school background. Only 84 of the 300 actually "rose from poverty". And these 300 are of a much earlier generation than ours.

How then did the rags-to-riches tradition become generally associated with the American formula of success? Obviously, explains Mr. Morris, it came initially from the 19th century literature of the adolescent, the dime-novel hero Deadwood Dick--the self-made man, and from the tireless Mr. Alger whose Phil the Fiddler, Swim or Sink, Sam the Bootblack, etc. stressed the same theme. It was, too, an indication of rugged individualism in an expanding nation; it was an indication that success was "not a matter of background" but of "the survival of the fittest".

Andrew Carnegie was at that time most influential in instilling in the minds of youth that the office boy who had to leave school at 14 had a greater chance of success than the college graduate. Carnegie believed that the great business leaders had come from "the sternest of all schools--poverty". The many fabulous stories of individual achievement of about that time solidified the tradition. Carnegie--himself a bobbin-boy, Montgomery Ward--a farm territory dry goods salesman, Marshall Field--who left home at 17 to clerk in a village store, Meyer Guggenheim--an immigrant peddler, James Duke of tobacco fame and fortune. It all sounds so impressive but still, as Mr. Morris explains, the backgrounds of these men were no more typical of the successful businessmen than were the "log-cabin origins of Jackson and Lincoln typical of (the American President)".

One can go over many studies made of American business leaders during various periods. The facts refute the fables. Of one such study of 1500 business leaders, 64% came from the upper or upper middle class and some 40% of them were sons of businessmen. A recent study of 100 railroad men most prominent in the development of the great railroad systems in the Eastern United States during the 19th century showed that all of them came from established families and that no one was either an immigrant himself or the son or even the grandson of an immigrant.

The story, of course, is the same in the professions. Certainly there are exceptions but not too many. Take law as an example. The report reveals that family background has almost been a prerequisite for top-level achievement. And another analysis of 187 top businessmen of the first decade of this century again reveals that the majority were sons of businessmen. Only 5% were of underprivileged origin. Driving a real spike into

Carnegie's assumption, this last report shows that 45% started to work, not at 14 but at 19 or over and 41 % had attended college. Less than 3% had been "poor" boys--immigrant or otherwise.

Later, in 1940, Fortune Magazine reviewed the careers of 100 corporation presidents. A higher proportion than in the 1900 survey--45%--had gone to college.

It might seem that family background, adequate financial resources, good connections and a college education were integral requirements of a successful business or professional career. It would seem that although the door to business opportunities was not quite shut, it was still not very wide open. But look at it from the other point of view. Even though 54% of those top people in Fortune's 1950 survey had gone to college, 32% of the 100 corporation presidents were classified as "self-made men". A 300 hitter is still a bib leaguer.

But times have changed. The postwar period had placed greater and greater emphasis on education. The complexities of our society have demanded breadth of knowledge, technical skills and increased understanding. Youth is in the forefront relegating to the background the older business-leader. So we imagine.

Once again Fortune, in 1952, suggests otherwise. But the educational pattern had changed from the previous decade--65% of the 900 top executives in the survey had had four or more years of college. And significant, too, is the fact that the typical big-company high executive joined his present company while still in his twenties. He had served, on the average, only one other company before starting a life-time of service in his present company. "In the modem large corporation managerial talent tends to stay put".

But we are in Canada undergoing the same type of industrial and economic expansion which characterized the United States 50 or 75 years ago. We have a more rugged task, dictated in part by geography, ahead of us than did the industrial pioneers of the comparable period in the United States. And yet we are together today in a competitive modern society. Today the expanding frontiers of science, of technology, of marketing, of distribution, of exploration, are beacons to be followed by new men with new ideas. The young men possessing even a fraction of the talent of a Carnegie, of the imagination of a Guggenheim, of the industry and judgment of a Ford will always "find himself in a seller's market".

I often wonder if our society is losing sight of the fact that vigor, creativity, boldness and the sense of adventure are the keystones of a progressive society. Complacency, lack of dedication, fear of taking a risk--these are some of the things which we, as people, should fear.

Too often we think that it is the decision of our political leaders (and to a lesser extent, the voice of the voters) which shapes our society. I don't think so. Primarily the decisions are made each day by hundreds of thousands of people throughout our country. These decisions, individual decisions, create an attitude. The attitudes grow, a trend of thinking develops, concepts are established and the total society either through subsequent legislation or by general acceptance of a point of view, changes--for better or for worse. And for great importance in shaping the destiny or at least the direction of any society is the freedom of choice as to what one will do in life. Many societies deny this freedom. In many societies the individual's role was fairly well established at birth. But in Canada and in the United States at least, the extent of choice is virtually unlimited, the opportunities almost boundless. And the decision relative to education is central in that choice.

