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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review 1912

The Capping Ceremony

The Capping Ceremony.

This year, contrary to custom, the Capping Ceremony, instead of preceding, followed the Carnival, and was held in the morning instead of in the afternoon. Notwithstanding the latter arrangement, the Town Hall was well filled by a large audience of interested parents and friends, past-graduates' and under-graduates, the last-named displaying, now and again, a somewhat invalid wit. The proceedings were, as the papers said, "of a most orderly nature," the size of the great hall and the presence of a most distinguished visitor somewhat diminishing our levity.

The stage, hung with curtains and containing some of the scenery from the night before, appeared, to one sitting in the gallery, as a murky cave in whose background could barely be distinguished the familiar forms of the Professors and College Councillors; while towards the front, more in the light of day, sat His Excellence the Governor (Lord Islington), the Rt. Hon. Jas. Bryce, British Minister Plenipotentiary at Washington, U.S.A., and Dr. F. Fitchett, Vice-Chancellor of the University.

Dr. Fitchett, who presided, introduced into his ten minutes' speech some examples of statistics and a truly harrowing description of the financial poverty and architectural unloveliness of Victoria College, and ended by dwelling in hopeful prophecy on the future liberality of Parliament.

page 35

Lord Islington made one of his typically clever and tactful speeches, and was applauded vigorously by the gallery. The next speaker was the Rt. Hon. Jas. Bryce, for whose words we were all waiting m eager expectancy. He was introduced by His Excellency, who appealed to us to give our visitor "the most cordial of Victoria College welcomes, and then an attentive hearing," which we did. Mr. Bryce is a speaker who grips the attention of his audience at once, and keeps it till he brings to an end his finely flowing speech of lucid, thoughtful sentences. We reprint the following report of his speech from "The Dominion":—

Mr. Bryce thanked the gathering for the cordiality of the reception, "Let me," he went on, "thank my old friend, His Excellency the Governor, for the terms in which he referred to me; but his words, I think, were spoken more out of old acquaintanceship than in strict adherence to the truth. He said that I have made many speeches to University audience. I am almost ashamed to say how many. . . . However, having listened to many a weary speech in the House of Common I should be the last to delay you with a long address." Graduation at the University, continued Mr. Bryce, was not the end of education, but, rather the beginning of it, and the teaching obtained at the institution was to teach people how to teach them-selves, and thus make life one long process of education. A famous man of a former day had said: "I shall die always learning;." Learning ended only with life. They should cultivate a love of knowledge, and a love of truth. He remarked that the woman graduates were a leading feature of the New Zealand University, and one of those features which gave a peculiar charm to it. On Thursday, he said, he had had the privilege of being present at the opening ceremony of the New Zealand Parliament, and he had thought how close a connection there should be between the Parliament and the University. It should be of the greatest importance and value if the Parliament included University-educated members, who would bring to the House their full knowledge. He hoped that University men would offer themselves for service in public life, and fill honoured places in the Legislative Assembly. (Applause)

New Zealand had many difficult problems of University education before it, said Mr. Bryce. Some of these problems were peculiar to New Zealand. There was the peculiar difficulty of knowing how to reconcile the claims of the four cities for their four colleges. New Zealand had to spread its work, and its effort, and its money over the four institutions, while in England page 36 they had a proportionately smaller number of universities upon which to bestow their attention. New Zealand had produced men of high capacity, such a. Professor Ernest Rutherford and Professor R. C. McLaurin, who had been drawn away by the larger salaries and the somewhat larger field, which the other countries offered. It was hard that when a country possessed a man of exceptional gifts he was apt to be taken away from the land of his birth. The New Zealand University had also the difficulty of having an Examining Board which was not in such close connection as some would like to see it with the teaching work of the colleges. (Applause) He felt, therefore, that there was a great deal of difficult) in endeavouring to adjust university eaching to the peculiar needs of the Dominion. He was certain that the Government would endeavour to place University education upon the best possible footing. He hoped that public attention would not be diverted from the subject until a serious effort had been made to solve these problems of magnitude.

