Photo of Walter Theodore Brown with N. Harold Young

Victoria University (Toronto, Ont.). President’s Office Fonds

Victoria University (Toronto, Ont.). President’s Office Fonds



This inventory was completed by Katherine Ridout and Mark van Stempvoort in 1990. Katherine's work as project archivist was funded by a grant from the Canadian Council of Archives through its Arrangement and Description Backlog Reduction Program. Mark supervised the project and helped to produce the inventory in his capacity as staff archivist responsible for the records of Victoria University. This is the third such inventory of Victoria University records assisted by Council funds, the previous two involving the records of the Registrar's Office and of the Bursar's Office.

Scope and Content of the Records

This inventory describes records of the President's Office contained in a single accession which is numbered 89.130V and measures 9.82 metres in linear extent. The records are dated as early as 1897 and as late as 1976, but primarily document the activities of the Presidents who held office from 1913 to 1970. Most of the records of the incumbents in office before and after this period are located in other accessions.

Because of the pivotal role played by the President in a small university like Victoria, the records of this office contain information on a wider range of subjects than any other group of university records in the Archives and are the richest source of information on many of those subjects. Potential researchers include those interested in just about any aspect of Victoria's history as well as selected aspects of Victoria's relationship with the University of Toronto and the United Church of Canada; the history of universities in Ontario; the relation of church and state in higher education; the construction and architecture of some of Victoria's buildings.

The President's files record not only his own duties, but also the activities of other members of the university community; as chief administrative officer he received copies of many records generated by the Registrar, Bursar, Principals, and other officials. In addition, because all the Presidents were active members of the United Church, the files contain material relating to the church offices which they held and the committees on which they served.

Administrative Context of the Records

With the federation of Victoria College and Albert College in 1884 to create Victoria University, the chief administrative and ceremonial duties of the institution were combined in the shared office of President and Chancellor, a custom which continued until 1944. At that time, the Chancellorship became a separate office, and the Presidents assumed the title of Vice-Chancellor. The President derived his authority from the Board of Regents which served as the ultimate governing body of the university. As the chief administrative officer of the Board, he supervised "the business of the Board in its administration of the property and funds" and was responsible for implementing its decisions. He was the chief counselor and executive officer of Victoria University in its relationship to the University of Toronto and the chief representative of Victoria to the General Conference of the Methodist Church and, later, the General Council of the United Church of Canada. In his role as Chancellor, the President presided over meetings of the Senate and Convocations and conferred degrees upon graduates in Theology. In 1928, some of the administrative duties of Victoria and Emmanuel Colleges were delegated to their Principals, leaving the President free for "the general oversight of the university as a whole."

The President, along with the Principals, also served on the Caput which had disciplinary jurisdiction over all Victoria students.

As the university grew in both size and complexity, the administrative duties of the Presidency expanded correspondingly. The appointing of Principals for Victoria and Emmanuel and the separation of the offices of President and Chancellor recognized that the President could no longer handle all the functions associated with the leadership of Victoria University. The President continued, however, to set the general tone within the university and to act as its spokesperson to the outside community.

The following individuals held the post of President during the period covered by the records listed in this inventory:

1887-1913 Nathanael Burwash
1913-1930 Richard P. Bowles
1930-1941 Edward Wilson Wallace
1941-1949 Walter T. Brown
1949-1950 Harold Bennett (Acting)
1950-1970 A. B. B. Moore
1970-1973 John E. Hodgetts
1973-1987 Goldwin S. French

Provenance of the Records

The records described in this inventory originated in the President's Office of Victoria University. After their active use, the records were stored for an unknown length of time in a storage room in the basement of Emmanuel College along with other inactive records of the university. Planned renovations to this space prompted the transfer of selected material to the Archives during the summer of 1986.

Some preliminary work on the records of the President's Office was done in 1986, but for administrative reasons it was not until the fall of 1989 that all the transferred material that could be identified as originating from the President's Office was brought together and accessioned. Although the manner in which storage containers were labeled suggested that groups of records had been moved out of the office into inactive storage at different times (perhaps when a new incumbent began his term), all of the material which had been transferred from the same storage room was assigned the accession number 89.130V. The original groupings have been preserved as series in the accession, and this explains why, for instance, the four series with the same title--"General Subject Files"--are kept distinct even though the dates and subject matter of their contents overlap a great deal. The original filing order of the series titled "General Correspondence Files" and "General Subject Files" has been preserved from the series level down to the file level. The rest of the series with specific titles such as "Board of Regents Files" to "Miscellaneous Files" have been re-arranged somewhat in order to accommodate individual files in the accession whose original filing order and series placement was unknown. Although the file titles throughout the accession have been taken from the original file folders (except those that are enclosed in brackets in the file list), only the series titles of the final fifteen series (with specific titles such as "Board of Regents") were also taken from the original folders. The series titles of the first ten series were assigned at the time of accessioning.

