Oral History - Pettipiere, Herb


Herb Pettipiere (OAC ’49)
Interviewed by Ed Brubaker
(Actual day and date does not seem to be recorded on the tape – it starts with the word - 18th)…
EB …18th, 1999 and we are interviewing Herb Pettipiere. Herb was a registrar at the OAC for many years and had other important jobs around the university and around Guelph. He was a classmate of mine in year ’49, OAC, and this interview is being done for the Alumni-in-Action Oral History Project. Herb, you came from Toronto and went in the air force during the war about 1942 or ’43…
HP ’42.
EB What did you do in the air force?
HP I left school -- which was East York Collegiate, which was not really Toronto -- a suburb, now part of Toronto - I left school when I was 17 and to get in the air force I had to do pre-enlistment training. I went to Galt, Ontario and took radio mechanics there, and went from there to #1 Wireless School in Montreal. And then when I graduated from there I went on a special course put on by the Royal Air Force on blind landing systems. And they only had the one class; I graduated, and then they changed it on to something else because radar was coming in at that time. So, I spent the rest of the time working out of air force headquarters in Ottawa and saw the aircraft in the service flying schools and operational aerodromes on the blind landing system. The blind landing system was just a radio system of a beacon going out and dip and dot on one side and so on. You could land in the foggy weather and at night.
EB Good. You were not a pilot -- you didn’t try landing yourself when you set up this system?
HP No.
EB So others could.
HP We had, of course, to test all the aircraft and all the stations. We traveled all over -- every SFTS and operational aerodrome in Calgary, so there was quite a few.
HP Service Flying…
EB Service Flying in Training School?
HP Yes…
EB Okay. Herb, in 1945, September of that year, you showed up here at Guelph. What brought you to the university here?
HP Well, when I was at High School, I had three science teachers and all of them taught science as graduates of OAC. And, East York was a suburban area around Toronto and -- at the end of our street, for instance, was a dairy farm. So we were just on the edge, and so a lot of agriculture was taught in the schools. And then of course when I wanted to become a schoolteacher, I thought “Well, I’ll take Agriculture of Science”, so I came here to do that.
EB And decided against that.
HP Well, when I came here I found there were so many different options that you could take, some more specialized in agriculture and some less specialized. And when I was in second year, they started the new option of Agricultural Economics and because I had so many spares during the week, I decided that would be a good option for me to catch up on my rest.
EB Okay. And you enjoyed it?
HP Oh, I loved it. Yes.
EB And how many were in that option at that time?
HP We had 23 in the option, so it was just a nice group. And spending two years with them, pretty well full-time, you got to know them fairly well.
EB Herb, while you were at college here, can you recall any particular professors that were highlights in your career that you thought a lot of? Any courses that you had particular problems with?
HP Well, I had several in Ag. Economics that I really liked. I liked - in Botany, Dr. MacLachlan when he was teaching there. He was an excellent teacher. And, in Chemistry -- I can’t think of his name now!
EB Brown?
HP No, no. -- biochemistry -- it’ll come to me in a minute. But, anyway, Professor Drummond was Head of the Department. He taught us and he was the one really that convinced me in my mind to come into Ag. Economics because when he was teaching -- when someone would ask him a question -- he would always say “Well, that question can be answered two ways -- yes and no.” And I figured that if you could answer any
question yes or no you couldn’t get hung up for it very well! So, anyway, no, it was a good option, a good thinking type of option. I liked it.
EB You lived in residence for the four years you were here?
HP Yes, I lived in Johnston Hall, Maids Dorm, Watson Hall and Mills Hall. I don’t think there were any other choices then! I couldn’t keep ahead -- they kept switching me around.
EB Now, okay. Can you recall any highlights of your residence life? Any pranks, activities that you ….
HP Our year was pretty good for pranks. The one I liked was Packman – Wally Packman. He had a little Ford car and we were living in Rugby Alley at the time on the first floor and we went out and put his car in outside of his door. And he came out of his room in the morning, didn’t say a word, turned round went back in, came out got in the car with a shaving kit and drove down to the washroom. Shaved, cleaned up, and backed the car all the way down the drive – hall -- again. Of course we had to end up by helping him carry it out of Johnston Hall. And, of course, I always liked the aircraft being on the front campus, with its nose down, things like that. And all the pranks that were going on in lots of hallways --broadcasting telephone conversations around the building and so on -- they were nice things.
EB Particularly when you got someone to call his girlfriend!
HP Yes. I wasn’t going to mention (? Unintelligible name) that. He ended up to be a full professor at the university!
EB Alright. That’s well buried in the past.
HP Yes, that’s all gone now.