Mr. Bryce thought that he might be allowed to make three remarks, based on what he had seen at Home, in Canada, and in the United States, where the problems were sufficiently like New Zealand's to enable him to speak with some confidence. The first counsel he would give was that it seemed to him that New Zealand would be obliged to try to specialise work. The difficulties of concentrating on one centre were obvious in a country of the shape of New Zealand. One must admit the difficulty there would be in creating one great university out of the four colleges. But if that could not be done, it would be best to allot to each college some special held of activity in which it could extend and develop, so that, instead of four institutional] imperfectly developed, they would have four institutions each of which would be especially equipped in some particular direction. It was not necessary that a student should obtain all his education in one institution. In a country which stood second tc none in the higher education—he meant Germany—it had long been a practice for students to begin their education at one university, go on to another, and then even to a third, thus following on to the colleges which gave the highest education in the direction which the student desired.

For instance, They could have at (say) Otago the medical faculty, at Auckland mechanical and mining engineering, at Christchurch agriculture, and at Wellington law, political economy, and finance. It had very strongly been borne in upon him how important it was to have an agricultural college of the highest excellence. New Zealand had agricultural resource hardly equalled in any part of the Empire, and it was New Zea page 37 land's duly to develop those resources. There was no truth greater than the supreme importance of cultivating science for the purposes of agriculture, If a member of the Legislature were present, he would say to him that there was no service the Legislature could render greater than the making of the most liberal grants for the development of an agricultural college along wise lines of the greatest efficiency. This had lately been done in Canada and in the United States, and in many parts of those countries the productivity of land and the value of stock had been doubled in the last twenty years through the application of proper scientific methods. Supposing that one branch of science was allotted to each university they would be able to apply effort and money to produce the best possible result. New Zealanders should not suppose that because this country was far from the Old Countries, modern languages were not of importance. There was never a time when a knowledge of Spanish, French, and German was of greater importance to commercial men in every part of the Empire. The second counsel which Mr. Bryce said that he wished to give was that they should not forget the theoretical side of education while paying attention to the practical side. Upon the theoretical depended the practical. It was through the cultivation of the mind, and the development of its powers, that nations grew and advanced. And, lastly, it should not be forgotten that university education was a most important factor in public life. New Zealand had an immense number of' problems to solve, and was proud of trying to solve those problems which had puzzled the Old World. The university consisted of teachers, and the best possible teachers should be obtained. The only way they could gel and retain first-rate teachers was to pay high salaries. They were in clanger of losing their best men to Europe and Canada, as they had lost Professor Rutherford and Professor McLaurin. They had, on the other hand, the chance of getting young men out from Home. Me hoped that the Legislature would not scruple to give most liberal grants in order that the country might procure men of the highest attainment.

"I have only one more word," said Mr. Bryce. "I have now been a month in New Zealand. I have been received here with a kindness which I can never forget. I have admired the grandeur of your scenery, which combines the glories and the splendours of the mountains of Switzerland, the lovely colours of Scotland, and the landscape of the Norwegian fiords. I have never seen a country where the beautiful hues of mountain and sea blended in such exquisite perfection. I have admired the wonderful resources of this Dominion, with its rich soils, its climate, and its fruits. I have admired its resources in water page 38 power. I have admired, also, the wisdom with which your Government and your Legislature have endeavoured to set apart scenery for the enjoyment of the nation of the time to come. No one can fail to be struck with the marvellous future before your country, and this is enhanced when you remember that you have a population of the purest British stock, a population which had sprung from a population which contained a large number of men of the highest patriotism, public spirit, and intellectual capacity. Many of their descendants are still among you, and their memory you will always cherish and value. It is with a sense of gratitude that one comes to a country like this and sees how deep an attachment its people cherish for the Old Country. When I return I will venture to tell the people of the Old Country, and the people of Canada, how strong are the ties that bind you to them; and I tell you now how strong are the ties that bind them to you. As I have to leave New Zealand this afternoon to visit Australia, may 1 thank those who have been so kind to myself and my wife. May I say that the warmth of your reception will never be effaced from our memory. May 1 say I sincerely wish that all the prosperity which a beneficent Providence has showered upon this happy land may continue. I trust that a leading part in the life of this country may be the lot of University and College; and, I wish for the students. careers of honour and usefulness in the life of this great Dominion."

The right hon. gentleman resumed his seat amidst loud and prolonged applause.

Professor von Zedlitz then emerged from the dark background of the stage, and stigmatized the Government's timidity in the matter of financial aid for Victoria College. He was followed by Mr. Chas. Wilson, Chairman of the College Council, who pathetically called our attention just once more to our appallingly poverty-stricken condition.

The Vice-Chancellor then presented the degrees.