Orlando John Stevenson | Ontario Agricultural College

Orlando John Stevenson

First name: Orlando John

Last Name: Stevenson

Hometown: Wardsville, Elgin County, Ontario

Birth Year: 1869

Date of Death: August 15, 1950

Affiliation: Faculty

OAC Pillar: Communities


O.J. Stevenson was a Shakespearean scholar who came from the Toronto Normal School to be Professor of English at OAC and was Head of the English Department from 1916-1939. He integrated classical music, poetry, literature, and philosophies of arts and sciences into the curriculum, implementing new technologies like the phonograph and lantern slides.   

“The object of the course in English at the OAC is to teach the student to express his ideas clearly and correctly in writing, to train him to speak fluently and effectively on the public platform, and to cultivate a taste for good reading and an appreciation for the best English literature.” –  O.J. Stevenson

Stevenson taught students whose proficiency in English ranged from virtually no prior instruction to high school graduation. He developed a curriculum for both the diploma and degree programs that included instruction in composition, Canadian and Shakespearean literature, and poetry and prose of the 17th and 18th centuries. Even students in Short Courses were required to take English. He reinforced his lessons in a regular column in OAC Review. Students agreed that he was a good teacher who gave them “a feeling for English” and its fundamental importance in society.

Stevenson supplemented campus work with extension activities. He lectured and judged speeches at local literary societies. The English Department loaned its very popular travelling Packet Library to debating clubs in rural Ontario.

Stevenson’s greatest coup was the acquisition of Tom Thomson’s The Drive for OAC. To finance the purchase, he organized students to collect and sell scrap paper. He arranged a series of lectures, given on campus by celebrated Canadian authors, and charged admission. The English Department charged its students 10 cents per sheet for course materials, and in 1926 the painting, a visual symbol of Canadian arts and culture, was purchased for $500. It is still owned by the University, and is stored on campus.

References and Further Reading

  • Quote Reference: “The Achievement and Challenge” Guelph Mercury, November 30, 1965, Page 13
  • Photo credit: Archival and Special Collections, University of Guelph Library
  • Rosemary C. Wagner. Dr. O.J. Stevenson: A Legacy of Teaching Humanities at the Ontario Agricultural College (University of Guelph, 2001)
  • Orlando John Stevenson. Through the Years (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1952) 

Posted on September 18, 2014