The processing of the records was completed in 1990. At that time, the remaining material without permanent value--including duplicates and material received from other institutions with no information pertaining to Victoria--was culled from the records. In some instances, bulky files of limited value were reduced in volume by retaining only a sample of their contents. Non-textual records such as photographs, architectural plans, publications, and printed ephemera were re-located to the collections based on these media. Re-location forms in Accession File 89.130V and copies of these forms in the files from which the non-textual material was removed ensure that the links between the re-located items and their original locations are preserved.

The contents of three files (Box 52, Files 13, 22, and Box 53, File 3) were used heavily in 1987 and as a result were accessioned at that time and assigned the number 87.299V. These files are listed in their original order in this inventory with notes indicating their separate location.

Restrictions on Access to the Records

The contents of a single file titled "Caput" (Box 77, File 5) provide an exception to this general rule, because they are restricted for a period of fifty years from the date of creation.

Other Related Material

Some personal papers of the individuals holding the office of President during the period from 1897 to 1976 form separate collections in the Archives. Most of the records documenting the period of Nathanael Burwash's presidency, 1887-1913, are found in a collection which combines official records and personal papers, as described in Fonds 2042.

A complete listing of names and dates of Victoria's Presidents is available in the Research Tool titled "Administrative Officers of Victoria University." Some further information about individuals who held the post is located in the Biographical File Collection.


General Correspondence Files of Nathanael Burwash, 1907-1912 (5 cm)

This series consists of a copybook of Burwash's outgoing correspondence arranged chronologically and indexed by surname of correspondent at the beginning of the volume. The letters deal with a variety of financial and academic matters relating to Victoria University, most notably the raising of funds for the new Birge-Carnegie Library.

General Correspondence Files of Richard P. Bowles, 1913-1930 (233 cm)

The letters which make up this series are organized by year and then filed alphabetically by the surname of the correspondent or, occasionally, by subject. They touch upon virtually every aspect of university life and illustrate the wide-ranging nature of the President's duties during this era. In addition to being concerned with financial and administrative matters such as the sale and rental of property, the creation and maintenance of physical plant, staff appointments and salaries, scholarships and bursaries, changes in the internal governing structure of the University and, of course, fund-raising during a time of economic stringency, Richard Bowles was responsible for both the creation and implementation of educational policy in light of Victoria's on-going relationships with the United Church of Canada and the University of Toronto. There is considerable material relating to curriculum, especially the shape of theological education. While Bowles provided strong leadership to the Victoria community, he was sometimes frustrated by the demands of his office: "`The more I write theology and read books, the bigger the grudge I develop toward executive and administrative duties of the kind which necessarily fall upon the President of this institution.'" [Sissons, 295] Yet, despite rising enrolment figures, one cannot but be struck by the intimacy which still characterized the President's relationship with Victoria students and alumni: Bowles frequently gave both personal and academic advice to students and wrote detailed and knowledgeable letters of recommendation for graduates. While both the First World War and Church Union are referred to in the letters in this series, the tremendous impact of these two events on life at Victoria does not emerge as clearly as one might have expected.

General Correspondence Files of Edward Wilson Wallace, 1930-1940 (84 cm)

Wallace's correspondence is organized alphabetically within each year by surname of the correspondents and, occasionally, by subject. The subject matter of the letters reflects both the administrative and ceremonial duties performed by Wallace in his dual role as President and Chancellor. It was during Wallace's tenure that the daily administration of Victoria and Emmanuel Colleges became the province of their Principals (called Deans between 1944 and 1951), leaving the President responsible for "general oversight with special emphasis on finance and relations with the Church and the public." [Sissons, 307] The financial difficulties engendered by the depression are manifestly evident in the correspondence--in terms of both long-range planning and the daily running of the University. Letters deal with property, salaries, appointments, curriculum, the granting of honorary degrees, scholarships and bursaries, convocations, and other functions of both a social and academic nature, the nature of Victoria's relationship with the United Church, the University of Toronto and other educational and church-related institutions. Like Bowles' correspondence, Wallace's letters demonstrate a strong personal commitment to the students at Victoria--letters of advice and recommendation are common. Again, the letters provide considerable insight into the spiritual, educational and philosophical views of the President. Because Wallace had spent twenty-three years in missionary and educational work in China before taking on the Presidency, the series contains a great deal of material relating to overseas missions, particularly the West China Union University. Wallace's term was plagued by his ill-health: in 1933 he developed cancer and was forced to take an extended leave; a recurrence of the disease in 1940 led to a second leave and his resignation the following year. During both these periods, his duties were assumed by the Principal of Victoria College, Walter T. Brown. As a result, some correspondence relating to the President's Office for 1939-1940 is located with the correspondence of the Victoria College Principal, 1932-1941 (Accession No. 87.067V).