It has been charged many times that our young people are more concerned with security than with opportunity, that ambition has been replaced by lethargy and that individualism and ruggedness have given way to conformity and softness. These allegations are worthy of very careful examination but at the same time we would of necessity have to examine the influence of the parents relative to these attitudes. Perhaps the criticisms are being directed at the wrong target. Let us look at this thing from one or two points of view.

Let us go back to the suggestion that perhaps our young people are being criticised for various attitudes when the criticism should be levelled at someone else--with reason perhaps and certainly with understanding.

Narrowing some of these considerations to the field of education here are, in question form, a few pertinent points which require on the part of every parent, soul searching, understanding and realistic appraisal. And that is not only difficult: it is almost impossible. I certainly do not profess to know all of the answers.

1. There are parents who want their children to be doctors, others who want their children to be chemists, or engineers, or carpenters or bankers. Whose decision is it? If a boy is old enough and mature enough to go to University, is he not old enough or mature enough to determine what he wishes to do?
2. Who should go to University? Is University a must for my child just because he is my child? It is difficult for parents to weigh the evidence of their child's ability for higher education. To say that every child should think about going to University, should prepare for University, is not to say that everyone must go to University. He may not want to go. He may wish to develop his talents in some other direction. Or he may even wish to do nothing about his talents, even if he has plenty. It is ridiculous to think, as too many do, that success and a college education are synonymous.
3. Having decided on a university education the next question is what university should be selected. There are universities and colleges in large cities and in small towns. There are co-educational ones. There are denominational, provincial and private non-denominational universities and colleges. There are some right at home, some close to home, or far away. Although bigness is not synonymous with greatness neither is smallness synonymous with high quality. The right university is the one which will provide a particular person with the appropriate opportunities for maximum development and not necessarily the one that Dad went to. Dad and the boy, Mum and the girl are different people.
4. Should the course taken or the curriculum followed by one which makes the graduate immediately more marketable? Or is a College course a preparation for an adult lifetime?

As the recent Carnegie Corporation report, which deals admirably with this whole series of problems, puts it " ... the more able the young person, the more critically he should think about educational offering. He should shop with discrimination and accept only the best. Above all, the young person of superior ability should require that his education provide him with continual challenge and intellectual growth. He should expect steady progress in comprehension of fundamental principles relating to a subject and in the mastering of various modes of analysis. He must not sell these important gains for a mess of trivial information, 'practical' techniques, and seemingly useful know-how which will be out of date by the time he gets a job".

But to get back again to the basic question of the socalled change in the attitudes of many of our young people and their apparent loss of incentive or reluctance to tackle the "risk" jobs. And this in the face of great opportunities and a known scarcity for almost every type of activity. It would appear that many of the graduates have put security and stability ahead of everything; they think in terms of high salaries, pension plans, holiday arrangements, job security. They will work, and work hard for those things--but most of them will not look twice at the jobs with adventure, the undertaking which may fail, the positions which require dedication, or the jobs which are rough and risky.

May I quote again from the Carnegie report: "The younger generation has been heavily belaboured for this attitude. But anyone who cannot see in it the fine hand of parents has not talked to many fathers and mothers of college-age children. It is an understatement to say that they are not adventurous for their children. They are profoundly and incurably unadventurous. And understandably so. They do not want their children to suffer. They hope somehow they can save them all the foolish mistakes, all the blind alleys, all the regrets and all the detours which characterized their own lives. Faced with decisions for their children, they favour the conventional over the unconventional, the easy over the difficult, the secure over the risky".

This, one can say, is not new; nor is it an unexpected reaction. But we must not forget that today with our incomes and higher standard of living we can do far more about it than our parents or grandparents could. Mr. Gardner adds this: "Though parents have always favoured stability, security, and the `treading of the old paths' for their children, they have never had sufficient command of the exigencies of life to insure that outcome. Today . . . they can go very far in creating the stable and secure environment which they wish for their youngster. Having done so, they think they can wind him up like an eighty-day clock, and set him ticking in his beneficent environment, confident that he will whir along until he runs down".

Throughout the history of Canada are emblazoned the names of adventurous souls, daring people, people who sought new horizons, people who made great sacrifices, people who enjoyed competition and revelled in its excitement, people who believed in themselves, people who preferred opportunity to security, people who were not afraid to make mistakes.

