Letters McGill University

| Skip to search Skip to navigation Skip to page content

User Tools (skip):

Sign in | Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Sister Sites: McGill website | myMcGill

McGill News
ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
McGill News cover

| Help
Page Options (skip): Larger


Appreciation for the Archives


Congratulations on a truly excellent article about the McGill University Archives in the Fall 2002 issue. So often essential units like this one never receive the recognition they are due. "Alchemy in the Archives" was a welcome change -- and it made the cover too!

The University Archives reports through the Secretary-General and I am extremely proud of the work done in the unit. In order to give further credit where it is due, perhaps I might be permitted to add a few lines to indicate that our archivists are not only alchemists, they are scientists as well.

While your article gave a splendid picture of 5% of the collection -- and mandate -- of the University Archives, that is, the acquisition of historical memorabilia, probably 95% of Archives' work is devoted to ensuring that the University honours its legal obligations to record-keeping, and that electronic records laid down today will be available in the future. To this end, the archivists constantly confront the challenge of balancing our legal requirements against the ephemeral nature of new media.

For example, how do we store the hundreds of constantly changing official websites of the University? How do we ensure that our emerging digital systems produce authentic, readable evidence in the future? While the archivists are responsible for preserving 200 years of official McGill history, including the colourful "old stuff" featured in your article, they must also make certain that 200 years into the future, records of what we do today, much of it through computer transactions, will be accessible. Not an easy task.

Once again, many thanks for a fine article.

Victoria Lees, PhD'77
Secretary-General (retired)

Above and Beyond

Photo Dr. Osler

I enjoyed Ed Kromer's article on the Archives very much, but I would like to embellish his description of Dr. William Osler, "the man who invented the modern bedside manner." Dr. Osler, MDCM1896, in my opinion, is the most outstanding graduate of McGill University. His accomplishments in various branches of medicine have done more for mankind than any other physician before or since. He was the father of parasitology, and he introduced the microscope into the medical classroom. He was a prolific writer and author of The Principles and Practice of Medicine, the bible and ultimate authority in medicine for decades. This text was translated into all the major languages in the world.

He was like Johnny Appleseed in that he started journal clubs to promote continuing education throughout the world and encouraged medical libraries to further access to medical knowledge. While at Johns Hopkins, he saw the need for public health measures, such as providing clean water, disposing of garbage and eliminating open sewers. Addressing public health concerns has saved more lives than all the antibiotics and vaccines. Yes, he was the father of the modern bedside manner, but his accomplishments in the communication of medical knowledge and public health eclipse his other remarkable attributes.

Donald G. Harris, MDCM'55
via email

Ed. note: One of those remarkable attributes was an extraordinary commitment to enhancing students' education. According to Volume I of McGill Medicine, in order to provide the classroom microscopes Dr. Harris refers to, Osler took a job as an attendant in the smallpox ward at the Montreal General Hospital to earn the money to buy them. The book's authors, former Dean of Medicine Richard Cruess and Joseph Hanaway, BA'56, MDCM'60, note that "the exposure was enough to give him a minor case of smallpox." His stipend of $600 per year "was just enough to purchase 12 Hartnach student microscopes from Paris at $45 per instrument." To learn more about this Canadian icon, readers may seek out the excellent biography, William Osler: A Life in Medicine, by Michael Bliss, DLitt'01, published in 1999 and reviewed in these pages in the Spring 2000 issue.

Good Works in Ghana

Photo Roger Aboteyuure found a special tricycle for this disabled child.

Greetings from Bolgatanga, Ghana.

As a graduate of the Class of '77, I was happy to receive the 25th Anniversary Alumni Directory and the invitation to attend Homecoming. It made me relive those wonderful years spent at McGill University. Time has gone fast!

Since I came back to Ghana, many things have happened. I taught French in our Minor Seminary for ten years. Some years later I was appointed to put up a Retreat Centre, comprising a social centre for children, a meeting place, a church and a clinic. I also spent time digging and drilling wells and building dams to provide drinking water for our people. I built a few primary schools in various villages to promote education. To combat the desertification taking place here, with the help of the people, thousands of trees have been planted. Indeed, a lot has been done to help the needy here and this is due to the wonderful education that I got from McGill. I could never have accomplished what is done here without that training and the help of generous Canadian friends, and I am therefore very grateful.

The good that I do here is in the name of McGill University, and I would have loved to come to Canada and meet my former professors and classmates and share with them my experiences in Ghana. All the same, I was united with you in spirit.

I am presently busy trying to build a small hospital and I hope that one day McGill will help me with some medical equipment and doctors to work here. Meanwhile I take this opportunity to invite alumni to visit me and my people.

Once more, thanks to McGill for training me, and may God bless you to continue the good work that you are doing for humanity.

Msgr. Roger Aboteyuure, MEd'77
Bolgatanga, Ghana

Missed It?

Congratulations on the Fall 2002 issue of the McGill News. It is one of the best ever.

I enjoyed particularly the interviews with Henry Minztberg and Virginia Carter, not only because they dealt with interesting issues, but also because of the outspokenness of both persons.

Professor Mario Bunge
McGill Department of Philosophy

Ed. note: Anyone interested in reviewing the last issue -- or any edition of the News -- can write to us for a copy. An online archive of issues since 1995 may be viewed in our archives.

view sidebar content | back to top of page