N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: October 27, 1990
Discipline / contribution: university administration ; science
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate, I present you Dr. John William Tranter Spinks, internationally renowned educator and researcher, and President of the University of Saskatchewan from 1960 to 1975.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
At the age of 22, Dr. Spinks received his doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in chemistry from the University of London. His alma mater conferred a further doctor of science degree on him in 1957. An athlete at college, he was on the King’s College teams in swimming, boxing and soccer.
Dr. Spinks joined the University of Saskatchewan in 1930 as an assistant professor and was promoted to professor in 1938, head of the Department of Chemistry in 1948, dean of the college of Graduate Studies in 1949, and was President a decade later.
Dr. Spinks’ accomplishments are many. His scientific research led to major international achievements in radiation chemistry, and his work includes over 200 scientific papers and co-authorship of a major book, “An Introduction to Radiation Chemistry,” which has been translated into Japanese and Russian. In 1972, he published “A Decade of Change: The University of Saskatchewan 1959 - 1970.'” In 1980, his autobiography, “Two Blades of Grass” was published.
In the 1930’s, while working on the reactions of chlorine and ozone under the influence of light rays, he discovered a number of new chemical compounds, and in 1939 one of his graduate students discovered a compound, nitroxyl perchlorate, which was later to have useful applications in rocket fuels.
During World War Two, while on leave with the National Research Council, Dr. Spinks developed search and rescue procedures for missing aircraft. For these services, he was awarded the M.B.E. Later, he received a Coronation Medal. From September, 1944 to August, 1945, he was a member of the joint United Kingdom-Canadian Atomic Research Project in Montreal where he participated in early developments in atomic energy and artificial radioactivity. He later applied his knowledge of radiation chemistry to peaceful projects and pioneered the use of radioactive tracers in agricultural research, which resulted in valuable, previously unobtainable information about the uptake of fertilizers by plants. This has assisted agriculturalists in developing accurate fertilizer recommendation for farmers.
Installed as President of the University of Saskatchewan in 1960 at the age of 52, Dr. Spinks became at that time one of the youngest university presidents in Canada. His years as President of our University were years in which he led the University through its most active period of development. During his presidency, enrolment sky rocketed, a new campus was opened, new buildings were erected, new colleges and schools were started and course offerings were increased. This included a comprehensive health care complex, establishment of a Crop Development Centre, a Linear Accelerator Laboratory, SED Systems, an Institute for Northern Studies, and an Indian and Northern Education Program.
Dr. Spinks has served the province and the nation on numerous initiatives dealing with educational and scientific issues. He has led or been part of delegations of educators and researchers to all parts of the world including serving as a Canadian delegate to the Geneva Conference on the Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy in 1955, 1958, 1964 and 1971. In I965, Dr. Spinks was named chairman of a special commission of scholars established to do a far-reaching study of graduate education in the Province of Ontario.
Dr. Spinks is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Institute of Chemistry and the Chemical Institute of Canada; past president of the C.I.C. During his career, he served many organizations, including: member of the Board of the Saskatchewan Research Council; member of the National Research Council, member of the Defense Research Board, the Board of Directors of the Canadian Universities Foundation; member of the Canada Council; founding member of the Saskatoon Archaeological Society; and as past chairman of the Saskatoon section of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs.
Dr. Spinks was married to Mary Strelioff in June of 1939. Mrs. Mary Spinks has also served our University with distinction, with a thorough understanding of university affairs, and a life-time interest and involvement in the non-academic aspects of university development. She has entertained many hundreds of students, faculty and visiting scholars in her home. She has shared Dr. Spinks’ role as an ambassador where her knowledge of languages and her liking of people has been a valuable asset.
John William Tranter Spinks has been widely honoured. In 1970 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada. He has received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Carleton University, an honorary doctor of science degree from Assumption, and an honorary doctor of military science degree from Royal Roads Military College. In 1982 he was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, and in 1985 he was named Saskatoon’s Citizen of the Year.
Faculty, staff and students speak with respect of Dr. Spinks’ integrity and intellect and of the warmth, wisdom, and humor with which he conducts his life.
It is fitting that the University of Saskatchewan confer an Honorary Degree on this outstanding Canadian whose guiding philosophy has been that each person must live up to the special excellence that is within him. Dr. Spinks has demonstrated lifelong excellence in his profession, which in term has brought excellence to our University and international renown to our province and our nation.
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Dr, John William Tranter Spinks and ask that you will confer on him the Degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.
Degree presented by: J.W. George Ivany, President
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