John W.T. Spinks (1959-1974) - installation address

Installation Address, 30 January 1960: "Education for a World of Change"

For the past twelve months we have been celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the University. We have talked of the progress made during that period and have sung the praises of those who, with courage and daring, established a great university in the heart of the Prairies. And I should be less than generous if I failed to record here our lasting debt of gratitute to my famous predecessors, Dr. Walter Murray, Dr. J.S. Thomson and our own Dr. W.P. Thompson.

"I think continually of those who were truly great.
. . . . . whose lovely ambition was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the spirit clothed from head to foot in song,
Born of the sun they travelled a short while towards the sun

The story of those years has been recorded in several publications, including Carlyle King's very readable, "The First Fifty." This title gave me the clue to an address which might possibly be appropriate for today, namely, "The Next Fifty." Since no one can possibly know what will happen even tomorrow, let alone during the next fifty years, I am obviously giving myself a good deal of latitude , but actually the most that I can hope to do is to suggest possible trends. Frends are mainly of interest when things are changing, and this brings me to my first point, namely, that we are living in a world characterized not only by change, but by an accelerating rate of change

Education for a World of Change

During our lifetime, and more particularly in the last two or three decades, extraordinary developments have taken place in the technical, scientific, political, and social fields. As examples of the former, I need only refer to radio and radar, jets, rockets and sputniks, penicillin, and atomic submarines. What happens 10,000 miles away is quickly reported by radio and may even be flashed upon our television screens. It has its immediate effect on the price of uranium, oil and wheat, and might equally send an intercontinental missile winging on its murderous way to trigger off a nuclear holocaust.

In the political field, I might remind you that a number of colonial nations have thrown off the imperial yoke to find a somewhat heady freedom, empires have dissolved, nations have become enslaved, revolts against tyranny have failed. On this continent one no longer bows the knees to Keynes. The "affluent society" is here, and we worship instead tail fins and TV with security from the cradle to the grave.

And in our own Province we ahve changed from an economy depending almost entirely on agriculture to one which depends, to an increasing extent, on minerals and secondary industries.

Thus, the education of the citizen of tomorrow must fit him to live in a Canada that is part and parcel of a world which is physically in the process of becoming "one world" and which is characterized by change and uncertainty.

What factors should characterize education in the world of change? Your answer to this question will depend markedly on your basic philosophy of education; whether you incline to the view that the individual is of supreme importance, or whether you think that some nice mixture of these two with perhaps a dash of a third or fourth interest would be better.

Actually, any system requires that certain fundamental aims of a good education be met. First of all, university education should concern itself with fundamental principles rather than the professional tricks of the trade, since in a world that is changing so rapidly, the latter will soon be out of date. Next, the physical and mental capacities of the student must be developed; he must learn how to communicate with others through speech and writing; he must acquire some knowledge of mathematics and science, of the physical world in which he lives; of the people with whom he lives, and of the society in which he moves.

If you think the individual to be of supreme importance, you can let him go his own gait, and trust that everything will come out all right in this best of all possible worlds. Unfortunately for this attitude, however, it happens that we live in a world divided into sovereign states, states that have different political ideologies, states with widely different standards of living, states with widely differing standards. Thus, if we are to survive as a nation in this wicked world, we must pay some attention to the needs of the state. What are its needs?

Need to Train Professionals

Briefly put, the state requires a large number of people with a general liberal education, and an equally large number of people with professional training – doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, nurses, agriculturalists, economists, journalists and librarians. These people are essential to the smooth running of our hospitals, courts and industrial concerns. We also require people with advanced training to staff our research organizations and universities.

The university has long since left its ivory tower and now spends a good deal of its energies on the training of these same professional people, and these future research workers.

As President W.P. Thompson said in one of his address: "The great majority of students come to university in order to learn a profession by which they can earn a living. (It is) not an unworthy task for universities to train competent and skilled doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists. That kind of teaching may not lend itself to high sounding speeches, but it is essential to the welfare of the nation."

Actually, of course, this acceptance of the training of entrants to the professions as a proper university function is really nothing new. Some centuries ago the continental European universities had the professional schools of Law, Medicine and Theology, while in England, scholars at the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge were trained for positions in and around the Court. Once of the reasons why the colleges expanded in those early days was that such people were required as secretaries, scribes, notaries, and teachers. The apparent change in emphasis today has resulted from the fact that whereas in the past practically all scholars were classical scholars, the change must take comfort in a quotation from the late Dr. Wallace of Queen's: "For the majority of university people, however, this part of the argument about professional studies has been settled; they should be kept on the campus for the civilizing influence which the Arts may exert on them."