General Correspondence Files of Walter T. Brown, 1941-1948 (60 cm)

The correspondence in this series is filed in alphabetical order by surname of correspondent within each year. While it contains material very similar to that found in the general correspondence files of Brown's predecessors, the series is smaller in size than the previous two, reflecting the fact that the bulk of Brown's correspondence is to be found in the general and specialized subject files which form separate series. The letters discuss fund-raising and finances, as well as more academic matters such as appointments and curriculum. Under the Victoria University Act of 1944, the offices of President and Chancellor were separated for the first time since 1884, reflecting the increasingly onerous administrative duties of the President. Brown and his successors as President relinquished some of their ceremonial functions in favour of the title of Vice-Chancellor. Brown's presidency was ground-breaking in another sense as well: although trained in theology, he was the first layman to hold the position. Victoria's relationship with the United Church, nevertheless, continued to be of vital importance. Brown's term of office was a stressful one, encompassing as it did severe financial deficits requiring careful economy and aggressive fund-raising, the disruption of the Second World War, and then the strain placed upon Victoria's physical and human resources by booming enrolment in the immediate post-war years. Despite these heavy demands, Brown continued the policy of his predecessors in becoming personally acquainted with every student at Victoria and Emmanuel.

General Correspondence Files of Walter T. Brown & Harold Bennett,1949-50 (12 cm)

A severe cerebral haemorrhage in January 1949 so impaired Brown's general health and, specifically, his power of speech that he was unable to perform his duties and consequently retired at the end of June. Until the appointment of a new President in 1950, the office was held on an acting basis by Harold Bennett, then Dean of Victoria College. The series, while very small, resembles the general correspondence of other Presidents in the range of its subject matter, with the addition that much of it deals with Brown's illness.

General Correspondence Files of A. B. B. Moore, 1953-1969 (29 cm)

The letters in this series are organized chronologically and then filed alphabetically by the surname of the correspondents or, less frequently, by subject. Unfortunately, Moore's general correspondence files for the years from 1950 to 1955 and from 1964 to 1970 are not in this series; this gap is somewhat compensated for by the fact that the bulk of the correspondence generated during Moore's term of office was stored in the general and specific subject files which form separate series. Perhaps because of the more specialized filing system, most of the letters in this series are somewhat more personal in nature than was the case in the general correspondence of Moore's predecessors. The correspondence consists largely of letters of recommendation for Victoria students and graduates; inquiries regarding admission or funding; letters to parents, personal friends, university officials and ministers; invitations to university or church-related events; requests for names of suitable candidates for ministerial and academic postings. Moore's interest in overseas missions is also apparent.

General Subject Files, 1902-1942 (30 cm)

The general subject files in this series were stored in containers labeled "Transfer Files (Misc.)"; they are arranged alphabetically by subject. The bulk of the material dates from the 1920s and 1930s and consists of correspondence, minutes, reports, accounts, orders of service, invocations, subscription lists, addresses, and notes. The records deal with a wide variety of subjects: social functions at Victoria, alumni activities, baccalaureate services, memorial services for staff such as Margaret Addison, C.E. Auger, A. J. Bell, A. Gandier, A. L. Langford, A. H. Reynar, F. H. Wallace and noted churchmen like S.D. Chown, regulations and rules governing various aspects of university life, the operation of residences, Victoria's relationship with outside academic bodies such as the Universities of the British Empire and the Association of American Colleges, fund-raising, bursaries, scholarships, bequests, endowments, Victoria's relationship with the United Church of Canada, the founding of Emmanuel College, Victoria's involvement with Union Theological College and Columbian College.

