Saturday, December 17, 2011

Past Imperfect?

Interesting piece in this morning's Montreal Gazette.  It re-prints an old story (as they often do on Saturdays to show how things happened in the past and whether times have changed or not) on Stephen Leacock and the end of his time at McGill.  I have worked for the past ten years in a building bearing Leacock's name, as he is essentially the Mark Twain of Canada.

But his exit from McGill, I was surprised to learn, was quite abrupt and unfriendly.  During the Great Depression, the University had to cut costs so it compelled all professors over 65 to retire.  This meant that Leacock would have to leave McGill a few months after this decision.  He was most miffed:
"I have plenty to say about the governors putting me out of the university, but I have all eternity to say it in. I shall shout it down to them." Thus did the humorist euphemistically tell his bosses to go to hell.
This policy is very much in McGill's past.  I have a colleague who is two decades older now than Leacock was in 1935.  Still publishing, still teaching half-time (been semi-retired for 30 years), and still playing a role in department politics.  Indeed, he is still the future of the department. 

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