The Class of 1916

Irene Vermilyea
Irene Vermilyea
Charles Duncan
Charles Duncan
“He went to France with a draft of the 46th Battalion in Feb, 1917, serving through the engagements at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, and being twice wounded, the second time so severely as to be invalided to England. He received his commission in September 1918. Lieutenant Duncan was killed at Canal du Nord in front of Cambrai, on September 28, 1918, while leading his platoon into action.” – Record of Service, 1914-1918, UBC (1924)
Thomas Shearman
Thomas Shearman
“Private Shearman went over the top with the supports at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917, and on April 12, while holding part of an old German trench was wounded. First-aid was given but he lay for twelve hours before being carried out of the trenches. He was invalided to England and died at Huddersfield War Hospital on April 27.” – Record of Service, 1914-1918, UBC (1924)

There were 40 members in the class, and 17 were women. Nine male students enlisted for service overseas in WWI before graduation and were granted degrees “without examination.” Charles Duncan and Thomas Shearman lost their lives, as did Edward Berry, who was a Rhodes Scholar but wouldn’t live long enough to realize his potential. He died in Oxford on January 28, 1920, of heart disease resulting from the effects of being gassed at Loos in 1917.

The other members of the class to serve in WWI were Ernest Le Messurier, Sherwood Lett, who was awarded a Military Cross, William Maxwell, Burrows Sexsmith, Percy Southcott, and William Wilson. Maxwell, Sexsmith and Wilson went on to become teachers. (Wilson became known as “Mr. King Edward,” after the high school where he was head teacher, and had also been a student. He also lectured in UBC’s Faculty of Education). Le Messurier became a cartoonist, and Southcott a druggist. Lett, another Rhodes Scholar, also fought in WWII, during which he was wounded twice. He had a noteworthy military career and was awarded the CBE in 1945. He was the first president of the Alma Mater Society and later served on UBC’s Board of Governors and Senate, and as Chancellor. He was called to the bar in 1922 and became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of BC in 1955. Upon his death in 1964, his friend Prime Minister Lester Pearson said: “I know of no Canadian who has served his country in war and peace with greater distinction and more unselfishly.”

Harold (Otto) Walsh
Harold (Otto) Walsh

After graduation, other members of the class to have served during the war include Harold (Otto) Walsh, Hugh Munro, James Galloway, Clausen Thompson and Ed Mulhern. Munro taught for a while then became a dentist. Walsh earned a BASc (Electrical) in 1925 and received an MBE in 1946 for his work in aviation navigation radio aids during WWII. Mulhern was class president, second president of AMS (succeeding Lett), and later first president of the UBC Alumni Association. Thompson was a lawyer with pioneer BC law firm Ladner and Cantelon, before moving to California.

Nearly all members of the class graduated with a degree in Arts. (Science was included under Arts at that time. The faculty was renamed Arts and Science in 1922.) Clive Elmore Cairns was the exception; he took a double course in Arts and Applied Science and went on to become a prominent Canadian geologist, spending 35 years with the Geological Survey of Canada and contributing to the development of BC’s mineral resources.

Jessie Anderson
Jessie Anderson

Jessie Anderson was the first student to graduate from UBC. Her entry in the UBC annual 1916 mentions her interest in acting and involvement in the Players’ Club, but, like many other members of her class, she went on to become a teacher.

Chitose (Josi) Uchida
Chitose (Josi) Uchida

Also joining the teaching profession, for varying lengths of time, were Ella Cameron (head of the Victoria High School mathematics department), Florence Chapin, Nancy Dick, Marjorie Dunton, Belle Elliot, Laura Lane (head of commerce at Lester Pearson High School), Jean Macleod, Isabel MacMillan (a home economics teacher at Kitsilano High School), Grace Miller, Jean Robinson, Edna Taylor, Irene Vermilyea, and Chitose (Josi) Uchida, who was one of the first Japanese-Canadians to graduate from a Canadian university. In 1931 Uchida started a night school for Japanese immigrants. It proved popular but closed during WWII, when Japanese-Canadian citizens were expelled from their homes and businesses on the BC coast and sent to inland camps. An article published in the Hundred Mile Herald at the time of her retirement from teaching in 1961 said she helped other Japanese-Canadian people who had been suddenly uprooted from their homes and that it was believed she was the last to leave. She taught at Taylor camp in the Cariboo. The Herald described her as “a wiry person with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy.”

Lennox Mills
Lennox Mills

Henry Gibson taught, but later worked in advertising in New York. Muriel Carruthers taught and later became head of the Schools Department at Vancouver Public Library. She was involved in producing the Alumni Bulletin, an early alumni publication of the 1920s. Finishing top of the class was Lennox Mills. He was a Rhodes Scholar, eventually becoming a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota and a Guggenheim Fellow. Roland Miller took an MA in economics at the University of California and by 1921 was a lecturer in economics at the University of Oregon.

Gladys Schwesinger
Gladys Schwesinger

Gladys Schwesinger taught briefly in BC but spent most of her life in the US where she earned a PhD and eventually became senior clinical psychologist of the California Youth Authority. She willed 50 per cent of her large estate to UBC “to establish and maintain a department of psychology” and a further 10 per cent to the Alumni Association, to help with record-keeping and the furthering of its work.

David Smith, originally from Dundee, Scotland, became Reverend Smith. He was sent to Canton to study Chinese in 1919-21 to aid his Chinese Mission work in Canada. He was the long-time superintendent of Chinese Missions for the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Lawrence Luckraft also became a reverend and moved to England. At one point he served with the Mission to Seamen in Manchester, later moving to Cornwall. Edward Logie was a Presbyterian minister in Point Grey (1916-17), then sold insurance in BC’s interior (1921-23) before becoming a pastor in the United Church. George Annable became a lawyer, and Thomas Robertson became a leader in BC’s agricultural sector. Mary Wilson attended a business college and worked as a secretary at the Vancouver Publicity Bureau.

Yearbook photos courtesy of AMS Archives.

 

Class of 1916 ReunionAfter graduating, the Class of 1916 held regular reunions. The last one recorded in Menzies’ scrapbook is Oct 30th, 1971 (their 55th anniversary) with six members attending. This picture was taken at their 1961 reunion. (L-R) William Wilson, Isabel McMillan, Sherwood Lett (class president), Irene Menzies (née Vermilyea, class secretary), and Harry Logan (a member of UBC’s original faculty and honorary class president).

 

Invitation for UBC’s first graduation ceremony.
Invitation for UBC’s first graduation ceremony.
Hotel Vancouver, 1916 (University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections)
Hotel Vancouver, 1916 (University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections)

UBC’s first congregation took place on the afternoon of May 4, 1916, in the Crystal Ballroom of the Hotel Vancouver at the corner of Granville and Georgia. (The hotel was demolished in 1949. The Hudson’s Bay building is the only one of its peers still standing at that intersection.) The ceremony was preceded by a procession of officials, guests, alumni, faculty and students, who made their way from the court house (now the art gallery) to the hotel. It was headed by a section of the BC Company of Western University overseas Battalion. An article that ran the following day in the News Advertiser reported that the procession had been viewed by thousands: “Outside the hotel great crowds assembled, lining the route from the court house to the hotel entrance. So great was the throng around the court house entrance that the provincial police had to be called upon to assist in clearing the route. Cameras were to be seen at work on all sides, there being no less than three moving picture machines in use and scores of other photographers, professional and amateur, occupied every vantage point.”

Watch archival footage of the procession preceding UBC’s first graduation ceremony in 1916.

 

Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please be aware that comments submitted through this form will appear publicly below this article. Comments may also be published in future print issues of Trek magazine.

Comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.