School of Commerce
By Professor R. M. Sugars
A department of study that has lately come into prominence in this, as in other Universities, is the department of Commerce. This extension of University activities began on the Continent of Europe—in Germany, Belgium and France. It met with no approval at first in England, who considered herself as occupying an impregnable position in Commerce and Industry, and, only after very palpable results has been evidenced in the countries just mentioned, did British and American statesmen see the necessity of establishing, in pure self-defence, similar schools of Commerce in British and American Universities. In Canada the schools of Commerce of Laval and McGill were founded some twelve or thirteen years ago. A grant for this purpose was given to both Universities by the Provincial Government. The Laval grant was very considerable, enabling them to build a fine school on Belgium and German models, in Place Viger, Montreal, to equip this school, and to provide chairs for a number of Professors. The grant to McGill was small in comparison, amounting only to some six or seven thousand dollars per annum. The Schools of Commerce of Laval and McGill, therefore, came into existence at the same time and were the two first schools of the kind to be established in Canada.
It was not in the nature of things to be expected that a perfect course in Commerce would immediately be laid down in this University; it was in fact quite natural that the innovation should meet with a considerable amount of opposition, until the function to be discharged by a school of Commerce in a University should be clearly understood. In order to secure a clear understanding it was only necessary to extend a little our “idea” of a University, and consider the latter not merely as an institution in which such liberal studies might be pursued as “adorn our leisure and prosperity, delight our old age, and constitute our comfort and refuge in times of adversity,” but also as an institution one of whose aims was to minister to the social, economic and intellectual needs of the community,—succurrere everso saeculo; and since the whole fabric of our civilization and culture is inseparably interwoven with a material basis of Commerce, for modern commerce in its complexity and world-embracing character comes into contact with almost every phase of human activity and thought—it is evident that men of no ordinary attainments are necessary to take charge of our commercial and industrial interest and that the university must fulfil its part in equipping such men.
In the beginning the McGill course in commerce extended over two years, and embraced elementary studies in English, French, Mathematics and Book-keeping. A diploma was awarded to successful students at the end of the two years. But the course was of such a feeble and scrappy nature that it soon came to be regarded as a place of refuge for weak-minded students who could not stand the strong wine of the ordinary Arts course. In consequence those who came hopelessly to grief in Arts, Medicine and Science gravitated towards Commerce as to an asylum in which they might find a congenial and sage abiding-place. The reproach that had this been cast on the School of Commerce called for an immediate remedy. The proper aims of such a School were recognized, and in accordance with these aims the curriculum was revised, strengthened and extended to three years, at the end of which the degree of B. Com. was awarded. In carrying out this task of revision it was kept clearly in view that a course in Commerce, if not a post-graduate one should, while giving the students a thorough training in business principles, and equipping him for a particular calling or profession, include those studies long recognized as peculiarly adapted to develop and inform the mental faculties. To this end courses in English Literature, in French, Spanish and German
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School of Commerce
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Literature, in Mathematics, in Science, and in Economic Theory were given prominence in the first two years of the curriculum. In this way it was intended that a student should be given an acquaintance with the best that has been thought and written in Literature and Science, and that he should be given the background which he requires if he would derive full advantage from his technical studies.
For the purposes of the latter the amount of knowledge and experience that has been accumulated on business matters is very considerable and, thanks to the labour of research and analysis carried on with this material in Universities and in Government departments throughout the world, important works have been produced on different phases of commerce and industry,—works which in many cases have acquired a high value as elements of what is called a cultural training. We have now, for example, treatises on Accountancy and Business Organization which deal with these subjects in a philosophic way and bring them into close connection with economics, and treatises on Salesmanship and Advertising which demonstrate the intimate connection between these two subjects and Psychology. Thus separate branches of business knowledge are constantly undergoing a work of analysis that both results in the evolution of new economic theory, and makes possible a scientific study of such separate sources of experience with a view to the practical application of the principles discovered. These technical studies form almost the entire programme of work in the later years. They comprise, besides special courses in pure economics. Others in Commercial Geography, in Banking and Foreign Exchange, in Transportation, in Commercial Law, in Accountancy, in statistics and Actuarial Science, in business Organization and an Industrial Organization, in Salesmanship and Market Analysis, in General and Business Psychology.
The mere enumeration of these subjects will help us to form an idea of the wide circle of knowledge that is required of a business or industrial leader to to-day. We can understand how there is no calling so rich in experience as is his, none so calculated to develop the highest qualities, none of such sovereign efficacy to make a man liberal and high-minded. Surely it is the part of a University to train for such a calling!