EB You were Year President at one time during your college career, Herb.
HP Yes, I was Year President the second year.
EB And, can you recall any highlights of that?
HP Well, I always thought the big highlights were getting all the dances at the annual banquets, you know. We had “Conversat” every year, and it took hours and hours and hours to do all the paperwork and so on. And our year was pretty good in the inter-university debating, with Tom Angus -- and I was always, you know, pleasantly surprised that we could go as agriculture students and win, and be the debating champions. The University of Guelph won this year and they thought they were the beginning, but they weren’t really. It goes back to Tom Angus, who was a hell of a….Tom and -- I don’t who -- was a veterinary student - can’t think of his name. I’m not very good at names today!
EB Okay.
HP Jim Archibald was a veterinary student.
EB Jim Archibald. Okay. And Tom Angus. Herb, after college, you graduated, what did you work at?
HP Well, I went to Canada Packers when I graduated and I was an executive trainee. And I only lasted three months and I decided there had to be a better life than working in a slaughterhouse in the cooked meats department, coming home smelling of boloney and cooked meats every day. So I came up to the university and saw John Eccles who was the Dean of Men Student Counselor, and his assistant Abraham, was leaving on 1St August and John offered me his job, which I took. And in the following year, John’s boss, Wilf Tolton, died suddenly and John became Director of Public Relations and I then I moved into Dean of Men Student Counselor.
EB And you lived in residence while you were….?
HP Yes, before I got married I lived in residence in the Maids Dorm and in the Ag. Building. It was nice when you’re single but, of course, I didn’t -- when I got married in ’51, then I moved over to a College House by the Poultry Department there.
EB And you married a young lady by the name of June. Where did you meet her?
HP June Carl was in the MacDonald Institute and she was getting a Diploma so I gave her the diamond ring to go with it. But, she was from Forest Hill in Toronto. It was like a finishing school for young ladies at that time, and we got together. We met skiing actually. We’re both skiers and we meet up on the bus and then up on the hill in Meaford.
EB June Carl – how do you spell that?
EB Okay.
HP They were Pennsylvania Dutch – Deutsch from Pennsylvania. Came up with the Mennonites and all those…
EB Many years ago.
HP Many years ago. She wasn’t there yet!
EB Okay. Then, how long were you working as Dean of Men Students.
HP Well, I worked seven years as Dean of Men’s Student Counselor. And then Archie Porter died. Archie Porter was the Registrar from the beginning of time, I think, right through till the end… actually the weekend he retired he died. Dr. MacLachlan was President at that time, so he moved me from Dean of Men into the Registrar’s position. Because it happened in August, 1st August -- and, of course, right at the beginning, right in the middle of the Admissions season. We had to have somebody in there right away or we would have ended up with no students!
EB Okay. So, quite suddenly, you changed and became Registrar. And what training did you have for that job?
HP Well, I had -- I’d gone down to Cornell University at Ithaca, New York and took a University Administrators course in 1952-1953. So I had all the theoretical training about university administration. The other you can pick up on the job, of course. But you were dealing with… I had been dealing with students for seven years, those that were from freshmen to their fourth year, so all I was doing was moving down one level to getting High School students coming into university.
EB Was that a Master’s degree?
HP Yes, I had a Master’s degree in Education.
EB At Cornell.
HP Cornell.
EB Alright Herb. In your job as Registrar, there were changes taking place here at the university at that time. Can you describe some of those changes? And some of the work you did?
HP Well, we had three colleges here: Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine and Household Science. They were three individual colleges, although Mac Institute over the years was really part of OAC. But about two years before we became a university, as a prelim to the university, we federated the three colleges under one administrative unit. So there was one President, one Bursar, one Registrar and, in other words, made one Administration unit, which made it very easy then when we became a university to develop those areas that were already federated. No one liked the word Federated Colleges but it was a temporary term, just to get the thing going.
EB And when did those Federated Colleges start…?
HP Well, I’m puzzling my brain. I think it was about 2-3 years before, so two or three years before ’64. But I can’t…
EB 1961 or ’62?
HP Yes. Somewhere in there, yes.
EB And you were Registrar?
HP I was Registrar at OAC at the time and I also supervised the Registrar -- well, there wasn’t a Registrar in MacDonald Institute -- but I supervised their Records and Admission Programs. But when we became Federated Colleges, then I became Registrar over the three units.
EB What happened to the OVC Registrar?
HP Eugene Gattinger was actually Librarian and Registrar at OVC and he had a choice to make -- whether he was going to stay in the Registrar’s Office or continue in the Library. Really, his training and background and interests were all in the Library. So he moved on to another college, and kept on his Librarian. He went on his Librarian track rather than the Registrar’s.