What is needed, then, is a nice blending of the two extreme philosophies to the end that the individual may be given an opportunity to develop his individuality to the fullest in a world presently consisting of competing and often antagonistic states.


Within the last forty years, the functions of universities have changed markedly. Whereas at the beginning of the century they were, in the main, content to store knowledge and impart it to their students, they are now actively engaged in enlarging the bounds of knowledge, partly through the efforts of their scholars, partly by their students, and partly by researchers working in research institutes housed on the campus. It is noteworthy that the early presidential reports of Dr. Murray contained no reference to research, but that as time went on increasing emphasis was placed on its importance in the university. Within this same period, Canada has changed from a country doing practically no research to one with a very respectable research effort, not only in the universities but also in government and industry. I think that it is important to stress that this did not happen just by chance. When the National Research Council was set up in 1916, it found an almost complete lack of research workers. It set about to remedy this situation by providing scholarships and grants in aid of research. It took thirty years, a lot of money, and a great deal of foresight and energy to carry through this program. It is of considerable interest, too, that within the last few years the Province has established its own Provincial Research Council and its own Provincial Research Laboratory on the University campus.

Naturally, there was a good reason for this type of development on both a national and a provincial scale, namely, the change from an economy largely dependent on primary products to one depending a good deal on industry.

That research has to be done in a country is, of course, no reason in itself why this should be done at the University, but it has been pointed out on numerous occasions that the university atmosphere seems particularly conducive to doing good basic or fundamental research. Furthermore, it has often been claimed that "good teaching and good research are likely to be associated and each reacts favorably on the other."

Ashby, for example, says: "Universities are traditionally places where research is to be found . (but) . . . this is a very minor reason for requiring university teachers to advance knowledge. The main and compelling reason is that they cannot do the sort of teaching which is required of them unless they are advancing knowledge . . . advanced work has to be done in the front line of scholarship; a student has to be led up to the no-man's land' between what is known and what is unknown. . . . Now the only kind of teacher who can be trusted to lead students to the frontier between the known and the unknown is a man who himself spends many of his thinking hours at that frontier. . . . Only at the frontiers can man discern the anatomy of scholarship."

Hitherto, the great bulk of our research has been in the sciences, although there have been, from time to time, outstanding scholars in the humanities and social sciences. It is expected that, with the added stimulus provided by the Canada Council, there will be a greatly increased scholarly effort on the part of the humanities. And I am not suggesting here that the humanities should merely jump on the scientific bandwagon, but rather that they should develop according to the laws of their own nature. The humanities have their own valid and healthy traditions which were ancient when science was an infant, and they must obey their own laws rather than the laws of the laboratory. Thus, "research" in the humanities will not usually be "research" in the usual scientific sense but rather "creative work" or "original studies."

Graduate Studies

Research at the universities is closely linked to graduate work, and during the last few years we have seen a great expansion in work at the graduate level, first at the Masters' level and then, after a College of Graduate Studies had been established, at the Ph.D. level. To date Ph.D. work has been largely in the fundamental sciences, but a healthy start is now being made in the applied sciences, such as engineering, and it is hoped that Ph.D. studies will shortly take place in the humanities, assisted as they now are by the Canada Council. A considerable expansion of graduate and research work in the Colleges of Commerce and Law is also to be expected. There is no doubt that a good graduate school is taken nowadays to be the hallmark of a first class modern institution. Without it, it is impossible to attract and hold good staff, or to fulfill one's obligations to the community.

Research Institutes

The last few years have seen the establishment of a number of research institutes on the campus, the Prairie Regional Laboratory, The Saskatchewan Research Council, the Science Services Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture, the Soil Science Laboratory, the Cancer and Medical Research Institute, the Centre for Community Studies, and the Institute for Upper Atmosphere Research. The degree of autonomy varies very widely, from almost complete independence to almost complete integration within the University. The time is not too far distant when there may be a still greater number of such institutes on the campus, each grouped about a nucleus of active research workers, either within a single department or college, or having a multi-disciplinary approach.