The Commercial Society
Back Row: W. B. Brewer, Secretary; W. J. Spence-Thomas, Treasurer; I. Cassels; T. Mitchell
Front Row: A. E. E. Tremain, President; R. M. Sugars, Hon. Pres.; W. L. Munn, Vice-Pres.
The Commercial Society now faces the dawn of a new era. Complete separation from the Arts Undergraduate Society is under contemplation, and it now appears that the commercial Society is about to attain its true status among the other undergraduate societies of Old McGill.
Numbering among its members several of the most outstanding figures in the realms of study, and athletics, and possessed of an indomitable spirit of aggressiveness, this society cannot but achieve its aims and objects.
Naturally, the first of these aims is the inauguration of a Faculty of Commerce. Until we have a faculty of our own, Commerce at McGill cannot attain that eminence which is our incontestable appanage. During the past three years, the efforts of the undergraduates in Commerce have been perseveringly and patiently centred on this formidable task, and at last the golden dawn of success seems at hand.
So far this year the “embryonic financiers” have listened with pleasure to addresses by Mr. W. H. Goodwin, and Mr. Stanley Cook on “organization,” and “The Montreal Board of Trade” respectively. These lectures proved intensely interesting and most instructive, and the prospects are of the best for many similar discourses in the future. In fact, it is rumoured that a certain gentleman intimately connected with the control of our venerable University will shortly demonstrate his interest in the Department of Commerce.
In the course of the year just passed, the first laurels of fame and fortune were attained by one of our past undergraduates. Our erstwhile companion is now a Junior Trade Commissioner and according to the statements of those in authority, he stands on the threshold of a wonderful career. It is the endeavor of the Department of Commerce, to develop men of such caliber, and the Commercial Society plays no small part in guiding these future financiers safely through the adolescent t stage of their careers, and establishing them properly on the road to financial success and prosperity.
History of Commerce ‘24
The beautiful autumn of 1921 was only interrupted by two great events---the Centennial Celebration, and the arrival of the class of Commerce ’24. Like the roar of the mighty wheels of industry, they thundered through the classic portals of the Arts Building, to be received with open and outstretched arms by the Class of ’23. Gifts of all kinds were showered upon them, books, hats, and a thousand other thoughtful, other, little things. Two weeks later, the Centennial Celebration commenced, and it was then that the Class decid3d that they had a name to make for themselves. The lid was off. Footballers, baseballers, basketballers, hockeyists, boxers, wrestlers, dancers, swimmers, sprouted up like mushrooms, and ventured forth into their various fields of activity to become one hundred per cent efficient.
The next event of interest, the Freshman-Sophomore Banquet, was a huge success as far as the Sophs were concerned; the Froshes thought they had better stay sober. True brotherly spirit as shown to them by the way they guided their late oppressors home after the party had become merry. And joy had become unrefined. Then the mid-term exams were thrown at them, but the whole class managed to survive until after Christmas. In this case it became a survival of the fittest. Then the Spring exams started about the eighteenth of April, and still more woe to the Class. Life was just one exam after another in those days. After these horrors, the gang wandered off to their various home towns, some to work, some to loaf, and Jeff Hamilton to sleep.
This fall, some forty of the old brigade rallied round the classic columns in front of the Arts Building. Freshman were given straw hats, money extracted, footballers put on their uniforms, wrestlers their tights, boxers their mitts, African Golfers bought a new pair to replace those confiscated by father the summer before, and they were a in a cloud of dust. Every activity of interest, or not interest at all was supported from the S.C.A., to the Maccabaean Circle. At the Junior dance, they were there in force, all shaking a mean thigh. When the Annual Board came along, and asked them to pay one half dollar to help the Annual along, have their faces taken, and them pay three seventy-five to see themselves in print, they carried on cheerfully, that is, as cheerfully as could be expected. They had their photographs taken and with the aid of several detective agencies, the warden of the most prominent penitentiaries and insane asylums, they were able to set their biographies before the world.
