A Story Worth Telling: Chronicles of OAC ’53

Authored by: Bruce Stone with input from Murray Miller, Dave Elrick and Bruce McCorquodale

Let’s set the stage. World War II was over. Canada’s and the World economies were ready to “take off”. In September 1949, 89 young men and 4 young women arrived in Guelph to study at the Ontario Agricultural College.

Sixty of us came from rural Ontario (many having attended one-room schools), 28 came from the city, and 5 were recent arrivals from Britain, Holland and South America. Those from the city needed a year’s experience on a farm to enter OAC. Our parents had taught us to be frugal, to work hard and help others. Costs were minimal, tuition was $50 per term and room and board was $10 per week with three meals a day, seven days a week. They even threw in free laundry for our bedding and towels each week. There were classes on Saturday mornings. We all lived in the same residence and took the same courses for the first two years, therefore we got to know everyone really well and the foundations were laid for ‘53’s special cohesiveness and year spirit.

OAC 53 Classmates stand on the steps of War Memorial Hall

OAC' 53 in second year

Of course our college years involved not only study, but many extra- curricular activities as well as our share of pranks. These were the years of initiation, not orientation. Only two or three of us had cars, very few went home for weekends, there was one phone per floor in residence and no TV. We were known to be involved in an occasional water fight in residence, food fights in Creelman Hall and a raid or two on Mac Hall. In our fourth year there was a medical examination of Junior Farmer girls who were on a weekend visit at the College where a cleverly rearranged sign directed them to Mills Hall (men’s residence). There also have been rumours of a motorcycle roaring down the floors of Mills Hall and of a home-made cannon booming out of the windows.

We graduated in the spring of 1953 with a BSA (Bachelor of Science in Agriculture) from the University of Toronto – 77 men and one woman. Unlike today’s graduates, everyone soon had multiple offers of employment.  A profile of our careers is as follows: business-27, government-16, school teachers-15, University professors-9, farmers-8, clergy-2, entrepreneur-1, homemaker-1. All of us agree that we were fortunate to have had our careers at probably the best time in modern history. Many notable contributions were made to society by our class members. Two rose to be Vice Presidents of multi-national corporations. One developed an oil company and major contributions were made internationally. Of particular significance was the development of a scheme of “small scale farming” methods which FAO promoted in Asia. Also much expertise in the poultry and dairy industries was transferred abroad. One of the first successful alternative to moulboard plowing occurred on a ’53 grad’s farm in Oxford County and over the years no-tillage methods developed. Many who taught school were very satisfied with their careers.

Class of '53 classmates at at a reunion in 1973

OAC '53 classmates at a reunion in 1973. 42 classmates were present at the reunion.

We feel we have had remarkable success in our family lives as well. Many of the men married women from Macdonald Institute (21 %). Our marriages lasted (divorce rate less than 3 %) and we produced 242 children or 3.14 per marriage. And have we ever kept in touch! We have printed an annual newsletter every year since graduation, as well as holding a reunion every year. We are informed if a class member passes away, and as we have gotten older our secretary provides health updates via email or hard copy.

Year ’53 has also had a strong desire to “give back”. In addition to a number of small projects, our first substantial gift was in the name of our Honourary President, Ross Cavers. The proceeds have been used for scholarships to allow students to study abroad for a semester.  Approximately $150,000 has been awarded and the fund still has a value of over $150,000. We are also proud of the ‘53 Spring Garden as part of the Conservatory Gardens. At the time of our 50th anniversary, enrollment at OAC was lagging, so we raised over $60,000 (over $1,000 per living member) for a fund which the Dean uses for student recruitment and we continue to raise funds for that need. One member has received the Order of OAC for a lifetime gift of over $100,000 and Alumni Affairs has recorded total giving from our class as $870,000 and growing.

Class of '53 at reunion in 2003

OAC '53 classmates celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2003.
83 classmates and their spouses were present for the reunion.

This year, in 2013, we will celebrate 60 years since graduating. Forty three classmates (55%) are still living and are looking forward to a “bang up” party during Alumni weekend, joined by Mac ’53. We are grateful for the guidance we received as students at OAC, to launch us on our life journey and for circumstances that allowed us to live full and happy lives. We are proud to be part of the OAC family and of the University of Guelph and hopefully we have contributed to a “Better Planet”.

Go Aggies!