Two additional institutes or centres for advanced study which have recently been under consideration are: (a) a Neurological Institute, and (b) an Institute for Northern Studies. In the one, a number of disciplines, medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, history, philosophy, language, education, etc., are grouped about a single object, the brain, and the recent symposium held at this University will have indicated the spectacular advances that may be expected to result from such an approach. In the other, a number of disciplines make a study of an area such as Northern Saskatchewan, and equally fruitful and rewarding studies might be expected.

Such institutes have the further advantage of helping to bridge, in a positive way, the gap between the sciences and the humanities.

Two Cultures

It has been said that we are living in the middle of two cultures which have scarcely any contact at all – the traditional non-scientific culture, and an up and coming scientific one. They are startlingly different, not only in their intellectual approach but even more in their climate of thought. You will all be familiar with the quotation that "scientists know nothing about the humanities and are ashamed of it, while the humanists know nothing about science and are proud of it."

What can we do about this undesirable state of affairs? The answer is a prosaic one – sensible education. Nearly all intelligent people can learn something about science and scientists if they are brought up against them properly. One would not wish to make everyone into a technologist, but it is essential that everyone, including the technologist, should understand something of the intellectual and human meaning of what the technologists and the scientists are about.

So we should try to construct a system of education from which anyone of ability can get enough science not to feel that the scientific experience is alien to him forever.

Science and the Humanities

The wide gap that often exists between the sciences and the humanities has been discussed on many occasions, and various ways of bridging that gap have been proposed. The need to bridge the gap is pointed up by two quotations, one from President MacKenzie of the University of British Columbia: "An understanding of the physical and social sciences is equal in importance for general education to an appreciation of literature and history," and one from the Honorable Vincent Massey: "The world needs philosophic scientists and scientific philosophers. Conflict between science and the humanities is surely a meaningless strife. If true to itself, science must confer many of the blessings which the humanities themselves transmit to those who follow them."

Actually what is needed is not an artificial bridging of the gap but a positive linking, such as occurs within the humanities themselves, e.g., while the artists paint paintings, the historians delve into the history of art, the philosophers develop theories of aesthetics, the psychologists study the psychology of art, and so on. We badly need corresponding studies for science and its manifold relationship to society.

Science and Public Policy

How can science be most fruitfully applied to the positive goals of our society? How do we identify the full array of policy issues raised by the spectacular scientific advances of recent vears? No more than two decades ago most people would have agreed that the world of science and the world of public policy were about as far apart as two worlds could be. Today the two worlds are in constant and frightening contact. But they have not been in contact long enough to permit an adequate clarification of the really fundamental issues governing their relationship. The relationship has developed so abruptly and the men most intimately involved have been driven so tumultuously by events of the moment, that exploration of the deeper issues has not been attempted. This surely would be an active and challenging field for the humanities.

Honours Studies

What I have been stressing is that the University must continually expand in depth and put an increasing emphasis on excellence. Now I shall proceed to back a little down the academic ladder to the undergraduates. Having arrived there, I shall state that it is my opinion, that in this pursuit of excellence, further developments at the honours level are desirable. We have had Honours students in Arts and Science for many years, but the numbers are far too small. The College of Engineering has previously had only a very limited amount of Honours work, but I am pleased to report that this College, after doing a great deal of soul searching, is now embarking upon a series of special courses, for the exceptional student, in addition to the general courses for the run-of-the-mill engineer. The engineering profession must have graduates with advanced training if it is to be able to cope with the recent developments in nuclear engineering, electronics, computors, automation, aerodynamics, and the like, and these will only be developed through a good honours type system of courses. Saskatchewan may very well take the lead in these developments in Canada.

Having good honours courses has other implications, too. It involves rounding out all our departments, not just biology, chemistry and physics, but also economics, English, French and German, to mention only a few.

Having well rounded out departments has other implications. One can't justify a large staff without a reasonably large student body. Much as the professor might like to teach in a studentless university, the facts of life remain. No students, no professors. A rough estimate seems to indicate that we need about seven to eight thousand students to provide adequate Honours groups to justify adequate departments and support a good graduate program with a graduate school of three to four hundred students. An immediate benefit to the Province, resulting from such developments, would be a much wider research program on problems of interest to the Province and a much stronger group of specialists for possible consultation by the Province and the country as a whole.

It may seem that I have spent over much time on Honours students and graduate work, but it seems to me that they are the cornerstone on which a modern university should be founded. The need for the development of such groups provides a key to the development of an educational philosophy adequate for this modern age.