In future years when you are bouncing the twelfth on your left knee, and the thirteenth on the right, just take this old Annual, look up Commerce ’24 and read the names off to the children. “Here’s Roscoe. Who would have thought back in ’24, that some day he would be the Controller and President for the Victoria Artificial Hands and Feet Co., and Charlie has now cornered the clothing market of the world, and at present is undertaking that gigantic enterprise of selling B.V.D.’s to the Eskimos; Jimmy’s the editor and owner of the Stories Publishing Corporation, by far the biggest thing in print to-day; and Jerry is his circulating manager, getting a salary of ten thousand a year and cigarettes; Uncle has control of the Dance Halls of Canada, he must be worth five million. (I wonder if he’s bald, I never saw a man yet, who came by his bald head morally,—I knew him well); Dick, Dave and Harry, Jeff, Spence, Blake, Bob, Gil and Grant, all of them must be worth a cold million.” “Let these great men ever be an example to you, my children, and remember the reason your gather wasn‘t so fortunate lies in the fact that he didn’t take Commerce.”
The Commerce Initiation
The early days of October, and the late days of November saw a large number of bewildered and innocent looking Commerce freshman, wandering about McGill’s campus, or exploring the labyrinth of the Arts building. All were beginning to reach the conclusion that the Bulletin of the School of Commerce was rather a dead issue, as far as information was concerned, and that the Arts building presented a difficulty in getting from one lecture room to another on time. Somewhere beginning to know that one had to go down in the cellar, through a class room, and climb another set of stairs to get to room one hundred and three. English lectures and Political Economy seemed to be altogether mythical. Besides these odd worries, slight rumours of initiation were floating around.
The Commerce freshies had the privilege of watching the first year Arts men, decked out in their clerical collars and reversed vests. They saw the Science frosh, decorated with his baby bonnet and green ribbon attached. Once in a while, they saw a Med. Freshman, easily recognized by his flowing red silk cravat. These things added no ease to their peace of mind, but rather filled them with a vague apprehensions, as to what the subtle Sophomores had in store for them. The sophs were entirely unknown in most cases, so the poor Commerce freshman knew not from whom to expect the attack.
For several days the Economics professor had unfailingly been absent from his lecture. One bright October morning, the class was, as usual on hand for this lecture. Talk of organizing a resistance to the impending danger was very frequent, and this morning, there being no professor, organisation was the main theme. Suddenly, some one suggested that a class executive should be elected, and they in turn could organize a resistance group. He was told to take the chair. Nominations were called for and, after the haze of the election had cleared away, George Grimson was president, Miss E. Greene was vice-president, and W. B. Potter, was secretary-treasurer. The first duty of the new executive was to make some sort of preparation for the sophomore menace. In a few days every boy in the class had signified his willingness to fight to the death, and besides that, there was the moral support of Miss Greene, the only girl in the class. In spite of all these arrangements the Commerce frosh had developed an undeviating habit of peering cautiously around the corners and into vacant lecture-rooms, which they were about to enter. But all in vain.
One morning, the members of the class, being new to the way o University life, had read the bulletin board religiously, as was their wont. A small neatly typed sheet announced that the Economics lecture would be held that morning in room 105 at 12 o’clock. Promptly a the hour, the whole class trooped into 105 in some hopes of getting a glimpse of the professor of Political Economy. Deeply engaged in discussing the matter uppermost in their minds, namely, initiation, serenity reigned amongst the members of Commerce ’25. A slight noise was heard at one of the doors. Immediately someone arose to investigate, and when the door refused to open, excitement jumped about five hundred per cent. Someone started towards the other door, but before he reached it, it opened, and before the expectant eyes of the fearful frosh a band of stern men filed into the room, and without one word quietly took charge of the class. Their extremely business-like manner left no doubt as to who they were—the sophomores! Charlie Robertson took the chair, called the meeting to order and resistance was over.
Quietly, even eagerly and anxiously, the members of Commerce ’25 paid fifty cents for the neat rather, small straw hats with, “Com. ‘25” painted in green on them. Here again, the business propensities of the sophs were apparent, for the hats, including the ink, probably were high priced at ten cents a dozen. Obediently each freshman poised it on the top of his head, allowed himself to be pushed from the room, and then thrown downstairs. Assembled at the foot of the steps of the Arts building, they gave a rousing McGill yell, and their own yell—“Yea Commerce, Yea Commerce, Yea Commerce, Fight—Fight—Fight.” They then snake-walked to the Union, where they broke up agreeing, to meet again in the afternoon.
At 2.20 p.m. they turned out to a man, wearing the “straws.” Snake-walking downtown, they tied up the traffic on St. Catherine Street, while they thoroughly advertised the School of Commerce. Later they appeared on the stage of Loew’s Court Theatre, and performed for the audience. Thus ended the Commerce initiation.