EB So, this was convenient for you. You were the logical choice, although you had been Registrar at the OAC for a few years before that.
HP Oh, yes. I became Registrar in ’58 until… Registrar in ’58.
EB Herb, there was some objection, of course, to making this place a university. What were some things that were done, do you think, to smooth out the changeover?
HP Well, there was one group of people -- mostly graduates but not necessarily -- but people in agriculture who were certainly concerned that agriculture might go down the drain when you had… We had 800 students in agriculture and you were looking at, at that time, a university of 3000-5000. And most of those would be made up of arts and science people, not agriculture. So there was one group that thought that agriculture would go down the drain. There were other people who had a very strong loyalty for OAC, particularly the graduates and they didn’t want to see any change. But, at that time, there was a real demand for expanse in universities. We went from seven universities to seventeen universities in a very short time. New universities were established at York, Brock, Trent, Laurentian, Lakehead -- they were all new universities - and Guelph being so close to Toronto. And also Guelph had a lot of people down in Queen’s Park who knew Guelph, and had been familiar with Guelph and with the research that was going on, and they certainly thought it should be a university. We had to do an awful lot of work on getting people, alumni, to talk up the problem in agriculture -- that OAC would always be OAC and we’d always serve the farmers. That, I think, really sold it. We had some cabinet members that wanted us to be an agriculture college at Waterloo and someone -- at that time, Wilfrid Laurier was Waterloo Lutheran, and an affiliate of Windsor -- they wanted us to become part of Wilfrid Laurier. So, we had little factions all over the place but anyway the need for the -- a whole university was there, and so the government made us one.
EB Now, you say you had to do a lot of work convincing some of the alumni in particular, what sort of work was that?
HP Well, of course, one of the things about our house -- so many of the alumni were in agriculture, they were always visiting the campus, at conferences and meetings, agriculture meetings, and so on. And once it was government policy that we were going to become a university, then it was easier to get agriculturists to speak at meetings and ensure people that, if we became a university, their particular unit would still carry on and we’d still... In fact, the OAC, from then on became… had more affiliation with agriculture than they ever had before because, as it shows up now, more and more of the agencies now have moved into the City of Guelph on the Guelph campus. And so I think agriculture has really gained so much.
EB Agencies such as…?
HP Well, the whole Department of -- Ministry of Agriculture is now here, but with all the Extension people, they all operated out of the University of Guelph, pretty well.
EB So that the OAC, in spite of all the fears that we had, continued to shine and grow and is doing well today.
HP Yes, and I think is strengthened, strengthened. And agriculture students are getting the advantages that we have by association with the arts and science faculties too. Agriculture science is a rather narrow field, compared to the broad field of science and we now, of course, have large chemistry departments, bacteriology, microbiology departments, and physics, and that has all grown, and that all helps, and economics. All that helps agricultural subjects.
EB Okay.
HP I was 22 years at the university.
EB Herb, what particularly did you have to do with the creation of this new university?
HP Well, you have to visualize the administrative structure of the new university. We had a President. We had no Vice-Presidents. We had a Bursar. We had a lady Librarian. And that was the only administration structure we had. And we had a Department of Public Relations. And that was the only administration structure. And, of course, the universities today have a President and they have several Vice-Presidents and Assistant to the Vice-Presidents, and they have many more people. So, in the beginning, it fell on a very small group of administrators to do a lot of the leg work. In my particular case, Dr. MacLachlan and I were rather close, we used to travel together and when we started working on the university, we worked together on it. One of Dr. MacLachlan’s big assets was the development of a Senate, or what we called a faculty senate because the majority of members by far were faculty members and administrative, university administrators, but very few outside people on the Senate. Students -- graduate students and undergraduate
students -- were not part of the Senate. And this was very different from most of the Canadian universities and American universities. But in the Canadian universities we got copies of all the Canadian universities’ terms of reference for the Senate. I went into Dr. MacLachlan’s office one day and he handed me a big pile and said “Start reading about what kind of Senate we want.” And Dr. Mac always wanted to have a Faculty Senate. He didn’t want a lot of outsiders. He had been familiar with the University of Toronto Senate, because the President of the Ontario Agriculture College was automatically a member of Senate at the University of Toronto. So he could see some of the disadvantages of having outsiders on the Senate. The Board of Governors was different but on the Senate this was to be an academic party. And so we had to sit down from scratch and we took parts from each of the Terms of Reference of the various universities in the same field as us and we came up with a set of by-laws for the Senate. And, of course, then we had to test these with Heads of Departments of OAC and OVC and so on. And eventually we had to form the Senate and have our first meeting after we became a university. So we are all prepared by the time the Act went through the House in Toronto to start, because we had the Senate already to go. And it was a lot of work at that time and, of course, everybody had their own ideas of what it should be and what it shouldn’t be.