General Subject Files, 1901-1956 (153 cm)

This series was stored in filing cabinets labeled "Victoria University (Inactive)" before transfer to the Archives. The files are in their original alphabetical order by subject. This is one of the largest and most comprehensive series in the collection. Most of the material dates from the 1930s and 1940s, and the records include correspondence, minutes, reports, memoranda, addresses, sermons, orders of service, forms, notes, subscription lists, schedules, statistics, and briefs. From this series one gains a fairly comprehensive picture of the range of activities at Victoria during the first half of the twentieth century and the involvement of the President in university and church affairs. The files provide insight into the changing administrative structure of Victoria and the developments in its relationship with both the University of Toronto and the United Church of Canada during this period. The files of the Board of Christian Education (later the Board of Colleges and Secondary Schools) are especially valuable in defining the shape of university-church relations. There is material relating to various public lecture series, convocations, installations, and the granting of honorary degrees. The planning, publicity, and execution of the academic and social aspects of Victoria's centennial celebrations are outlined. There are personnel files on professors and the departmental files in this series contain correspondence relating primarily to new faculty appointments (e.g. letters of recommendation). There is a significant amount of statistical material on university finances, examination results, and enrolment. The spiritual life of the faculty and students emerges in connection with the chapel services, retreats and the May Mission. Victoria's involvement in spiritual outreach to the community is displayed in the records of the Fudger group, a group of faculty, ministers and business and professional men who met monthly between 1924 and 1955 to discuss "the practical application of Christian principles in the world." Financial concerns are a dominant theme in many of the records: scholarships, bursaries, endowments, bequests, aid to church students, and, of course, fund-raising through regular appeals to the alumni, field days in local congregations and national campaigns. The finances, administration, and physical plant of the library and residences are discussed in some detail. There are some files which contain records detailing aspects of Victoria's history, and others, such as that dealing with the question of Japanese and German students at the university during the Second World War, that provide some interesting insight into the determination of Victoria's President and faculty to retain a unique identity and mission within the University of Toronto.

General Subject Files, 1905-1967 (36 cm)

As the original order of the files in this series was not clearly evident, no attempt was made to reconstruct it. The bulk of the material was generated in the 1930s and 1940s, and the records consist of correspondence, reports, minutes, addresses, and lists. Again, financial matters emerge as a major concern of the President's office: bequests, scholarships, bursaries, awards, salaries, and endowments are frequently discussed. There are a significant number of personnel files for Victoria faculty and staff. Student activities are particularly well-covered in this series in files relating to the Bob, Acta Victoriana, the Athletic Association, and numerous clubs and societies.

General Subject Files, 1897-1970 (11 cm)

The files in this series are arranged alphabetically by subject. The records consist of correspondence, reports, minutes, addresses, and notes and are drawn largely from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The subjects covered include the Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowship Program, missions, temperance, bequests, and the controversies created by the political activities of Victoria University staff.

Board of Regents Files, 1912-1975 (130 cm)

The Board of Regents is the chief governing body of Victoria University and as such its records deal with almost every imaginable aspect of life at the university. Its members were elected by the alumni of Emmanuel and Victoria Colleges or appointed by the General Conference of the Methodist Church (after 1925 the General Council of the United Church of Canada). The Presidents of Victoria derived their authority from their status as the chief administrative officer of the Board of Regents. The records consist primarily of correspondence, minutes, and reports and are fairly comprehensive for the period between the First World War and 1970. The Annual Reports to the Board of Regents are a particularly valuable source of information, containing as they do reports from the Presidents, Deans or Principals, Treasurers and various committees. The Board made all the major financial and policy decisions for the university; the Presidents, therefore, consulted the Board, or at least its executive, before taking action on important issues. The correspondence with the National Trust Company is concerned mostly with Victoria's investments in property and stock. The committee reports offer insights into proposed campus plans, the construction of buildings such as the library, new academic building, and student union, and the nature of support services on campus. One of the chief and ongoing concerns of the Board was the definition of the nature of Victoria's relationship with both the University of Toronto and the United Church of Canada.

Senate Files, 1954-1969 (3 cm)

The Senate of Victoria University was made of up of members of the Board of Regents, professors, and representatives elected from amongst the alumni. It had the power to grant degrees and to determine the courses of study and qualifications for degrees, but in the twentieth century it seemed to play a largely ceremonial role, as most of the academic decisions were made either by the University of Toronto Senate and Faculty of Arts Council or by the Council of Victoria College. The correspondence in this series deals with the creation of the Bachelor of Religious Education degree and the granting of honorary divinity degrees.

Victoria College Council Files, 1928-1969 (7 cm)

The Victoria College Council (of which the President was a member) met monthly after its creation in 1928 to "exercise direction, guidance, and oversight of the work and life of the college, to deal with all applications and memorials by students or others in which College action was required, to conduct College examinations, to appoint its representatives on the University Senate, and to report directly to the Board any matter affecting the College which to it might seem meet." [Sissons, 289] The Council provided the faculty with an opportunity for more active involvement in the policy-making and administrative spheres of university life. The records in this series consist of minutes, correspondence and reports, and they deal with admissions, time tabling, social events, and the religious life of the college. The records of the Victoria Women's Council, which had been organized in 1932 to deal with the welfare of the women's residences, are also included in this series.

