The people behind campus landmarks

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre was a gift of Agnes Etherington, a patron of the arts who left her house, pictured above, to Queen’s. Most displays are mounted in a new addition at left (not shown), but the house has been restored to its original state and is open to tours.
The Agnes Etherington Art Centre was a gift of Agnes Etherington, a patron of the arts who left her house, pictured above, to Queen’s. Most displays are mounted in a new addition at left (not shown), but the house has been restored to its original state and is open to tours.
Brockington House, the residence named after legendary rector Dr. Leonard W. Brockington.
Brockington House, the residence named after legendary rector Dr. Leonard W. Brockington.

One of the many manifestations of history at Queen’s is the names of buildings. You can’t go more than two steps on campus without running into an edifice named for someone who made significant contributions to the University’s development.

Here, the Journal presents five examples of the powerhouses who have guided the University over its 164 years of existence, and who have been rewarded with permanent on-campus memorials.

1. The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is named for its primary benefactor: Agnes (Richardson) Etherington (1880-1954).

Agnes Etherington was the wife of Dr. Frederick Etherington, who served as the Dean of Medicine for 18 years. His wife was the daughter of one of Kingston’s most influential families, and the sister of former Chancellor James Richardson and Queen’s athletics star George Taylor Richardson. After George was killed in World War I, James had Richardson Stadium, the main playing field at Queen’s, named for his brother.

Etherington, meanwhile, was an enthusiastic supporter of the city’s artistic community. She was the founder and president of the Kingston Art and Music Association, and as the administrator of the George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund, she provided key financial support for the earliest art programs at the University. She also attracted resident artists and musicians to the University, and convinced everyone of their importance.

When she died, Etherington left her home to Queen’s, “for the furtherance of art and music and for the exhibition of pictures and music.” She wanted to provide both the Queen’s and Kingston communities with access to fine art, and she succeeded.

Since its opening in 1957 in Etherington’s former home, the Art Centre has grown to include a permanent collection of over 14,000 works of art, a gallery shop, and an art rental and sales service, and it regularly plays host to a wide variety of visiting exhibitions.

The gallery has benefited greatly from the generosity of donors like Justin and Elisabeth Lang, who gave the Art Centre a significant collection of West African art, and Drs Alfred and Isabel Bader, the super-benefactors who have contributed numerous high-quality 17th century Dutch paintings—including one Rembrandt—to the gallery. The University recently renamed a nearby campus street Bader Lane in their honour.

2. Brockington Hall, the north half of the Gordon-Brockington residence, honours legendary Queen’s rector Dr. Leonard W. Brockington (1888-1966). The position of rector is unique to Queen’s among Canadian universities, a holdover from our Scottish roots. The rector is currently intended to represent all students to the University in all matters pertaining to education, but before Brockington, the position was merely ceremonial.

Brockington came to Queen’s in 1947 to deliver the annual AMS Lecture, and his vibrant personality and significant oratorial skills captured the hearts and minds of all present. By the end of the year, he was a unanimous choice to serve as rector, a position he filled for 19 years with dedication and aplomb.

The native of Wales was fiercely proud of his adopted country, and he was known as “the wartime voice of Canada” thanks to his stirring radio speeches during the dark hours of World War II.

Though he served as the chair of the CBC and the United Nations Loyalty Panel, the president of the Odeon Theatres group, and the advisor to the British Ministry of Information on Commonwealth Affairs, nothing gave Brockingston as much pride and satisfaction as being the rector of Queen’s.

3. Most students know Mackintosh-Corry Hall only as a perplexing rabbit’s warren of a building, but it bears the names of the University’s 12th and 13th principals.

Dr. William Archibald Mackintosh (1895-1970) was the first graduate of Queen’s to become the University’s principal and vice-chancellor. He served in those posts for 10 and 14 years respectively, after filling five different teaching and administrative positions.

During his term as principal, Mackintosh oversaw a huge expansion in the University’s building space. Under his direction, Queen’s expanded by 40 per cent, with the construction of Abramsky, Clark, Chown, Dunning, Ellis, Etherington, Leonard, Macdonald and Richardson Halls, as well as McNeill and Morris Houses.

Dr. Herbert Hamilton, the author of Queen’s Queen’s Queen’s, describes the Madoc, Ontario native as an approachable but brilliant intellectual, whose educational credo included a belief in “people, not methods,” and whose quiet sense of humour appreciated the absurdity of the talking-horse television show Mister Ed.

Dr. James Alexander Corry (1899-1985), Mackintosh’s successor, served as principal from 1961 until 1968—an end date he chose for himself at the beginning of his term. The successful lawyer faced down steadily increasing rates of enrolment while maintaining a strong commitment to the high quality of a Queen’s education.

The Department—now School—of Computing Science was established during his tenure, as were the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations and a full Faculty of Education (as McArthur College).

According to Hamilton, Corry had an infectious chuckle and an “‘instinct for the jugular’” which he shared with Dr. Mackintosh, and he was a familiar sight walking the streets of Kingston.

4. McNeill House, one of the U-shaped residences on the edge of Leonard Field, was named after Dr. William Everett McNeill (1876-1959), one of the University’s most distinguished registrars and treasurers.

The Prince Edward Island native wore those two hats between 1920 and 1930, and though he was widely praised throughout Queen’s and Canada for his successful stewardship of the University during the dry years of the Depression, all he really wanted to do was teach and study English.

A graduate of Acadia and Harvard who taught at Queen’s before entering the administration, Dr. McNeill thought his appointment as registrar and treasurer was punishment for his diligent attendance at faculty meetings. But though he missed scholarly work and teaching, he became an astute businessman and skilled penny-pincher, and his 38 years of service with Queen’s were full of accolades from a succession of principals.

Oddly enough, the skilled orator did not support equal wages for women, but his wife Caroline was a teacher herself and the University’s first Dean of Women. When they died, they left instructions that their house at 32 Bader Lane was eventually to pass to Queen’s; it’s now the Ban Righ Centre for Continuing Education.

5. Tindall Field, the playing field and track behind Victoria Hall, is named for a Queen’s sporting legend: Frank Tindall (1908-1993) coached the Golden Gaels football team to eight intercollegiate championships, one official national championship in 1968 and several unofficial national titles.

The graduate of Syracuse University came to Canada to play football for the Toronto Argonauts, with whom he won a Grey Cup in 1933. Tindall first came to Queen’s in 1939, but was forced away when World War II ended university sports for a spell. He took up the post again in 1947 and held it until 1975, during which time he led the gridiron Gaels to 111 wins, 84 losses and two ties.

Tindall’s teams outscored their opponents 3,572 to 2,972, but Hamilton wrote that “the real success of his career is the manner in which he performed, the personality of the man himself, the impact he had on his players, and the honour and respect he brought to Queen’s in the performance of his duties.” The information herein is drawn mainly from Dr. Hamilton’s Queen’s Queen’s Queen’s, a comprehensive and colourful history of the University’s middle years, and from an anniversary publication entitled Queen’s: The First 150 Years.

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