EB How many people were on the Senate?
HB Oh... on the Senate? The Senate -- the first Senate was approximately 100 people: all the Heads of Departments, all the faculty who were elected from the three colleges and some grad students and some undergraduate students. And the Registrar was also Secretary of Senate, so he took the minutes and all the reports and so on. And he chaired all the Senate committees. At one time, the Registrar was a member or Secretary of 21 academic committees. Some of the committees were just part-time because there were certain things we had to do. We had… For instance, we had to pick a parchment for the university degree and this went on and on. I’ll never forget it, everybody had ideas on the size and type and the words, and whether it should be in English or Latin, and whether we should have a Gold Seal or Red Seal, and whether it should be 3’ x 3’ or 8.1/2” by 11”! And I had seen diplomas in the States, where they were 8 ½ x 11 and they were in a leather folder. And I thought that was just… because I had one from the University of Toronto, which was in Latin and was in a huge roll and still in a huge roll in my closet. But when you give them, the kids, their degree in a leather case you just put it up on the dresser, or whatever, fireplace, and it’s all there and so on. Then, of course, we had to go through all the gowns. We had to decide what kind of gowns to wear, and the colour of the hoods. And everybody from their home university always wanted to have the same colour as they had in their home university. And when we got to what hats they were going to wear, the hats, some of them were Scottish hats, and some were English hats, and so on. So we spend days and days discussing this and came forth with… We adopted the American rule on colours for the degrees and followed that pretty well through with the Bachelor, Master’s and PhD, and the honours degrees were something we thought of. Probably, a lot like the University of Toronto’s.
EB Yes. What colours were they, can you remember?
HP Well, Arts was White. Education -- well we didn’t have Education here. Engineering was Green. Boy! Blue was MacDonald Institute. Black was Veterinary College, and there were combinations of those colours and White or something like that. And we decided not to go with hats.
EB No hats.
HP No hats.
EB And that solved the problem!
HP That solved the problem with that.
EB Very good. Well, Herb. You stayed here at the University until the early ‘70’s and having come in the summer of ’49. Then, where did you go after that?
HP Well in 1971, I did a study for the Council of Ontario Universities on development of an Application Centre which would be common to all of the Ontario universities. At that time, we had just blossomed out into 17 universities so students could put in up to 17 applications having them reviewed by 17 universities. And the Ministry of Education had no idea how many students were applying because every university was counting their applications so you had approximately 15 times applications, so we -- jumping ahead, when we did our first actual count of students, not applications, we had one third less than what the government was contributing to with new universities. And so actually at that time, in the ‘70’s we would have had two or two three universities less! Now, of course, they’ve all grown and… But we were -- the government was very generous in developing new universities but they were using phony figures, you see. Anyway, so, the Centre started… So we had a common application form and you could have three choices of universities and then you could get three offers of admission. But you could only accept one offer of admission so that universities who were expecting so many students, they got those students because they couldn’t go anywhere else. So, it saved them an awful lot of money -- government money, and the universities. Now, of course, the Universities of Ontario couldn’t live without the Centre because they do all of the undergraduates, they’re doing all of the Professional schools, Education, Law, Medicine, and they do testing for these faculties, or… using American tests, or special tests in education. So it’s… And they also, they turn back $3 million per year to Ontario universities for their processing and applications, so it’s a big deal now.
EB Okay Herb. We’re just about at the end of this tape here. I think we’ll change it over right now, rather than going to the end.
HP I’m just about finished.
Side 2, Tape 1 ? (It starts at …study – nothing before this point on Side 2)
EB …study? What happened to the study?