The minimum student population, which I mentioned a few minutes ago, requires a minimum building program. As you know, a large Arts Building and a large Biology Building are in course of construction. Still to be taken care of are permanent quarters for Pharmacy, Home Economics, the Fine Arts, antdCommerce, and some expansion for departments such as Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and Medicine. Another great need is residences.



Residences have an important part to play in the general and cultural education of the student and, as such, should receive as much attention (and funds) as many other aspects of student education. The great advantage claimed for the university residence is that the students living there are subjected to the process of mutual education, not only in matters academic but also in social behavior and in the general process of growing up." In residence also the students of different disciplines are less in danger of becoming the narrow specialists so much disliked by our present society.

To quote from the Second Annual Report of the Canada Council: "A university residence is conceived not merely as a means of providing room and board for students but as a highly important and necessary element in the communal life of the institution. This communal element is of basic importance and value because it brings Students of all disciplines together outside the classroom, stimulates exchanges of views, promotes discussion, directs attention to considerations that otherwise might be lost sight of. . . . Another aspect of this educative process is described in the following quotation from the report of the sub-committee on Halls of Residence to the British University Grants Committee: "Moreover, the academic influences which surround the resident student have time to sink in and become effective, for unlike the students in homes and lodgings he does not have to adapt himself to a daily jolt into another world. The witness who deplored the nine to five mentality added that a good hall was the place in which to lose that outlook. For the resident student, University experience is not connected only with the place where he works by day, but with the whole of his life at one of its most vigorous and impressionable stages.

For many years, in the face of more pressing demands from other directions, residence construction has been almost completely neglected. We hope that this situation will soon be very much improved.

University of Saskatchewan at Regina

An integral link in all the foregoing is the work at Regina College. As you know, the University has recently decided on a policy of gradual expansion of the Regina campus, leading eventually to a three-year Liberal Arts Course. It is, perhaps, worth while to indicate the reasoning behind the timing of this expansion. As you also know, we have always had the policy of building up a strong Provincial University on the one campus, mainly the Saskatoon campus. Just how big this one campus should be depends on one's philosophy. You will see that I have emphasized the necessity of a good Graduate School. Without one we cannot provide adequate training for our students, cannot keep or attract a first class staff, cannot fulfill our research anti consultative obligations to the Province and to Canada. A good graduate school requires well rounded out departments and an adequate supply of students, the latter coming partly from the group of honours students on our own campus and partly from away. As I have already indicated, we estimated that this would require from seven to eight thousand students, and with the present accelerated rate of intake of students it appeared that this point might be reached in about 1965. Beyond this point, we would have to duplicate many facilities on the campus, and it seemed reasonable, therefore, to plan for an expanded Regina campus to fit in with this philosophy. Expansion to a three year course would increase the teaching opportunities for the staff at Regina College and make it much easier to retain good staff on the Regina campus. It would also fit in with the transfer of teacher training from Moose Jaw to Regina and might encourage more teachers in the south (if the Province to take a full university degree. Expansion to the second year should be planned immediately, the third year being planned when we see whether the expected increases in student enrollment materialize. Honours students, by the way, would still go to the main campus to complete the Honours Course. We would hope also for further expansion in the Fine Arts and in Adult Education activities on the Regina Campus.

High Schools

Backing still further down the academic ladder would seem to take me right off the ladder and into the High School, and actually this is precisely where I am now going. It seems to me that the one thing most needled to improve our standlard of excellence at the University is to improve our intake. This can only be done by raising the level of the training received in the High School. The key requirement here seems to be that teachers at the High School level have a reasonable degree of specialization in the courses they teach in addition to training and competence in educational methods. And by a reasonable degree of specialization I do not mean one or less than one course at university level, but a minimum of four courses, and preferably Honours standing, in the subject in question. The University has recently put on special courses in physics and biology for High School teachers at Summer School, and these have been very well received, but by and large the university has been somewhat at fault in not encouraging more Honours students to go into teaching and in failing to provide suitable courses for the High School teacher to take further advanced training. Liaison between high school and university faculties could be greatly improved and would confer great benefits on both. You will gather also, by a slight extrapolation of these sentiments, that I should not be averse to an integration of the Provincial Teacher Training system and our own College of Education. In fact, I am convinced that the long time benefits that would accrue from this are so enormous that it would be well worth our while to make every effort to achieve this goal.


