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: May 13, 1955
Discipline / contribution: education ; teaching; community service
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you James Roy MacKay - bachelor of arts. He is completely a prairie product - in fact almost a Saskatchewan product - for he was born near Pipestone, about 20 miles from what is now the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border, on a farm which his father had taken up as a homestead in l885. That pioneer parentage, school at the “Little Red Schoolhouse” about a mile from home, high school in Pipestone, Normal School at Winnipeg, an arts degree from Brandon College, plus a mind of true distinction, produced a man who has made a great and lasting contribution to education in Saskatchewan.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
He came to Saskatchewan to teach first in 1909 and returned permanently in 1914. 1916 saw him join the staff of Nutana Collegiate Institute and begin 38 years of service in Saskatoon. It is difficult for me to recall - as I am sure it is for many others in this audience - looking at the man before us in these somewhat bulky scarlet robes, the tall and angular figure of that day. But we do recall the voice that made Shakespeare come alive to hundreds of his students and his ability to hit a tennis ball hard and straight. There has also been a suggestion that his later success as a basketball referee showed a significant positive correlation with his own somewhat vigorous style of play.
In a life of achievement probably his greatest occurred in 1917 when he persuaded the charming Violet McPherson to marry him. From that marriage there are two sons and two daughters -- three of them graduates of this university and the fourth married to a graduate.
Since 1918 Mr. MacKay has been active in furthering the professional status of teachers. He was president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Alliance in 1929 and ‘31. In 1933 he was one of those instrumental in healing the breach between the S.T.A and the Rural Teachers’ Association. The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation resulted from that merger and Mr. MacKay was its first president. In 1934-5 he was president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and from 1936 until his retirement in 1954 he was a member of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Superannuation Commission.
In addition to these activities he managed to exchange the more violent pastimes of his youth for golf and bridge, to guide a high school which provincial superintendents consistently placed in the top rank and to serve his community in welfare and church work.
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the council and senate, I ask that you confer on this man, for his great qualities as a teacher, for his outstanding leadership as a principal and for his statesmanship in the field of teachers’ professional organization, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: A.C. McEown, assistant to the President
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