Academic Administration Files, 1915-1975 (54 cm)

The records in this series consist primarily of correspondence, minutes, reports, notes, and lists; as the series title suggests, they are concerned primarily with the administrative details of the academic life of the university. The files of the Principals of Victoria and Emmanuel Colleges and the various departments deal with matters such as faculty appointments, promotions, leaves, retirements, and salaries. Other files provide information concerning the hiring of Deans of Women and Men, the selection of residence dons, the move of the United Church Archives to the Birge-Carnegie Building, the acquisition of the Coleridge papers and E.J. Pratt manuscripts by the library, and the creation of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies.

Financial Administration Files, 1905-1975 (28 cm)

The records in this series consist of correspondence, minutes and reports of a primarily financial nature. Some of the files outline Victoria's financial arrangements with the Board of Colleges and Secondary Schools and its successor divisions within the United Church of Canada; others provide information about the workings of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and its predecessors, the National Conference of Canadian Universities and the Canadian Universities Foundation and the politics of federal and provincial government grants to denominational institutions of higher education. The financial reports of the men's and women's residences are included, as are files on bequests, endowments, and the United Church's financial aid package for undergraduates who had been accepted as candidates for the ministry. The arrangements made between the University of Toronto and Victoria regarding reimbursement of Victoria faculty for supervising graduate work are detailed.

Awards Files, 1918-1968 (4 cm)

The records in this series consist primarily of correspondence dealing with the creation, administration and awarding of various prizes and medals.

Scholarships Files, 1916-1976 (16 cm)

The records in this series consist largely of lists and correspondence relating to the creation, administration and awarding of scholarships.

Student Assistance Files, 1932-1970 (6 cm)

The files in this series contain correspondence concerned with various bursaries, memorials, loan and trust funds, and fellowships established by individuals and foundations in order to provide financial aid to needy Victoria University students.

Students Files, 1915-1970 (10 cm)

The records in this series consist of correspondence, minutes, and reports focusing primarily on individual students and student organizations. The general files, for example, contain a number of letters of recommendation for Victoria students and several appeals of an academic or disciplinary nature. Records of the Victoria College Union Council and Emmanuel College Students Society are included in this series; they discuss issues such as the construction of a student union building and the need for increased student representation on university committees and governing bodies.

Victoria University Associations Files, 1928-1968 (4 cm)

The correspondence, minutes, and reports in this series deal almost exclusively with alumni/alumnae involvement in university affairs.

Functions Files, 1926-1968 (19 cm)

This series is comprised of correspondence, minutes, citations, and addresses generated by various Victoria University functions such as public lectures, centenary celebrations, convocations, and the opening of new buildings. The records dealing with honorary degrees consist of both letters of recommendation from those pleading the case of various candidates and the deliberations of the committee responsible for the actual selection.

Installations Files, 1913-1971 (7 cm)

The files in this series contain correspondence and addresses relating to the installation of Chancellors, Presidents, Principals, and a few professors of Victoria University.

University of Toronto Files, 1929-1974 (41 cm)

The records in this series, consisting of correspondence, minutes, reports, memoranda, and statistics, focus on various aspects of Victoria's relationship with the University of Toronto and the other federated colleges. Much of the material elucidates changes in the nature of shared teaching responsibilities and financial arrangements between the University of Toronto and Victoria over the course of the twentieth century. The correspondence between the Presidents of Victoria and the Presidents of the University of Toronto is especially valuable-- touching on fund-raising, graduate school appointments, the expansion of the university, curricular changes, and relations with external bodies. There is a significant amount of information pertaining to the creation of the Toronto School of Theology. The negotiations between Victoria and Toronto in light of President John Evans' recommendations concerning the role of the colleges in arts and science instruction are also outlined in some detail.

United Church Files, 1935-1961 (10 cm)

The records in this series consist primarily of correspondence, minutes, and reports relating to the United Church of Canada. The files of the Board of Colleges and Secondary Schools contain a great deal of information about the financial aid provided to Victoria by the church. The material from the Publishing House and Board of Publications found a place in the Presidents' records because Walter Brown served on the executive committee of the Board of Publications during the 1930s and 1940s--these files offer an interesting perspective on labour relations in the Publishing House during this period.