Arthur Currie was a Canadian war hero, a decorated First World War general who was knighted in 1917. As commander 1st Canadian division in France, he orchestrated the famous Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge. He was considered one of the most successful and effective corps commanders in any army during the war’s final months.
Currie served as principal of McGill from 1920 until his death in 1933, and, though he had no post-secondary education, proved to be an exceptional administrator at a crucial time in the University’s history. The leadership skills, mastery of complex situations and attention to detail that he had shown on the battlefield also proved valuable at McGill. A fine public speaker, Currie greatly aided McGill's capital campaign of 1920.
Currie was also the driving force behind the sports facility that is named after him, the Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Gymnasium. Students had been complaining about the lack of a gymnasium since the late 1800s. In 1931, Principal Sir Arthur Currie told the Graduates' Society to “get the job done.” A committee of alumni raised $190,000, which, combined with a gift from Lady Strathcona, covered the $295,000 cost of the gymnasium. The Graduates' Society hired a contractor in June 1939 and gave him eight months to complete construction, as a facility was now urgently needed to train soldiers. The gymnasium/armoury was posthumously named for Currie, who had passed away six years earlier.