No-one can truthfully say that Canadian young people have changed. No-one dare say that they are not as brave or as capable or as loyal as their parents were. That things have changed is true, but "what may have changed is our capacity (as parents) to evoke these qualities".

Andrejicka, Biagioni, Chertkoff, Demetracopoulos, Ebisuzaki, Fioravanti, Grocholski, Hayashida, Jensen, Kaspardlov, Litavaniks, Marziali, Narakas, Oleskevich, Peterson: These are not the names of members of the former French Foreign Legion nor even members of some pro football team. They are names of students at Western University, in London--a centre of Anglo-Saxon traditions. They are students at a private university. They are residents of Ontario. They are Canadians just like you and I. They and thousands like them are hard working, eager, appreciative and responsible citizens. They deserve our respect and our commendation. They don't always receive it. Why?

Perhaps it is because they are willing to work harder than do some other Canadians. Perhaps it is because they see something which we have lost sight of--opportunity, and they are determined to strive and to risk and to look ahead. Perhaps it is because many of their parents or grandparents do not speak English quite as well as we do. Perhaps it is because they or their families have been labelled with that unfortunate tag--"D.P.".

Canada is supposed to be a democratic country. Were the Tustanoffs, the Uchinos, the Von Zur Muhlens, the Zielonkos, parents of more of our students, forced to come to Canada? Certainly not. They came to Canada because they saw in Canada a land of hope, of opportunity, of freedom. They came to Canada for the same general reasons which brought our grandfathers or our great-grandfathers to this new land. They came to Canada for the same reasons that brought the Andrew Carnegies, the Meyer Guggenheims, the Kefauvers, the Eisenhowers, the Roosevelts, to the United States. They too were one-time immigrants. They too had vision, had determination, had courage and were willing to work, to start at humble beginnings--and they succeeded. They made Who's Who.

Are we, third, fourth or fifth generation Canadians losing our zest for adventure? Are we afraid of ourselves or only of hard work and competition?

Here are some of our major scholarship winnersVon Rickoff, VanderLaan, Vanslyke, Hansebout, Ondrejicka, Dohnberg, Kotorynski--all recent immigrants--now new Canadians. And Ingeborg Suter and her brother Gerhard Suter--the two children of a warwidowed immigrant mother, Maria Wahl, John Vellinga, Peter Zelinski, Valentina Tritjack, Gregor Sass.

Certainly there are others--many others--from AngloCanadian and French-Canadian homes. But proportionately?

The parents of our new-Canadian students have given their children a sense of the opportunities which are waiting. The spirit of adventure is in their minds--the sense of urgency in their being--maybe because they do not have those too comfortable things which we expect and prize so highly.

Are we as parents denying our children, through a desire to protect them, of those things which Canada, and the world, need more today than ever before? Are we, as parents, afraid to let out children face comparable challenges to those which our parents and grandparents faced? Are we denying that a person learns not from his successes but from his failures? Have we forgotten that even a glorious failure is worth while--if we survive it and push on?

We as parents should not always assume that we know what is best for our youngsters. We do not know what the future holds. We must begin to realize that our young people are preparing now to face an unknown future. It is for us to help our boys and girls become prepared to meet their future--not ours, but theirs!

And whether our names be Mackenzie, Paquette, Jones, Murphy, Olizarevitch, Kaufmann, Van der Graff, Kotorinski, or Hall, we are all Canadians. We are all parents. Our new friends, our new Canadians, have the same will to progress and to adventure now that exemplified our forefathers in making Canada what it is today. Individual effort, hard work, desire, initiative and imagination are still the keynotes of success Those who face the world on that premise will be found in any one's Who's Who; those who cloak themselves in a cocoon of stability and guarantees or who are soothed by the rocking cradle of security may live a comfortable life but may never know the real thrills of living.

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Dr. C. C. Goldring, a Past President of the Club.

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Who's Who and Why

Characteristics of "successful" men and women. How the rags-to-riches tradition became generally associated with the American formula of success. The influence of Andrew Carnegie. Facts that refute the fables. The same story in the professions. How times have changed and the statistics have not. Examining so-called changes in the attitudes of many of our young people and their apparent loss of incentive or reluctance to tackle the "risk" jobs. Canada undergoing the same type of industrial and economic expansion which characterized the United States 50 or 75 years ago. The keystones of a progressive society. Who shapes our society. Looking at youth and parenting. Asking questions about education such as "Who should go to University?" Being adventurous. The new-Canadian students. The dangers of protecting our children too much. Preparing our children for an unknown future.