HP Well, we did the study… I was appointed to do the study in February and by June 1st I had the study presented to the Council of Ontario Universities. The Council of Ontario Universities was made up of all of the Presidents and one academic person from the 17 universities. I went over to England, and they had an Application Centre up there for the universities in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. So, we did some studying of the -- what they did, and how they did it, and so on. We followed them in a general way, but they were doing things which we couldn’t do. For instance, they were into actual acceptance of offers, on behalf of the universities, and of course that would never have gone in Ontario. But the study was accepted by all the universities in the first week in June, I’m sorry… and by the middle of June, had been accepted by the universities. And then they applied -- they advertised for a Director and on August 1st I was appointed as Director and then the operation of the… We had a preliminary year test starting in September -- and the first year 70-71, no, 71-72, we got in applications. We processed them and so on, and the universities still had their own system. But then in ‘71 -- Fall ’71 -- we started as a full-blown application centre; all the applications came to us. We set up the centre in Guelph. We had to get a Centre which would be on the route that the Library cards take to go to visit all the universities and exchange books and so on. It had to be close to a university and we had to use a current university’s computer operation, because in those times, in ’70-’71, there were the… computers were few and far between. And the whole operation, of course, is a computer-based operation. So, we picked Guelph because if you look at the map of Ontario, from Ottawa to Thunder Bay and to Windsor, Guelph is pretty well centralized. And so being here, we were able to use the University of Guelph computer which got us started. The… Incidentally, the computer system that we had filled a full room and when I left, we had it… we had personal computers which were larger than this whole room of boxes that we had in there, and that’s how much it changed from 1970 to modern times. But anyway, the Centre was set up and it’s operating very successfully. It’s now grown to take in all undergraduates, all diploma courses, all graduate study courses, and medicine, law, and educational, and professional courses. And the excess money that the Centre makes -- which is about $3 million -- is turned over, back, to the universities for their Admissions process.
EB Herb, when you were set up as Director, how big a staff did you have?
HP Well, Admissions is a system which is heavy in the Fall, is heavy in May and June when you send out offers, but in between times it has a much less demand. So we had about 20 permanent people and we would go up to 125-150 during December, January, February, March -- when the applications were coming out and they were processed and put up on the computer. In those days it was key punching, in the old (??) cards. Now, it’s much… They have about 40 permanent people there now, as all the professional schools.
EB They’re still here in Guelph?
HP Yes.
EB So, it’s an indication that you chose the site well.
HP Well, what it’s meant for Guelph… First of all, the budget’s all spent in Guelph and a lot of people get employment and every student that goes to university in Ontario knows there’s a place called Guelph because that’s where their application goes.
EB Okay. Herb, you stayed there until you retired?
HP Yes.
EB Which was what year?
HP I retired in 1989.
EB And what have you done since that time to keep the wolf from the door and active?
HP Well. First of all, I got a heart attack, and then I got a quadruple bypass surgery and then I’ve had (“technostic???) heart trouble, palpitating in the heart. I haven’t done very much because I can’t do very much. I’m very limited with what I can do. And, so, I really learnt how to pace myself and to do very little work and so on… I had a summer cottage and, of course, I spent a lot of time at the cottage.
EB And where’s the cottage?
HP The cottage is up on a place called Six Mile Lake North of Port Severn and we had it there. We bought it there in 1962 and I just sold it this year to my son and so now I get free room and board whenever I go up there.
EB And your son looks after it and does all the work?
HP Yes. He’s a lawyer in town and he does all the work. He’s like me, he’s handy – he’s a handyman.
EB Okay. So, he’s living right here in town, and in the legal profession. That brings up a good point, Herb. You have a daughter too?
HP I have a second one. The older son Steve, he’s the lawyer at (?Kers) and MacKinnon. My daughter is living in Kingston and she and her husband own a Ford dealership in Kingston. And my other son is living in Rockwood and he works as a foreman for -- inspector for -- supervisor for Drexler Construction. I have 11 grandchildren. My oldest boy has five boys, my daughter has two girls, and my youngest son has two boys and two girls. My oldest grandson just finished High School, and was the Athlete of the Year. All five of them play hockey. Five of them used to play baseball. Anyway…
EB And you go and watch them?
HP Yes. And take pictures, which no one ever watches.
EB Herb, to wind this up it sounds like you’ve had a good career and you’ve enjoyed life here in Guelph, and around Guelph. Any few comments you want to add?
HP Well, I’ve always had a job in Guelph, both at the university and at the Application Centre, where… First of all, I’ve always loved to go to work. I was always my own boss, and I was always dealing with a lot of young people both at the university and at the Application Centre. And when you’re dealing with young people, it tends to keep you a little younger than you might ordinarily be or feel because you always want to be like them. No, I’ve got a wonderful life here. I used to kid my relatives in Toronto that it was a son of a gun after work here because all the people would stream out of the offices and it might take us maybe up to ten minutes to get home! And then, I always, for all the years I’ve worked -- the twenty years I’ve worked -- I always came home for lunch. When I worked at the university, I walked home. When I went to the Application Centre I drove home. So, it’s just been a wonderful, wonderful life.
EB Good Herb. Well, thank you very much for coming here today for this interview. I’ve enjoyed it very much along with you and certainly I remember you from college days because for the first two years you and I roomed together.
HP That’s right.
EB So, I got to know you pretty well at that time. Thanks very much, Herb, and this interview was conducted by Ed Brubaker. That’s all.