Community Services

In addition to teaching and research, the University has always felt a strong sense of obligation to the people throughout the Province, an obligation on the part of the academic experts to use their special knowledge and training to help with the concrete and practical problems of the people of the Province. The work of the Extension and Correspondence Departments obviously falls in this category as does also research work in agriculture, and to a lesser extent, research in other branches of science and the humanities. In addition, staff members serve on such bodies as the Saskatchewan Research Council, the Oil and Gas Conservation Board, Royal Commissions, Federal-Provincial Conferences and the like. Tests and analyses are done by the thousands by the scientific departments, and thousands of letters of enquiry are answered.


I should also mention the University Hospital, of which we are very proud, which is rendering an increasingly valuable service to the Province. While it is separate from the University in the sense that it has its own management and revenues, members of the University Faculty constitute most of its clinical and teaching staff.


It has been said that a university is made of bricks, brains and books – the brains presumably referring in large degree to the academic staff. The university has been most fortunate in having, over the years, an extremely capable and loyal staff. At times, the conditions of space, facilities and salaries have been such as to try: the patience of a saint, but fortunately conditions have greatly improved during the last few years, and we have hopes that they will improve still further. It is even rumored that by this time next year even the Humanities professors will have suitable office accommodation!

The question of the role of the professor in university administration is one which comes up from time to time. On paper, i.e., as laid out in the University Act and Statutes, the role of the professor would appear to have changed very little in the last fifty years, but in actual fact, things have changed a great deal. In all educational matters the faculty have virtually complete authority and autonomy. In administrative and business matters which impinge on education the faculty have, of late, been given a large measure of influence. Departmental and college budgets, promotions, academic appointments, salary schedules, pensions, and many matters of university polic~yare now subject to direct faculty influence so that there is, in fact a large measure of academic self government. No doubt still further changes will take place as the University increases in size and complexity, and some of these changes might well be reflected in constitutional changes.

As far as I am concerned personally, I feel that it is important that the academic family be fully aware of the aims of the University and be in sympathy with them and give them their wholehearted support. The changes in policy or function which normally occur from time to time will ordinarily be slight. I would I expect that they would be thoroughly discussed and receive academic approval before being adopted. The government of such a closely knit and congenial academic family might very well approach the negligible proportions envisioned in the Chinese proverb: "You should govern a great state as you would cook a small fish – hardly at all."

University of Tomorrow

So the University of tomorrow must be characterized by its adaptability – adaptability to a world of change. As before, a large part of our effort will be expended on the undergraduates, leading them into the world of scholarship, helping them to find direction and purpose for their careers. This, in itself, presents a major challenge. To quote Sherrington of Oxford: "After some hundreds of years of experience, we think we have learned here in Oxford how to teach what is known. But now with the undeniable upsurge of scientific research, we cannot continue to rely on the mere fact that we have learned to teach what is known. We must learn to teach the best attitude to what is not yet known. This may also take centuries to acquire. but we cannot escape this new challenge nor would we want to."

An increasingly important part of our effort will be expended on graduate students and research, commensurate with our advance in stature as a senior institute of learning. And the growing complexity of the economic life of the Province, and indeed of Canadla as a whole, together with the widening range of needs and interests of its peoples will give to the University a new kind of responsibility to the community. This responsibility will not be met by the routine grinding of more and more B.A.'s and B.Sc.'s, but rather by the activity of intellects pushing into the unknown, an activity marked by freshness, excitement, beauty and growing power. This activity of intellects will not be achieved if we conceive democracy as an invitation to share a common mediocrity, but only if we regard it as a system which allows each to express and live up to the special excellence that is in him. As Captain Cook said: "I had ambition not only to go farther than any man had ever been before but as far as it was possible for man to go." These aims are in full accord with those expressed some fifty years ago by Dr. Walter C. Murray: "We should have a University that will leave no calling, no sphere of life untouched, a university that is as broad in sympathy as these wide plains, as deep in richness as this marvellous soil, and as stimulating in spirit as the breezes which sweep over our fields."

As we pass from the first fifty years of University existence to the next fifty, we are reminded of the speaker in Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck that which is planted." Universities have their own peculiar calendar. There is a time to plant, a time to wait, and a time to harvest. A good seed has been sown on the broad Prairies and carefully nurtured. Who can doubt that with God's grace the harvest will he plentiful.